What is VA Permanent and Total Disability?

A Top Ten Disability Group in the U.S.

Types of VA Total and Permanent Disability

What is VA Permanent and Total Disability? The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers 2 disability benefit programs: 1) Compensation; and 2) Pension. Both disability programs provide monthly payments to disabled veterans. There is a major difference in the programs.

VA Pension Total and Permanent

VA Pension is a needs-based program similar to Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Similarly to SSI, to be eligible for pension benefits, a veteran must have wartime service, low income, and a Permanent and Total disability. The Permanent and Total disability does not need to be “connected” to the period of military service. Disabled veterans aged 65 years or older can receive Permanent and Total disability for pension.  For further information on Permanent and Total disability you can read our blog, How Can I Get TDIU.

VA Compensation Total and Permanent

VA Compensation is not based on need, income or age.  It pays a veteran for disabilities incurred in or aggravated during their active duty service.  The monthly payment depend on how much the veteran’s ability to work is impacted.

Eligibility for VA Permanent and Total Disability

A veteran can be eligible for both Pension and Compensation.  Generally, Compensation will pay more money per month than Pension. Many veterans seek Permanent & Total disability for Compensation purposes instead of Pension because it pays more money.

Can You Receive Total Disability without Permanent Disability?

VA will award Permanent and Total disability to veterans whose disabilities are rated 100% with a very low likelihood of improvement. Although the terms “Permanent” and “Total” are often discussed together, it is possible to have a permanent disability that is not totally disabling. For example, a veteran may have a PTSD permanent disability at 70%.  The PTSD is not “Total” because it is less than 100%.


It is possible to have a total disability that is not permanent.  For example, the same veteran’s PTSD may be temporary at 100% during hospitalization for a suicide attempt. To learn more about TDIU and PTSD you can read our posts, Can I get TDIU from PTSD? or VA Permanent and Total Disability for PTSD.

General Rule

Generally, VA will award a Permanent & Total designation if the following criteria are met:

  1. The veteran has a disability rated at 100%, and
  2. Medical evidence shows that this disability is not likely to improve during the veteran’s lifetime.

Medical Evidence

Your treating doctor can provide the best medical evidence to prove entitlement to Permanent and Total Disability.  Ask your doctor whether your 100% disability is likely to improve during your lifetime.  If the answer is no. Ask your doctor to put this opinion in writing.  VA will most likely defer to your doctor’s opinion and award Permanent and Total disability.

Exception to the Rule

As with most rules, there are exceptions.  Regardless of the percentage, VA will deem certain disabilities Permanent & Total.  Examples include the loss or loss of use of both hands, both feet, or sight in both eyes.  In addition, VA would probably award Special Monthly Compensation

Case Studies

The following DHG clients received a Permanent & Total disability rating.

PTSD Permanent and Total Disability

A 50 year-old Gulf War combat veteran filed a claim for PTSD in 2009.  In 2010, he was denied despite the Combat Action Ribbon noted on his DD Form 214.  After significant development, we won the case on appeal.  The medical evidence proved that he met the criteria for a 100% rating.  His symptoms included unprovoked irritability with periods of violence, impaired impulse control, audio hallucinations, and panic attacks.  They were so severe that he could not hold a job.  In addition, his doctor wrote that his symptoms would only get worse throughout his lifetime.  VA awarded a Permanent and Total disability for PTSD. You can also work and get TDIU, if you are working you may want to read our post, Can I Work and Get TDIU?

Schizoaffective Disorder

A 57 year-old Air Force veteran lost his wife to a deadly car accident. This happened 3 months into his active duty service.  He was never the same after that accident. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, depressive type. Unfortunately, he turned to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate his symptoms.  He was homeless for many years.  When he filed a compensation claim, VA branded him a drug addict. At the local VA hospital, he met another veteran who referred him to us. We developed medical evidence, a lay statement from the veteran, and legal arguments. Our represtative also submitted a medical opinion from a private psychiatrist, who recommended a total and permanent rating based on the medical evidence. Shortly afterwards, VA awarded a Permanent and Total disability rating for schizoaffective disorder

Call for a Free Case Review

When VA awards a Permanent and Total disability rating your rating is protected for the rest of your life. Are you eligible for Permanent & Total disability.

For a FREE CASE REVIEW, Call 800-800-3332 or click here.

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How Can I Get TDIU?

How Can I Get TDIU?

Many veterans are unable to earn a living because of service-connected disabilities. Congress created a special benefit called TDIU to help these veterans live comfortably. Also known as Unemployability. TDIU pays the same monthly amount as a 100% disability rating.