VA Benefits:

Law Allows Compensation for Disabilities Unrelated to Military Service

HRD-89-60: Published: Jul 31, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 1989.

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GAO analyzed a random sample of 400 cases of veterans receiving disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during August 1986, focusing on the origin of the disabling disease or injury.

GAO found that: (1) about 17 percent of disabled veterans had disease-related disabilities that military service caused or aggravated, 19 percent had disease-related disabilities that probably were not service-connected, and 13 percent had disease-related disabilities of undetermined origin; (2) non-service-connected disease-related disabilities typically resulted from such hereditary or life style diseases as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, osteoarthritis, arteriosclerotic heart disease, or multiple sclerosis; (3) during 1986, VA paid about $1.7 billion in disability compensation to veterans with non-service-connected disease-related disabilities; (4) 19 percent of veterans receiving compensation for injury-related disabilities were injured during combat, 6 percent were injured while off-base and not performing a military task, and 7 percent were injured under other circumstances; and (5) regulations did not require VA to determine whether military service contributed to disease- or injury-related disabilities, but only required that the veteran manifest the disease or sustain the injury during or within a prescribed period after military service. GAO believes that Congress may wish to consider amending legislation to: (1) require compensation only for those veterans with service-connected disabilities; and (2) allow VA to deny compensation to veterans for disabilities it determines are not service-connected.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not acted on this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress may wish to reconsider whether diseases that were probably neither caused nor aggravated by military service should be compensated as service-connected disabilities. GAO suggested that any changes be prospective in order not to affect veterans already receiving compensation benefits.


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