VA Combat Related Special Compensation
Military Retirement and VA Disability before CRDP
Prior to 2004, career military personnel who had retired with full military retirement pay eligibility were prevented from collecting both their military retirement pay and VA service-connected disability compensation benefits concurrently. As retired vet with a disability, you could receive VA disability compensation according to your service-connected disability rating, but your military retirement pay would be reduced according to the monthly amount received from the VA. Vets got the same total payout from their retirement, but due to the tax-free nature of VA disability this option offered more spending power for retired veterans with a disability.
As of 2004, a new law was put into effect known as the Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay (CRDP). CRDP made it permissible for retired veterans to collect both their military retirement pay and their VA disability benefits if they were rated at 50% disability or greater by the VA. The passage of the CRDP represented a significant increase for eligible veterans in terms of their retirement and disability income.
Disabled Veterans not Eligible for CRDP
On the other hand, veterans with a VA disability rating below 50% were left out of this opportunity for additional retirement and disability and compensation. To remedy this issue to an extent, lawmakers passed another law in 2008 that allowed veterans with a “combat related” disability to collect full retirement and disability even if their rating was below the required 50% for CRDP. This more recent law is termed Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC), and was written to allow retired veterans with combat-related injuries resulting in disability to replace a portion or the full amount of their VA disability offset to their retirement.
Official Definition of Combat-Related Special Compensation
The law defines CRSC as a means of replacing the VA disability offset for service-connected disabilities resulting from injuries sustained in combat, including injuries received in in combat or armed conflict, combat training, war simulation training, while performing hazardous duty, or as a result of exposure to an instrumentality of war (military combat vehicles, agent orange exposure, and the like).
Important Caveat Regarding CRSC
CRSC allows military retirees with combat related service-connected disabilities to receive their full military retirement pay and their full VA disability compensation even if they are rated by the VA as less than 50% disabled. One important point to note though is that CRSC payments are only applied based on combat related disabilities. This means that your CRSC payment may actually be for a lesser amount than your overall VA disability rating-based entitlement, making it lower than your VA disability offset. The good news is that CRSC payments are also tax-free, just like VA Disability benefits.
Eligibility for CRSC Compensation
Here are the basic eligibility requirements for an applicant to qualify for CRSC per the Defense Finance and Accounting Service:
|-You must be entitled to and/or receiving military retired pay (Active or Reserve with 20 years or creditable service; Chapter 61 medically retired with less than 20 years of service; Retired under Temporary Early Retirement Act (TERA); or retired under the Temporary Disabled Retirement List (TDRL)).|
|-You must have a VA service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent|
|-Your military retirement pay is currently being reduced by your VA disability compensation (VA disability offset)|
|-You must file a CRSC application with your Branch of Service|
|Disabilities that may be considered combat related include injuries incurred as a direct result of:|
|-Armed Conflict / Combat: This can include direct or indirect wounds which occurred during armed conflict.|
|-Hazardous Duty: This can include activities such as demolition duty, diving, parachuting, aerial flight, and more.|
|-An Instrumentality of War: An instrumentality of war is a device such as a weapon or weapon systems specifically designed for military duty or warfare. This can include certain military combat vehicles, vessels, aircraft, or an injury or sickness caused by exposure to fumes, gases, or chemicals. Agent Orange exposure would qualify as an instrumentality of war.|
|-Simulated War: This can activities such as military training, exercises, airborne ops, live fire exercises, hand-to-hand combat training, and more. This does not include standard physical training such as running, jogging, or group sports activities.|
Back Pay and Service Date Eligibility
Any applicant who meets the CRSC criteria for eligibility is entitled to benefits. This is universally applicable to military retirees regardless of retirement date, be it twenty months or twenty years. The CRSC even allows for potential back pay for those determined enough to be eligible. The only caveat is that if you retired with full longevity (20+ years of service), you are only eligible to receive back pay from June 1, 2003 onwards, as authorized by Congress when the CRSC was passed in 2008. Veterans medically retired under Chapter 61 with fewer than 20 years of service are only eligible for back pay from January 2008 onwards, which was also authorized by Congress during the passage of CRSC.
To apply for CRSC, you must complete DD Form 2860 and attach the required documentation of your combat-related injury detailed on the form itself before mailing it to your respective military service branch. It may be wise to contact a VA disability advocate, a Veterans Service Officer, or an attorney specializing in military disability claims when applying for CRSC in order to make the best possible case for eligibility.