The term “disability” has numerous
definitions, and its real meaning depends on the context in which it is used. A
disability for one person or group may not be a disability for another.
In general, a disability is basically
anything that limits your body or mind in any way. So basically, any medical
condition is a disability. A condition does not have to severely limit the body
in order for it to be a disability in this sense.
For example, if a vet has a shoulder condition
that makes it impossible for him to raise his arm straight overhead, he
wouldn't really be all that limited in his ability to do the majority of
activities. Very few things require someone to be able to raise their arm
straight overhead. It does, however, limit his arm's function in some way, so
it is still considered a disability. A completely healthy arm would be able to
“Disability” is defined differently,
however, when looking at things like Military Disability compensation. An
organization can define a disability however they want, and both the DoD and
the VA do just that.
For the DoD, a medical condition must be
service-connected AND make the service member Unfit for Duty to be considered a
disability that qualifies for DoD Disability.
Now just because a condition is officially
considered a disability by the DoD and/or the VA, it may still not qualify for
any disability benefits. This is where the seriousness of the condition is
taken into account.
The exact type and amount of compensation
given for a military disability is determined by the Military Disability Ratings that are assigned to a condition based on the laws and regulations of
If a disability doesn’t really limit the
overall ability of the vet to function, then he will be given a 0% rating. As
the severity of the condition worsens, the rating percentage will increase.
The exact rating assigned to each condition
is determined by the VASRD. The VASRD was written by a group of lawyers and
physicians who went through the various body systems/parts. It attempts to
provide fair ratings for every condition, although it does fall short at times.
For example, the ratings for all hearing
conditions are rated on how bad the hearing is without the use of a hearing aid.
All vision conditions, however, are rated on how bad the vision is WITH glasses
or contacts. How is this fair? If someone can hear perfectly with a hearing
aid, isn’t that just as good as someone seeing perfectly with glasses? Why
should people with hearing problems get more disability compensation than
people with vision problems?
While there are definitely problems like
this in the VASRD, it is the law, and all military disability cases are
determined based on its regulations. No one is exempt.
So, getting back to our original question,
a disability is basically any medical condition that limits the proper
functioning of the body and mind, but for it to qualify for military
disability, it must fulfil all the requirements that the DoD and the VA have in
place. The seriousness of the disability only comes into play when the Rating Authorities assign ratings to each of the conditions. The more serious the
disability, the higher the rating and the more compensation it should receive.