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PTSD Compensation and Military Service
As a rule,1 a disability rating is based solely on the “unfitting” condition (DOD, 1996).
DOD compensation awards are based both on disability ratings and on time in service. The compensation may be awarded as a lump-sum severance payment or as monthly payments2 (GAO, 2006). The standard for the determination of DOD disability ratings—DOD Instruction 1332.39; Title 10, United States Code Chapter 61—is the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) (DOD, 1996). But while the VASRD, as described in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 38, Part 4 (38 CFR, Part 4), provides the standard for DOD disability ratings, the DOD considers absolute application of VASRD provisions incompatible with its mission. Thus, the DOD differs from the VA both in how it views the purpose of disability compensation and in how it implements the VASRD. Furthermore, within the DOD variation exists among service branch DESs. DOD regulations are consistent across the different branches, in that they require each DES to have a medical evaluation boardand a physical evaluation board, but both the boards and the appeals processes are constituted differently from branch to branch (GAO, 2006).
When a service member is granted monthly DOD disability compensation, officially referred to as permanent disability retirement, he or she is also entitled to be considered for disability compensation through the VA. Until January 2004 permanent disability retirement pay was, by statute, reduced by the dollar amount of VA disability compensation received (Henning, 2006). But Public Law 108-136, in addition to altering other DOD retirement payment policies,3 authorized a 10-year phase-out of the reduction of military retirement due to VA compensation and allowed concurrent receipt of VA and DOD compensation for those veterans with a combined disability rating at or above 50 percent (DOD, 2006). As part of the military retirement offset phase-out, on January 1, 2005 veterans rated
There are limited circumstances where “the sum of several conditions which render a member unfit” are considered collectively in a disability evaluation (Howard, 2006).
To qualify for monthly compensation, a service member must have accrued 20 years of service or have at least a 30 percent disability rating. Compensation is given as a lump sum for service members with less than 20 years in service or a disability rating of 20 percent or less. Service members are eligible for compensation for “non-aggravated pre-existing” conditions if they have at least 8 years of active-duty service. Service members may also be placed on the temporarily disabled retired list (GAO, 2006).
Two other programs affecting a smaller number of veterans that have had the same material effect as concurrent receipt are the Special Compensation for Severely Disabled Retirees; effective October 1999 and repealed January 2004) and the Combat-Related Special Compensation (enacted in 2002) programs (Henning, 2006).