In 2019, the VA processed about one million disability claims. Roughly 18,000 of these claims involved Veterans living overseas due to retirement, the pursuit of new work opportunities, a love of travel, or the personal choice to continue to live in the country where they once served. This represented a 14% increase from the previous five-year period, and these numbers are expected to increase in the decades to come.
If you have a service-connected disability, you are entitled to VA disability benefits regardless of your current residence. While the approval process can be a bit more challenging for Veterans living overseas, an experienced attorney can help you access the benefits you need to provide for yourself and your family.
Filing for Benefits as an Overseas Veterans
When you are applying for disability benefits, the application and supporting evidence can be uploaded from any internet-enabled location in the world. Your attorney can provide services online, by mail, by phone, or by fax—so you can retain experienced legal representation from any location you wish.
When your application is received, you will likely be asked to attend a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. These exams are normally conducted at VA medical centers, but Veterans living overseas have three options:
- Attend an exam with a local doctor. The VA has contracts with doctors in various countries, so you can have an exam conducted by someone who is relatively close to your current residence.
- Have a military doctor perform the exam. Veterans who live in countries with a large US military presence, such as Germany, Italy, and South Korea, can have a military doctor on the ground perform the examination.
- Have a traveling VA doctor perform the exam. Sometimes, the VA has doctors who are sent abroad to conduct exams for Veterans. This is the least common option, but it is important to be aware of the possibility.
Travel reimbursement is not allowed under current VA regulations when a Veteran is attending a medical examination outside the United States. Thus, it is advisable to attend a C&P exam as close to your current location as possible.
If your initial application for benefits is denied, you have the option of a virtual Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA) hearing. This allows you to exercise your right to appeal without worrying about the cost or inconvenience of travel.
How Living Overseas Will Affect Your Benefits
When your application is approved, there are two components of VA disability benefits that will be affected by your residence: monthly cash benefits and medical care.
- Monthly cash benefits. Your direct deposit time will depend on your bank’s processing time once the payment has been sent from the United States. You will not be charged a currency conversion fee from International Treasury Services, but it’s possible that your foreign bank may charge a fee to process your disability benefits.
- Medical care. If you need medical care for a service-connected disability, the Foreign Medical Program will pay for all medically necessary treatment. However, Veterans living in the Philippines can visit the VA Manila Regional Benefit Office and the VA Manila Outpatient Clinic for their care needs.
Working While Receiving Benefits
In most cases, Veterans are allowed to work and collect VA disability benefits. This does not change because you are no longer living in the United States. However, if you are seeking Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) benefits, you must be able to prove you are unable to maintain substantially gainful employment. Veterans who work part-time, earn very low wages, or have a protected work environment may still qualify for TDIU, but this is an issue to discuss with your attorney.
Are You in Need of Assistance With Your VA Disability Claim?
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, is dedicated to helping all Veterans—regardless of their location—access the benefits they’ve earned in the service of their country. We are well-equipped to handle concerns regarding issues such as establishing a service connection, documenting secondary disabilities, or increasing an existing disability rating. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.