[T]he government’s interest in veterans cases is not that it shall win, but rather that justice shall be done, that all veterans so entitled receive the benefits due to them.” Barrett v. Nicholson, 466 F.3d 1038, 1044 (Fed.Cir.2006)
19 November 2015
C-123 Agent Orange Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) Benefits
Replaces VA Disability Offset for C-123 Retirees with Agent Orange-Related Disabilities - now considered combat related!
Did you know that if you are a military retiree with a C-123 Agent Orange-related disability you may be eligible to receive additional compensation through the Combat Related Special Compensation (CRSC) program? This is a new eligibility for C-123 veterans because Agent Orange illnesses are considered "combat related" because Agent Orange is an instrumentality of war.
C-123 Vets may be eligible to receive additional compensation.
Until 2004, there was a law on the books that prevented military retirees from receiving both military retirement pay and VA service-connected disability compensation at the same time. Military retirees could choose to receive VA disability compensation if they were eligible, but their military retirement pay would be offset by the exact amount of compensation they received from the VA. The veteran received the same total compensation as their full retirement pay, however, the spending power was greater because VA disability compensation is tax-exempt.
But retirees with less than a 50% disability rating were left in the dark when it came to receiving greater compensation. While lawmakers didn’t extend the concurrent receipt laws to cover all disability ratings, they did create a similar law for veterans with a “combat related” disability, even if they do not have an overall disability rating of 50%. In 2008, Congress passed a law called the Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) (10 U.S. Code § 1413a), which allows military retirees, including traditional Reservists, to receive monthly compensation to replace some or all of their VA disability offset if they have a combat-related injury. Let’s take a deeper look at CRSC, what it is, who it affects, and how C-123 vets can apply for this benefit.
What Is Combat Related Special Compensation?
Combat-Related Special Compensation was created to replace the VA disability offset for service-connected disabilities that are a direct result of combat related injuries, to include injuries that occur during combat or armed conflict, or during combat training, training that simulates war, while performing hazardous duty, or from exposure to an instrumentality of war (such as military combat vehicles, C-123 Agent Orange exposure, etc.).
Combat-Related Special Compensation provides compensation to eligible military retirees that will replace some or all of the VA disability offset. Their military retirement pay will no longer be deducted by the amount of their VA disability compensation. Instead, they will receive their full military retirement pay (based only on active duty total longevity, not percentage of disability!) and a CRSC payment based on the percentage of their disability rating that is considered combat-related. It’s important to note that CRSC payments only apply to the disabilities that are considered combat related. So it is possible that your CRSC payment can be less than your overall VA disability rating, and thus less than your VA disability offset. Like VA Disability compensation, CRSC payments are tax free.
Combat Related Special Compensation Eligibility for C-123 Veterans:
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 AFPC
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. C-123 Agent Orange exposure qualifies 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.
Eligibility Based on Service Dates and Back Pay: Anyone can be eligible to receive benefits under CRSC as long as they meet the eligibility requirements. This means it can apply to veterans who retired decades ago, or as recently as a month ago. There is even the possibility of receiving back pay if you are determined to be eligible for this benefit. However, if you retired with full longevity (20 or more years of service), you can only receive back pay as early as June 1, 2003, which was the effective date authorized by Congress. If you were medically retired under Chapter 61 with less than 20 years of service, back pay can only go back to January 2008, which was the effective date for authorizing veterans who retired with a medical retirement.
How to Apply for CRSC Benefits
Combat-Related Special Compensation is not automatic. You will need to apply for these benefits with AFPC. They will assess your claim and determine your eligibility. To apply, you will need to fill out DD form 2860, along with the required documentation mentioned below, and send it to AFPC.
Documentation of Combat-Related Injury Required: You must be able to show a causal link between your service-connected disability rating and a combat-related event. You will need to provide documentation of your military service, including your Form DD-214 or Form DD-215, military medical records pertaining to your injuries, military personnel files, line of duty determinations, safety mishap (accident) reports, military personnel data system printouts, prior military disability board decisions, casualty reports, official orders or travel vouchers, AF Form 5s, flight orders, VA summary letters, or other official documents that can substantiate your claims. Here is the important thing to remember: your records must clearly show your injury is combat-related or associated with C-123 aircrew, AME, life support or maintenance duties.