Glossary

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A

Active Duty

Full-time service in the armed forces (other than active duty for training), full-time duty (other than for training purposes) as a commissioned officer of the regular or reserve corps of the Public Health Service, full-time duty as a commissioned officer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and service at any time as a cadet at the United States Military, Air Force, or Coast Guard academies or as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy.

Agency of Original Jurisdiction

The VA regional office, hospital, or other field-level activity that makes initial benefits determinations. 

Aid and Attendance

A cash payment, over and above other compensation or pension payments that may be due, paid to claimants who are in a state of helplessness or are so nearly helpless as to require the regular aid and attendance of another person (38 C.F.R. § 3.351(b)). For compensation purposes, a claimant determined to be in need of aid and attendance because of his or her service-connected condition(s) is entitled to Special Monthly Compensation over and above the 100 percent compensation rate. For Improved Pension purposes, a claimant determined to be in need of regular aid and attendance is paid an increased amount over and above the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR). To determine whether the pension claimant is need of aid and attendance, all of the claimant's conditions, service-connected and non-service-connected, are considered.

Annualization

Twelve-month projection of income (countable income plus pension benefits) from the date of entitlement to pension, or from the effective date of change in income.

B

Burial Allowance

A lump-sum benefit paid to the party or parties who assume responsibility for the burial expense of the veteran.

C

Compensation

Monthly payments made by the VA to a veteran because of a service-connected disability.

Countable Income

Almost any kind of payment from any source received during the twelve-month annualization period, with some exceptions.

Court-Martial

A military court for trying and punishing offenses committed by the members of the armed forces. Its jurisdiction is entirely criminal.

D

De Novo Review

A decision-maker's review of a claim for the first time or without giving any deference to a previous decision maker's determination on the same claim. 

Dependency and Indemnity Compensation

Benefits paid to a spouse, dependent children, or dependent parents of a veteran who dies of a service-connected disability or who is rated totally disabled because of a service-connected condition(s) for a period of ten years or more.

E

Education Benefits

Assistance paid by the VA for on-the-job, institutional, cooperative on-the-farm, or apprenticeship programs.

Effective Date

The date as of which the VA calculates its grant, increase, reduction, suspension, or termination of benefits.

F

Fraud

An intentional misrepresentation of fact, or the intentional failure to disclose pertinent facts, for the purpose of obtaining or retaining, or assisting an individual to obtain or retain, eligibility for VA benefits, with knowledge that the misrepresentation or failure to disclose may result in the erroneous award or retention of such benefits.

G

Garnishment

A statutory proceeding whereby a person's property, money, or credits (in possession of, under control of, or owed by another) are applied to payment of a debt to a third person.

H

Housebound Benefit

Cash payment paid over and above any other compensation or pension payment that may be due, for claimants who are substantially confined to their home or immediate premises (if institutionalized, then ward or clinical area) because of a disability or disabilities (permanently housebound). For compensation purposes, a claimant determined to be housebound because of his or her service-connected condition(s) is entitled to special monthly compensation over and above the 100 percent compensation rate. For pension purposes, an amount over and above the maximum annual pension rate (MAPR) is paid to a claimant determined to be housebound. In making the determination, all conditions, whether service-connected or not, are considered.

Higher-Level Review

In the VA's modernized claims and appeals system, a de novo review of a claim that is conducted by a more experienced agency of original jurisdiction adjudicator who did not participate in the prior decision.

I

Individual Unemployability

Total disability evaluation / rating assigned to an individual because of any service-connected impairment (or combination of impairments) of mind or body that fails to meet the criteria for a total disability rating under the Schedule for Rating Disabilities, but that nonetheless renders it impossible for that person to follow substantially gainful employment.

Insurance

Life insurance benefits paid to the beneficiary designated on the policies at the time of a veteran's death under various government programs providing insurance to active duty service personnel and veterans.

In the Line of Duty

For an injury or disease to be considered to have been incurred or aggravated during a period of active military, naval, or air service, it must have occurred in the line of duty. If such injury or disease was the result of willful misconduct on the part of the veteran, it will not be considered to have occurred in the line of duty. A service department's finding that injury, disease, or death occurred in the line of duty will be binding on the VA unless it is patently inconsistent with the requirements of laws administered by the VA. Requirements for a line of duty determination are not met if at the time the injury was suffered or disease contracted, the veteran avoided duty by desertion or absence without official leave, was confined by court-martial involving an unremitted dishonorable discharge, or was confined under sentence of a civil court for a felony as determined under the laws of the jurisdiction where the person was convicted by such court.

J

Joint Services Records Research Center

The Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) conducts research of military records primarily related to posttraumatic stress disorder stressors and Agent Orange exposure. The JSRRC was formerly known as the U.S. Armed Services Center for Research of Unit Record (CRUR) and, before that, the Research of Unit Records, Environmental Support Group (ESG).

M

Maximum Annual Pension Rate

Maximum amount of pension payable to a veteran, reduced by the amount of the veteran's annual income and, in some instances, the annual income of other family members.

Motion for Reconsideration

The appellant's request that the BVA reconsider a final decision; in addition, the BVA can move on its own initiative to reconsider its decision.

N

New and Relevant Evidence

In the context of supplemental claims in the modernized claims and appeals system, "new evidence" is evidence that was not previously part of the actual record before VA adjudicators. "Relevant evidence" is evidence that tends to prove or disprove a matter in issue.

Non-Service-Connected

With respect to disability or death, a disability that was not incurred or aggravated, or a death that did not result from a disability incurred or aggravated, in the line of duty while the veteran was in the active military, naval, or air service.

Notice of Disagreement

In the legacy VA appeal process, a written communication from a claimant or representative expressing dissatisfaction or disagreement with an adjudicative determination of a VA agency of original jurisdiction that notified the claimant of the action taken. In the modernized VA appeal process, this is VA Form 10182, Decision Review Request: Board Appeal (Notice of Disagreement), which is used to appeal a decision by the agency of original jurisdiction directly to the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

P

Pension

Monthly payments to veterans with 90 days or more of wartime service who became permanently and totally disabled from disability or disabilities not related to military service. To qualify, the veteran must also meet certain income and net worth limits.

Permanent and Total Disability

When there is any impairment of mind or body sufficient to render it impossible for the average person to follow a substantially gainful occupation, and such impairment is reasonably certain to continue throughout the life of the disabled person.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, defines posttraumatic stress disorder as an acquired mental condition manifested after exposure to one or more traumatic events, notwithstanding the absence of a person's emotional reaction at the time of the event. Manifestations of the disorder may vary in an individual case, but include re-experiencing the traumatic event(s), avoidance of stimuli associated with trauma or numbing of general responsiveness, increased arousal, or some combination of these symptoms. 

Presumptive Service Connection

The presumption that certain diseases have been incurred in service, even though there is no evidence of such disease during the period of service.

Pyramiding

The prohibited evaluation of the same disability symptoms under multiple diagnostic codes in the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities. 

R

Restored Entitlement Program for Survivors

Program that restores certain Social Security survivors’ benefits to the surviving dependents of deceased veterans that were reduced or terminated by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.

S

Schedule for Rating Disabilities

Title 38, part 4, of the Code of Federal Regulations, which provides a list of criteria for evaluation of many types of diseases and injuries encountered as a result of or incident to military service. The various percentage degrees of disability assigned to each disease or injury represent, as far as can be practically determined, the average impairment in earning capacity resulting from such diseases and injuries and their residual conditions in civil occupations.

Secondary Service Connection

Disability that is proximately due to or the result of a service-connected disease or injury such that it is considered part of the original condition and thus also warrants service connection.

Service-Connected Disability

With respect to a disability or death, a disability that was incurred or aggravated, or a death that resulted from a disability incurred or aggravated, in the line of duty while the veteran was in the active military, naval, or air service.

Soft-Tissue Sarcoma

A group of approximately 25 different malignant tumors arising from body tissues, such as muscle, fat, blood, lymph vessels, and connective tissues, which are distinct from hard tissue such as bone or cartilage.

Statement of the Case

For claims in the VA's legacy appeals system, an explanation from the agency of original jurisdiction (AOJ) in response to a claimant's notice of disagreement that explains how the AOJ made its decision in a particular case. The SOC sets forth the facts and applicable laws and regulations upon which the agency's decision was based.

Subpoena

A writ commanding a person to appeal before a court or other tribunal, subject to a penalty for failing to comply. Under 38 U.S.C. § 5711, the VA has authority to issue a subpoena requiring the production of records, documents, and other material, and the attendance of any witness within a radius of 100 miles from the place of the hearing.

Substantive Appeal

For claims in the VA's legacy appeals system, after receiving a statement of the case, the appellant must file a substantive appeal to continue the appellate process. In the substantive appeal, the appellant has the opportunity to present specific arguments relating to errors of fact or law in the decision of the agency of original jurisdiction. The substantive appeal may consist of an adequately executed VA Form 9, Appeal to Board of Veterans’ Appeals, or correspondence containing the necessary information. This is the final action the appellant must take to perfect the appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals.

Supplemental Claim

In the VA's modernized claims and appeals system, any complete claim for a VA benefit on a VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim, where the VA previously decided an initial or supplemental claim for the same or similar benefit on the same or similar basis.

Supplemental Statement of the Case

For claims in the VA's legacy appeals system, this document is prepared by the agency of original jurisdiction when new and material evidence has been introduced, an amended decision has been made, or a material error in the Statement of the Case has been discovered.

T

Temporary Disability Retired List

Status of military personnel that are determined to suffer from a physical or psychological disability, not yet determined to be permanent in nature, but that nonetheless disqualifies them from active military duty. Periodic medical reviews of persons in this status are conducted to determine whether their conditions have improved such that they are fit to return to active military service, or that they should be permanently retired for disability.

V

Veteran

A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.

Veteran Readiness and Employment

Services and assistance provided to eligible veterans with compensable service-connected disabilities to enable them to achieve maximum independence in daily living and, to the maximum extent feasible, to become employable and to obtain and maintain suitable employment.

W

Waiver of Overpayment

Decision by a regional office’s Committee on Waivers and Compromises not to collect an overpayment, or any interest thereon, because to do so would be against equity and good conscience.

Willful Misconduct

An act involving conscious wrongdoing or known prohibited action such that it is the proximate cause of injury, disease, or death. Benefits are not payable in cases where the injury, disease, or death was the result of willful misconduct.