Whether looking for a little money for college or hoping to serve their country, countless young men and women have entered the United States Army throughout the decades. Sadly, many of these young men and women have not returned home, and those that have often return with injuries and disabilities. In the past, veterans who received disability compensation were forced to waive their regular retirement benefits, but thanks to the Army Combat-Related Special Compensation (CRSC) program, veterans of the United States Army can now receive a compensation package that better honours their service.
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For decades, many retired Army veterans have opted to receive disability compensation from the Veterans Administration in place of their regular retirement pay. These VA packages were often more beneficial than the available federal service packages, but Army personnel could only choose one or the other---in a sense, they had to choose between retirement benefits and disability benefits. However, due to the War on Terror and the increased number of injured Army soldiers, Congress enacted the CRSC program to offer veterans more adequate disability support. Now veterans can receive both retirement compensation and disability compensation---they no longer have to choose.
The Army CRSC program was enacted to honour soldiers who served their country honourably and were injured or disabled in the process. However, not all Army personnel qualify for consideration. Veterans receiving retirement pay with 20 or more years of service, or who retired because of their disability, qualify for the CRSC program only if they have a 10 per cent or greater VA-rated injury. This injury must also be combat-related---in other words, it must have been inflicted either in armed conflict or during armed conflict simulations. Service-related injuries---injuries received during Army service but not directly related to combat or war---do not qualify for the CRSC program. Also, if an Army veteran is receiving VA disability payments, but his retirement pay is not directly reduced, than the CRSC benefits are not applicable.
The Army CRSC program is not the only program of its kind. Every branch of the United States military offers CRSC packages to qualified veterans, although the exact application processes and benefits may differ. The Army also offers the Concurrent Receipt Disability Pay (CRDP) program to veterans who do not qualify for the CRSC program. CRDP packages also aim to offset the money lost from retirement pay when veterans receive VA disability benefits. However, the CRDP program is considered compensation for service-related injuries, not combat-related injuries. While the service disability must be a 50 per cent or greater VA-rated injury, and while medical retirees do not qualify, the CRDP program does help a large percentage of Army personnel who retired after 20 years of service. Unlike the CRSC program, however, CRDP payments are taxed, and it can take up to 10 years after retirement for the program to take effect.
For retired Army veterans with combat-related injuries, the CRSC program is an important development. However, receiving CRSC benefits is not automatic. Veterans must apply directly for CRSC packages, and qualification is never guaranteed. Veterans must submit crucial forms to the government, but most important, they must submit official documentary evidence of their combat-related injuries. In the end, retired veterans do not always qualify the first time around---sometimes they must submit numerous applications, and sometimes they must appeal directly to the Army Review Board Agency. Some deserving veterans will never find evidence of their combat-related injuries, and sadly they will never qualify for the CRSC programs. However, there are numerous agencies available to help Army personnel prepare CRSC claims, and many are offered through county VA offices or even on local military bases. Once again, the CRSC program is far from automatic, and more often than not, veterans will need a little help sorting through the paperwork.
In conclusion, while the CRSC program is commendable, it is not perfect, and for many Army veterans, the road to disability compensation is long and arduous. In a sense, there is no concrete time frame for receiving CRSC benefits. Some veterans will qualify for a CRSC package when they first receive retirement pay---others will have to wait for official documentary evidence. There can be years between a combat-related injury and CRSC benefits, years that are hard on a disabled soldier who is unable to support his family. However, while the CRSC program is not automatic, it is flexible. If injuries worsen over time, CRSC benefits will increase; even disabilities that do not qualify as 10 per cent or greater, VA-rated injuries may qualify in the future. While some veterans may be hurt by the subjective nature of the application process, others will benefit from its flexible nature. The key is to never give up---the CRSC program exists to help veterans, not harm them.
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