If you were disabled during combat, you can get both disability compensation and military retirement.
Combat-related special compensation (CRSC) is a monthly benefit for eligible retired veterans with service-connected, combat-related disabilities. It is available to reservists as well as those who served on active duty in the military.
CRSC restores the reduction in your military retirement pay that occurs when you are awarded disability compensation (the “disability offset”). However, it only restores this offset for any compensation you are receiving for combat-related disabilities (rather than for all of your service-connected disabilities). CRSC can restore some or all of this offset.
To receive combat-related special compensation, you must be a veteran who: has 20 or more years of service or is medically retired (or, if you are a reservist, is age sixty or older or retired through Temporary Early Retirement Authorization (TERA)), and is entitled to or receiving military retirement pay, and waives your VA pay from your retired pay, and has a service-connected disability rated 10% or more that is combat-related.
What Is a Service-Connected Disability?
A service-connected disability is an injury or illness that occurred, or was aggravated, while you were in service. It can also include secondary medical conditions. (See this article on service-connected disabilities.) Under this program, your service-connected disability must be rated at 10% or more for you to receive benefits. If your disability is not rated at 10%, or your disabilities have not been found to be service-connected, you can appeal the rating or the denial of benefits.
What Is a Combat-Related Injury?
You will need to submit evidence to show that your disability was caused by combat-related service. Combat-related service includes training that simulates war, hazardous duty, using an instrument of war, or armed conflict. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) will also consider disability caused by exposure to Agent Orange, chemical exposure in the Gulf, and other hazards as combat-related for the purposes of this program.
Training that Simulates War
To be considered combat-related under simulated war, your disability must have happened while you were on active duty during training that simulated war. This includes such activities as weapons practice, hand-to-hand combat training, war games, and more. Your injury must directly result from these activities. Training that simulates war does not include routine physical training exercises.
Hazardous duty means activities such as diving, parachuting, or flying. You have to be able to show that your injury occurred while you were involved in the hazardous activity. Unlike service-connected disability, it will not be enough to show the disability arose just while you were on active duty. In other words, injuries that did not arise directly from your engagement in the hazardous activity (for example, a car accident while on your way to the airfield) will not qualify as combat-related.
Instrument of War
Your disability didn’t have to happen during an active period of war if it arose from directly from an “instrumentality of war.” An instrumentality of war includes equipment used for military purposes. Qualifying disabilities would include an accident in a military vehicle, an injury caused by a weapon, or an illness caused by chemical materials. The “instrumentality” must have been in use by the military and intended for military use at the time of the injury to qualify as combat-related.
Your disability is combat-related if it was caused by armed conflict while you were engaged in armed conflict. It isn’t enough if your disability was caused while you were serving during a period of war or near armed conflict. You must be able to specifically show that your injury or illness was directly caused by your involvement in the armed conflict.
In addition to being actively engaged in combat, armed conflict includes an occupation, raid, or other action against a hostile nation. Likewise it includes being a POW or being detained by the enemy.
How to Apply
To apply for Combat-Related Special Compensation, submit an application to your branch of the military. You can find the application, DD Form 2860, at the VA Forms web page. Below is information on where to submit this application.
United States Air Force
Disability Division (CRSC)
550 C St. West, Ste 6
Randolph AFB, TX 78150-4708
Department of the Army
US Army Human Resources CMD
ATTN: AHRC-PDR-C (CRSC)
1600 Spearhead Division Ave.
Fort Knox, KY 40122-5402
U.S. Coast Guard
4200 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22203-1804
NAVY and MARINE CORPS
Secretary of the Navy Council of Review Boards
Attn: Combat-Related Special Compensation Branch
720 Kennon Street SE, Suite 309
Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374
Amount of CRSC Benefit
The amount of the CRSC benefit, like disability compensation payment rates, varies based on your rating, whether you have a spouse and/or children, and other factors. The VA website posts the Veterans Compensation Benefits Rate Tables.
The CRSC benefit is generally retroactive to the date you were deemed eligible for the program. However, retroactive pay will go back only six years from the date the VA granted you compensation. This means that if you apply for CRSC six years after the VA starts paying you disability compensation, your CRSC retroactive payment will not go back further than six years.
Appealing the Denial of or Amount of CRSC
If you were denied benefits or believe you should have been awarded more benefits than you are receiving, you can file for reconsideration with your branch of the military:
Air Force. Contact the Air Force at 800-525-0102 and say you want the CRSC decision reconsidered
Army. Visit the Army Human Resources Command website
Navy and Marines. Visit the Department of the Navy’s Reconsideration page
You can also hire a disability lawyer who’s certified in veterans disability matters. Look in Nolo’s Lawyer Directory for a disability attorney in your area.