How to Make the Most of Your 0% Benefits
If you’ve gone through the VA claims process and received a 0 percent VA disability rating, you may be disappointed by the outcome. Many veterans are in your shoes, with over 180,000 total veterans rated at the 0 percent level in 2019. We’re here to tell you that a 0 percent rating is a good starting place!
It’s important to understand that a 0 percent VA rating is a real disability rating, and there are many great benefits available to veterans with 0 percent ratings.
In this post, we break down what you need to know about your 0 percent VA disability rating and how to make the most of your benefits.
- How to Make the Most of Your 0% Benefits
- What does a 0% VA disability rating mean?
- What benefits can I get with a 0 percent rating?
- Monthly Compensation with Multiple 0% VA Ratings
- How to Increase Your 0 Percent Rating
- About the Author
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What does a 0% VA disability rating mean?
A 0 percent VA disability rating means that the VA agrees your disability is service-connected, but they have determined that your condition doesn’t currently impair you. In other words, your disability WAS caused or aggravated by your military service, but doesn’t meet the VA’s criteria for monthly compensation.
A 0 percent rating is important for two reasons:
- The VA has already granted your condition service connection, making it easier to increase your rating if your condition worsens. Service connection is often the most difficult part of the VA claim process for many veterans to prove. Many disabilities get worse over time as veterans age, so having that service connection will make it much easier to get an increased rating in the future.
- There are many benefits available to you as a 0 percent disabled veteran. These benefits are available at both the federal and state levels and include everything from health care to recreational benefits.
The 0 percent rating is the only level of rating with which you’re not eligible to receive monthly compensation, but there are many other benefits that veterans with a 0 percent VA disability rating can take advantage of. These benefits can make a big difference in your quality of life as a veteran.
How do VA ratings work and why was I rated at 0%?
Once the VA has determined that your disability is service-connected, it will be rated at a specific percentage based on your symptoms’ presence and severity. Ratings typically increase in ten-point steps, but the rating criteria for each disability are different.
A 0 percent VA disability rating is usually given when you have a condition that might eventually worsen or improve, but currently isn’t severe enough to be rated at a compensable level. (This is why a 0 percent rating is also called a non-compensable rating.)
You can find the criteria the VA uses to rate symptoms and severity for each condition in the VA’s Schedule for Rating Disabilities. This document contains a complete list of every condition that can be service-connected, along with the criteria used to rate it.
What benefits can I get with a 0 percent rating?
Although you aren’t eligible for monthly compensation with a 0 percent rating, there are still excellent benefits available to you. Some of the key 0% disability rating benefits include:
- Free medical treatment and medications for your condition through VA health care.
- Higher priority for eligibility for health care services from the VA, including access to medical specialists and mental health treatment.
- Reimbursement for certain travel costs related to your condition, such as mileage expenses when attending medical appointments.
- Access to life insurance through the VA.
- 10-point federal disabled veterans hiring preference when applying for a job with the government.
- Base access to commissaries and exchanges, regardless of whether you’re retired.
- State-specific benefits available to service-connected disabled veterans.
In some cases, you may be eligible for disability compensation at the 10 percent level based on the impact of your disability on your ability to work.
Health Care Benefits
As a veteran with a 0 percent VA disability rating, you’ll receive free health care and medications for the condition you’ve been rated for.
When you sign up for VA health care, the VA assigns you to one of 8 “priority groups.”. The higher your priority group, the sooner you’ll be able to receive care and the less your care will cost. Most 0% rated veterans are assigned to Priority Group 6.
Priority Group 6 benefits include free inpatient care for any medical need. You’ll be charged a co-pay for:
- Prescription medications ($5-$33)
- Primary care visits ($15)
- Specialty care visits ($50)
- Specialty tests ($50)
- Urgent care visits (Up to $30 per visit)
If your income falls below the annual income limits based on your zip code, your priority group may be increased to Priority Group 5.
Priority Group 5 grants you quicker access to care, and your first three urgent care visits for each calendar year are also free.
If you travel to a VA facility or VA-approved care in your local community for appointments related to your 0 percent rating, you may be eligible for travel pay for these travel costs:
- Mileage reimbursement at 41.5 cents per mile when traveling by personal vehicle to and from appointments
- Parking costs
- Taxi and plane fees
- Ticket costs (including bus, ferry, light rail, subway, or train)
- Per diem and lodging in some cases
The VA will also automatically calculate mileage and compensate you for your compensation and pension (C&P) exam travel.
Learn how to submit a VA travel reimbursement claim. You can file a claim online using the Access VA travel portal.
Life Insurance Benefits
With a 0 percent VA disability rating, you’ll also have the right to apply for life insurance through the VA with the Service-Disabled Veterans Life Insurance (S-DVI) program. 0%-rated veterans are eligible for up to $10,000 in coverage. This can be an important safety net for your family in the event of your death.
To apply, you must meet all four requirements:
- You were released from active duty on or after April 21, 1951, with an honorable discharge
- You’ve been rated with a service-connected disability
- You must be in good health other than your rated conditions (not suffering from any diseases or illnesses that would automatically disqualify you)
- You must apply within two years of receiving your rating or by December 31, 2022 (whichever comes first)
You can apply for S-DVI using the VA’s online application.
As a veteran with a 0 percent VA disability rating, you’re also eligible for a 10-point federal hiring preference when applying for jobs with the government.
Your application will receive priority over other applicants, and you may be more likely to land the job. Many states also offer a hiring preference for disabled veterans applying to state jobs.
Base Access Privileges
In 2020, a new law was passed giving all service-connected disabled veterans and their caregivers base access to commissaries and exchanges, just like any other service member or retiree.
As a 0 percent rated veteran, you now have access to save money on groceries and other essentials at commissaries and exchanges. With prices that are often significantly lower than those of commercial stores, 0 percent VA rated veterans can enjoy significant savings each time they shop at these base facilities.
You can also visit morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) retail facilities to take advantage of equipment rentals and local discounts.
A Veterans Health Identification Card showing your 0 percent service-connected rating is all you need to get on base. If you don’t already have one, you can enroll in VA health care online or talk to your local enrollment coordinator for a card.
0 percent VA disability rating benefits also include recreation. Veterans with a 0 percent rating have access to recreation benefits that include:
- Discounts on camping and fishing licenses in some states
- Free access to national parks for yourself and your family
- Free state park access in some states
- Discounts on amusement park tickets
To find out what 0 percent VA disability rating veterans benefits are specific to your state, visit your state’s local Department of Veteran Affairs website. Or, check out our handy page 2022 Disabled Veteran Benefits by State and Territory (The Definitive Guide)—it’s a jumping-off point for locating your state and all its unique benefits.
Monthly Compensation with Multiple 0% VA Ratings
There are cases in which veterans with a 0 percent VA disability rating may be eligible for monthly compensation. If you have two or more service-connected disabilities that are rated at 0 percent and they make it difficult for you to work, your rating will be increased to 10 percent.
The biggest hurdle you’ll face in increasing your rating to 10 percent is proving to the VA that your 0 percent disabilities make it difficult for you to work.
You can prove that your conditions interfere with normal employability by submitting evidence from a medical professional, vocational rehabilitation counselor, or statements from your employer.
Note: you won’t receive a rating higher than 10 percent when combining multiple 0 percent non-compensable ratings. If you’re awarded a higher rating for any other disability or reason, this 10 percent non-compensable rating will be removed and will not factor into a combined rating.
How to Increase Your 0 Percent Rating
If you believe your condition is more severe than is recognized by a 0 percent rating, or your condition worsens, you can file a claim for an increased rating. You can either file an appeal of the initial decision, or you can file an entirely new claim to increase your rating.
The best way to increase your 0 percent VA disability rating is to submit new and material evidence to the VA. This can include:
- Medical records
- Private treatment records
- Vocational rehabilitation reports
- Statements from your employer
- Personal statements (statement in support of a claim)
If you decide to file an appeal, you must do so within one year from the date of the original decision. If you simply want to provide new evidence to support your claim with a Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim, use VA Form 20-0995.
When filing a claim for an increased rating, it’s important to be as detailed as possible in describing how your condition affects you. The more information you can provide, the better chance you have of getting a higher rating. You can learn more in our post on how to increase your VA disability rating. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help.
NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and therefore not getting the compensation they’re due. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.
Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating fast!
If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation you deserve!
We’ve supported more than 15,000 veterans to win their claims and increase their ratings. NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
About the Author
Brian Reese is one of the top VA disability benefits experts in the world and bestselling author of You Deserve It: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Veteran Benefits You’ve Earned (Second Edition).
Brian’s frustration with the VA claim process led him to create VA Claims Insider, which provides disabled veterans with tips, strategies, and lessons learned to win their VA disability compensation claim, faster, even if they’ve already filed, been denied, gave up, or don’t know where to start.
As the founder of VA Claims Insider and CEO of Military Disability Made Easy, he has helped serve more than 10 million military members and veterans since 2013 through free online educational resources.
He is a former active duty Air Force officer with extensive experience leading hundreds of individuals and multi-functional teams in challenging international environments, including a combat tour to Afghanistan in 2011 supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Brian is a Distinguished Graduate of Management from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, and he holds an MBA from Oklahoma State University’s Spears School of Business, Stillwater, OK, where he was a National Honor Scholar (Top 1% of Graduate School class).