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November 22, 2023

OIF Veteran Benefits [Ultimate Guide]

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On March 19th, 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) began.

In the 7-year period between March 2003 and August 31st, 2010 (the end of OIF), nearly 424,000 US troops were deployed in support of the operation.

Now, those troops are suffering the consequences. 

Many experienced horrible, life-altering injuries or saw their friends get the same or worse. The aftermath of these sorts of traumatic experiences has made PTSD an epidemic among this generation of veterans.

All OIF and OEF Veterans who served deserve the VA benefits they’ve earned from their service.

In this guide, we’ll focus on OIF Veteran Benefits and break down how you can qualify for VA disability.

Let’s begin.

OIF OEF VETERAN HELMET

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How OIF Veterans Can Get a VA Rating

The VA rates disabilities from 0% to 100%, depending on the severity of your symptoms. Typically, the worse your symptoms, the higher your rating, and the more monthly compensation you could be entitled to.

To win a VA claim and receive a VA rating, your disability must be service-connected. This means it was caused (or made worse) by your military service. 

How to Get Service Connected

As a veteran, winning your VA claim typically requires you to satisfy the three elements of the Caluza Triangle:

  1. Medical Diagnosis of a Disability Condition
  2. Evidence of an In-Service Event, Injury, Disease, or Aggravation
  3. Nexus (the link between #1 and #2) via Competent Medical Evidence (typically a medical statement OR Nexus Letter)

If you have all three of the above, and you are currently experiencing symptoms, then your chances of winning your VA claim go way up.

Having a VA rating provides all of the VA benefits below and more!

OIFOEF VETERAN 1

Life-Changing OIF Veteran Benefits

Monthly VA Compensation for Disabled OIF Veterans

For many Disabled OIF Veterans, tax-free monthly compensation is the most life-changing VA benefit available. 100% Disabled OIF Veterans receive $3,700+ each month in tax-free monthly compensation.

 You can view the VA pay chart here.

Adding a little extra green to your monthly budget can make a huge difference in improving the quality of life for you and your family.

To be eligible for monthly VA compensation, you need:

  1. A rated disability
  2. Service on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training
  3. A characterization of service that is NOT:
    1. Other Than Honorable (OTH)
    2. Bad Conduct
    3. Dishonorable

Property Tax Breaks for Disabled OIF Veterans

Many states offer significant tax breaks to disabled veterans, especially when it comes to property taxes!

The states below offer a full property tax exemption to OIF Veterans with a 100% VA disability rating:

Housing Grants for Disabled OIF Veterans

The VA has two programs that can help you pay for adaptations to your home to make it more accommodating to your disability:

  1. Specially Adapted Housing Grant (SAH). This grant gives you up to $109,986 for FY 2023 to buy, build, or change your permanent home. To qualify, both of these must be true:
    1. You own or will own the home and
    2. You have a qualifying service-connected disability

Qualifying disabilities include:

  • The loss or loss of use of more than one limb
  • The loss or loss of use of a lower leg along with the lasting effects of an organic disease or injury
  • Blindness in both eyes (with 20/200 visual acuity or less)
  • Certain severe burns
  • The loss, or loss of use, of one lower extremity (foot or leg) after September 11, 2001, which makes it so you can’t balance or walk without the help of braces, crutches, canes, or a wheelchair

NOTE: Only 120 veterans are awarded this grant every fiscal year (Oct-Sept). If you aren’t awarded the SAH grant in the year you apply because the 120 limit has been met, it could be awarded to you in the next year.

  1. Special Home Adaptation Grant (SHA). This grant is similar to the SAH except it is intended for veterans with a different set of disabilities than the SAH. An SHA grant gives you up to $22,036 to buy, build, or change your permanent home so it’s more accommodating to your disability.

To qualify for an SHA, both of these must be true:

  • You or a family member own or will own the home, and
  • You have a qualifying service-connected disability

Qualifying disabilities include:

  • The loss or loss of use of both hands
  • Certain severe burns
  • Certain respiratory or breathing injuries

OIF Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)

The VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment program can help you improve your employment situation if your disability limits your ability to work.

The program offers five tracks:

  1. Re-employment. This track helps you work with your current employer so that they can accommodate your needs. To qualify, all of these must be true:
    • You have an employment barrier or handicap
    • You’re enrolled in Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E)
    • You’d like to return to your former job
  1. Rapid Access to Employment. This program helps you find jobs or a career that fit your current skill sets. All of the following must be true to qualify:
    • You have an employment handicap or barrier
    • You’re enrolled in VR&E
    • You already have experience, education, or training in your field of interest
  1. Self-Employment. If self-employment sounds more like you, the VA offers training, business plan development, and access to several resources through this track. To qualify, all of the following must be true:
    • You have an employment barrier or handicap
    • You’re enrolled in VR&E
    • Your service-connected disability makes it hard for you to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment (a job that doesn’t make your disability worse, is stable, and matches your abilities, aptitudes, and interests)
  1. Employment Through Long-Term Services. If you need to change your career path, this program can help you identify a new one and learn the required skills. All of these must be true to be eligible:
    • You have an employment barrier or handicap
    • You’re enrolled in VR&E
    • Your service-connected disability makes it hard for you to prepare for, obtain, and maintain suitable employment (a job that doesn’t make your disability worse, is stable, and matches your abilities, aptitudes, and interests)
  1. Independent Living. If you can’t return to work right away because of your service-connected disability, this track can help give you time to consider your options. To qualify, all of these must be true:
    • You have a serious employment handicap (SEH)
    • Your disabilities prevent you from looking for or returning to work
    • You’re in need of services to live as independently as possible
OIF VETERAN BENEFITS

VA Healthcare for Disabled OIF Veterans

The VA provides healthcare according to priority groups. Priority Group 1 gets healthcare first, and Priority Group 8 gets healthcare last.

Having a VA rating can get you moved up on the priority list, which could save you countless dollars in medical expenses every year.

Which priority group you’re assigned to depends on a few eligibility factors, such as:

  • Your military service history
  • Your disability rating
  • Your income level
  • Whether or not you qualify for Medicaid
  • Other benefits you may be receiving (like VA pension benefits)

Many veterans have access to at least one of these priority groups regardless of whether or not they have a rated disability.

What Priority Group Does Your VA Rating Get You Access to?

VA Priority Group Eligibility According to VA Rating

NOTE: To clarify, you don’t need a VA rating to be eligible for priority groups 1-3. Having a rated disability is just one way you could qualify.

VA Healthcare Services

Depending on which priority group you’re assigned to, you might have to pay copays for care. Your copay depends on your priority group and what type of care you receive:

VA Outpatient Care Copay Rates
2023 VA outpatient care copay rates
VA Urgent Care Copay Rates
2023 VA urgent care copay rates
VA Inpatient Care Copay Rates
2023 VA inpatient care copay rates

All priority groups are eligible for VA healthcare services such as:

  1. Preventive care services:
  • Health exams
  • Health education
  • Immunization against infectious diseases (like flu shots)
  • Counseling on genetic diseases (diseases that run in families)
  1. Inpatient hospital services:
  • Surgeries
  • Medical treatments
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Acute care (short-term treatment for a severe illness or injury or after surgery)
  • Specialized care (including organ transplants, intensive care for mental and physical conditions, and care for traumatic injuries)
  1. Urgent and emergency care services:
  • Urgent or emergency care at some VA health facilities
  • Urgent care for injuries and illnesses that need attention right away, but aren’t life threatening, at urgent care locations that are part of our contracted network
OIF OEF

OIF Presumptive Conditions

If you served in what’s known as the Persian Gulf on or after August 2, 1990, then you could be eligible for a VA rating for a presumptive condition.

Many veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom served in these regions and are now suffering health consequences.

The VA has identified certain illnesses that are linked to service in these areas. These illnesses are now considered “presumptive.”

A presumptive condition is a condition that the VA presumes was caused by your service. That means if you have a medical diagnosis of a presumptive condition and served in a qualifying location and a qualifying time, then you could qualify for a VA rating.

Gulf War Presumptives

There are three pieces to Gulf War Presumptives: Gulf War Syndrome, Multi-Symptom Illnesses, and Infectious Diseases. Each category has a different list of presumptive conditions.

The following Gulf War Syndrome conditions are considered service-connected if they develop at any time during or after Gulf War service:

  • Fatigue
  • Skin symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological symptoms
  • Mental symptoms
  • Respiratory symptoms
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cardiovascular symptoms
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Menstrual disorders
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

The next list of presumptive conditions falls under the Multi-symptom Illnesses category:

  • Fibromyalgia, Diagnostic Code (DC 5025)
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, (DC 6354)
  • Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (like irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, functional constipation, etc.)

Finally, below is the list of Infectious Diseases considered presumptive by the VA:

  • Brucellosis, code (DC 6316)
  • Campylobacter jejuni, (DC 6630)
  • Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), (DC 6331)
  • Malaria (DC 6304) (must be manifest to 10% within one year, or the incubation period must have clearly begun while in service)
  • Tuberculosis (no time limit for manifestation)
  • Nontyphoid salmonella, (DC 6333)
  • Shigella, (DC 6334)
  • Visceral leishmaniasis (DC 6301) (no time limit for manifestation)
  • West Nile Virus, (DC 6335)

NOTE: To qualify as presumptive, all infectious diseases must be manifest to 10% within one year of the veteran’s discharge date unless otherwise noted.

When you are diagnosed with these conditions, it can also affect your eligibility. You can learn more on the VA’s website.

Benefits for All OIF Veterans 

If you don’t yet have a VA disability, there are still some great veteran benefits available, including healthcare and job hiring preferences.

Federal Hiring Preference

Disabled and non-disabled OIF veterans qualify for a hiring preference for almost all federal jobs.

This preference takes the form of added points to your civil service examination score.

Disabled veterans can get 10 points added to their civil examination score. Non-disabled veterans can get 5 points added to their civil service examination score if you served:

  • During a war
  • During the period April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976
  • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001, and ending on August 31, 2010, the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, and Haiti, qualifies for preference.

Burial and Plot Allowance

The VA pays burial and funeral expenses to eligible surviving family members depending on how and when they die.

  1. Service-related death. If your service causes your death, the VA will pay up to $2,000 if you pass away on or after September 11th, 2001. Or, they’ll pay up to $1,500 if the veteran passed prior to September 11th, 2001.
  2. Non-service-related death. If your death is not related to your service, the VA will pay your surviving family members up to $796 for funeral and burial expenses if the death occurs on or after October 1st, 2019.  

For deaths on or after December 1, 2001, but before October 1, 2011, the VA will pay up to $300 toward burial and funeral expenses and a $300 plot-interment allowance. 

For deaths on or after April 1, 1988, but before October 1, 2011, the VA will pay $300 toward burial and funeral expenses (for veterans hospitalized by the VA at the time of death). 

NOTE: These numbers are baselines established in 2013 and are adjusted each year according to inflation.

Burial and Plot Allowance Eligibility Requirements

  • You paid for a Veteran’s burial or funeral, AND
  • You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased Veteran’s employer, AND
  • The Veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable, AND
    • The Veteran died because of a service-related disability, OR
    • The Veteran was receiving a VA pension or compensation at the time of death OR
    • The Veteran was entitled to receive a VA pension or compensation but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay, OR
    • The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
    • The Veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
    • The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date or death, OR
    • The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA-approved state nursing home.

How to Apply

Aid and Attendance Allowance

This benefit is available if you’re receiving a VA pension and meet the eligibility requirements. 

The allowance is an amount added to your monthly pension payments. It is meant to help you pay for needed assistance if you can’t perform daily activities on your own or if you’re housebound.

You don’t need to have a VA rating to qualify for Aid and Attendance Allowance! Below are the eligibility requirements.

At least one of these must be true:

  • You need another person to help you perform daily activities, like bathing, feeding, and dressing, or
  • You have to stay in bed—or spend a large portion of the day in bed—because of illness or
  • You are a patient in a nursing home due to the loss of mental or physical abilities related to a disability or
  • Your eyesight is limited (even with glasses or contact lenses you have only 5/200 or less in both eyes or concentric contraction of the visual field to 5 degrees or less)

Free Hearing Aid Batteries and Accessories

Believe it or not, you can get free hearing aid batteries and accessories from the VA!

You could be eligible for this benefit If you are:

  1. Enrolled in VA health care
  2. Registered as a patient at a VA medical center, and
  3. Your VA audiologist has prescribed hearing aids or other hearing assistive devices

NOTE: This only applies to VA-issued hearing aids.

You have THREE options for ordering your hearing aid batteries and accessories:

  1. By phone at 303-273-6200, Monday – Friday, 6:15 am to 5:00 pm MST.
  2. Online (you need a VA.gov account to use this option)
  3. Via mail by mailing a completed VA Form 2346a to:

VA Denver Logistics Center

PO Box 25166

Denver, CO 80225-0166

VA Healthcare for OIF Veterans

You also don’t need a VA rating to be eligible for VA healthcare.

However, as we discussed above, your level of care, how much you pay, and how long you wait for care will depend on your priority group.

VA Priority Group Eligibility Criteria For Non-Disabled OIF Veterans

VA Priority Group Eligibility Criteria For Non-Disabled OIF Veterans

Conclusion

If you served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, then you deserve the OIF Veteran benefits you’ve earned!

Don’t wait to file your VA claim…many veterans who wait later regret leaving money on the table.

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Our coaches have the know-how you need to crush your VA claim! Their guidance will put you on the straight and narrow path toward a winning claim.

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