VA Benefits After an Injury During Basic Training: A Comprehensive Guide

Category: Veterans Disability Law

Article by Daniel J. Tuley

VA Benefits After an Injury During Basic Training: A Comprehensive Guide

Basic training is physically and mentally demanding, and the rigors of boot camp can sometimes result in injuries. While many training program injuries are temporary, some are severe enough to cut your military service short before it has a chance to begin. The good news is that people who get hurt in basic training can qualify for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, there are many hoops you must jump through to get VA disability benefits approved.

If you’ve been hurt during basic training, it’s crucial to understand your right to access VA benefits. This blog will explore the difficulties of collecting VA benefits after a basic training injury.

Medical Discharge After a Boot Camp Injury

If you were hurt in boot camp, you should report the injury to your superior immediately. This creates an initial record of the incident, a vital piece of evidence in your benefit claim. If your injury doesn’t improve, you may seek a medical discharge.

Getting medically discharged after an injury in basic training involves several steps:

  • Medical Evaluation. When a recruit sustains an injury during boot camp activities or workouts, military medical professionals evaluate him or her. This evaluation determines the severity of the injury and whether it will affect the recruit’s ability to continue training or serve in the military.
  • Medical Treatment. Depending on the severity of the injury, the recruit may receive medical treatment either on-site or at a military medical facility. Treatment may include surgery, physical therapy, medication, or other forms of rehabilitation.
  • Medical Review Board (MRB) or Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). Suppose the injury is deemed severe enough to prevent the recruit from continuing training or serving. In that case, they may be referred to a Medical Review Board (MRB) or a Physical Evaluation Board (PEB). These boards consist of medical professionals who review the recruit’s medical records, conduct examinations, and make recommendations regarding the recruit’s fitness for duty.
  • Decision on Discharge. Based on the MRB or PEB recommendations, the military will make a decision regarding the recruit’s future in the service. The recruit may be medically discharged from the military if the injury is deemed too severe for continued service.

Medical Separation Vs. Medical Retirement

If the medical board finds that you cannot return to duty, you will be assigned a disability percentage. This percentage, along with other factors, determines whether you qualify for medical separation or medical retirement.

Medical Separation

If you are given a disability rating of 30% or less, you will be medically separated from the military. The government provides a one-time severance of two months’ pay for each year of service. It’s important to note that you cannot receive VA benefits and severance compensation, even if your injury is service-related.

If the PEB believes your injury was caused by a preexisting condition, during absent without leave (AWOL) periods, or through your own negligence, you may not receive any severance pay.

Medical Retirement

Medical retirement is available for those who have suffered a disability on duty and meet the following time and injury requirements:

  • You have a disability rating of 30% or more and have served less than 20 years, or
  • You have 20 or more years of active service and any disability rating.

Medical retirement entitles you to all of the privileges given to retired servicemembers, including Survivor Benefit Plans and VA disability compensation.

Requirements to Receive VA Disability Benefits

The VA provides both temporary and permanent benefits depending on the nature and severity of the disability. Temporary benefits are granted for a specified period and are subject to periodic reevaluations to determine if the disability has improved. Veterans with permanent and total disabilities, on the other hand, may receive benefits for the rest of their lives.

If you meet the disability criteria, you could receive benefits for a basic training injury—even if it occurred just a few days after you enlisted. First, you will need to meet the following technical requirements:

  • Definition of Military Veteran. Many individuals, including those who served in the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, National Guard, or Reserves, qualify as veterans for the purposes of collecting VA benefits. Any member of the United States military who was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable is considered a benefit-eligible veteran.
  • VA’s Definition of Disability. A VA disability is a physical or mental condition resulting from a disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active military service. It must have resulted in a current impairment of functioning and be severe enough to affect the veteran’s ability to perform activities of daily living or hold gainful employment. If your injury is listed in the VA’s handbook of conditions eligible for benefits, you also have to meet the criteria under the listing.
  • Specific Event Requirement. Veterans are required to link their injuries to a specific event during military service. This is why it’s important to report your injury as soon as possible—to have a record of the date and the activity that caused the injury during basic training.
  • Service Connection. Finally, you must be able to establish a clear link between your injury in basic training and your current medical condition. A lawyer can be invaluable in establishing a service connection by closely examining your military and medical records to prove cause and effect. For example, repeated workouts can cause musculoskeletal injuries or stress fractures that need rest to heal.

Challenges When Filing a VA Claim for Boot Camp Injuries

To access VA benefits for your injury, you’ll need to file a claim with the VA. This involves providing details about your injury, including how it occurred, the symptoms you’re experiencing, and any medical treatment you’ve received.

While collecting VA benefits is rarely straightforward, a veteran hurt during basic training faces additional challenges due to:

  • Length of service. There is no minimum length of service required for disability benefits. That said, the main challenge for claimants with shorter service duration is establishing a clear connection between their disabling condition and their military activity. Providing evidence to support this connection is crucial in the disability claims process.
  • Disability rating. The amount of a veteran’s disability compensation depends on the severity of their disability. The VA assigns disability ratings based on how much the veteran’s condition affects their ability to live and work. Comprehensive medical documentation is key to obtaining the highest disability percentage possible.
  • Presumptive conditions. Presumptive conditions are disabilities or illnesses that the VA presumes to be connected with military service. However, a veteran must have served at least 90 days of active service to qualify for an injury on the VA presumptive list. If you were injured before the first 90 days, you may need to provide additional evidence even if your condition is on this list.

Getting Help With Your VA Benefits Claim

Service members injured during basic training have certain rights under both military and VA regulations. These include the right to receive appropriate medical care for an injury, to appeal any unfavorable decisions regarding a VA benefits claim, and to seek assistance from veterans service organizations or legal professionals if needed.

If you or a loved one is dealing with medical or mental health problems after an injury during basic training, contact Tuley Law Office today to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced VA disability attorneys can be your liaison with the benefits office, respond to information requests, and regularly follow up with the VA to check the status of your claim.

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