At the Veterans Benefits Administration, we often come in contact with people who ask, What are my benefits? What am I eligible for? Or, I receive X benefit, but what other benefits can I use?
Those are hard questions to answer because in many cases, it depends. VA benefits eligibility is based on your character of discharge. And some benefits connections are equally hard to explain without further personal information. But some Veterans become eligible for additional benefits based on a number of different situations. The additional benefits that open up from a given situation is what we call “derivative” benefits.
To better explain this, to ease the understanding between a primary benefit and its derivative benefit(s), we built a Derivative-Benefits Eligibility Matrix on our website. On this webpage, there are three matrices and, depending on which one you click, will lead you to a table where you identify your situation.
The three matrices are very basic: Service-Connected, Non-Service Connected and Circumstance. They’re as simple as they sound. Under Service-Connected, you scroll down the table until you find your service-connected disability rating. The corresponding column that matches with your row lists to a number of VA benefits. These are the derivative benefits. Under Non-Service Connected, you follow the same procedure based on your receipt of a non-service-connected benefit, like Aid & Attendance or Housebound. Examples of situations under the Circumstance matrix include Veteran statuses like Medal of Honor recipient, former prisoner of war and others.
Most Veterans we talk to are aware that, with a 30-percent disability rating, you can add your dependents to your award to increase your monthly payment. Your monthly, 30-percent disability compensation payment would be the primary benefit, and the dependent pay added to your rate would be the “derivative.”
But let’s create another scenario to illustrate a different example, one from the “Circumstance Matrix.” Say that you’re the spouse or dependent child of a Veteran who died from a disability related to military service. If this is your circumstance, then you may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Dependents Educational Assistance, Civilian Health and Medical Program, and the VA Home Loan Guaranty (surviving spouse). These benefits are “derivative” to the situation.
The derivative, or additional, benefits listed next to your situation in the matrix are hyperlinked to another page on the VA website. This makes it easy for you to find more information, as well as instructions on how to apply.
That said, the three matrices only list federal benefits derived from VA decisions. After all, we administer your federal VA benefits. But there could be some benefits from outside VA that you may be eligible for, such as state benefits, or those connected to membership with Veterans Service Organizations or private charities and non-profits.
Now that you have a better understanding of derivative benefits, the only thing left to do is give the eligibility matrix a try. See what pops up for your own situation!
Disclaimer reminder: The internet, this blog and social media are not the places to share sensitive information, and I’m unable to answer complex or overly personal questions. As always, IRIS is the best place to ask specific questions with personal information.
Jason Davis served five years in the 101st ABN, including two combat tours to Iraq. He's currently an M.A. candidate in Writing at Johns Hopkins University and serves as social media administrator for the Veterans Benefits Administration.