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Can Military Members Get Workers’ Compensation?

Originally published July 13, 2020.

For many Americans, serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is a reliable and rewarding career, whether for one tour of duty or a lifetime. As reservists and active-duty soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, or coast guardsmen, they spend years serving their country and putting their health and even their lives at risk to protect their fellow Americans. Because of the nature of military work, many service members suffer serious and disabling injuries in the line of duty, and they may need compensation when they’re too hurt to continue to serve.

However, unlike other jobs in the public and private sector, military members aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation after service-related injuries. Instead, they can get benefits by applying for VA (Veterans Administration) disability compensation. Like workers’ compensation, this program is designed to provide a replacement income for service members who get hurt or sick on the job.

In addition, some service members are eligible for benefits for disabilities that don’t arise until after their service ends, provided the initial injury or illness is service-related, or if their service aggravated pre-existing conditions.

Why Can’t Military Members Apply for Workers’ Compensation?

Almost all businesses and organizations in Oklahoma with employees must hold valid workers’ compensation insurance. Employees of both private and public organizations, including state and local governments, are typically eligible for those workers’ compensation benefits when they get hurt on the job.

Even though members of the U.S. Armed Forces are considered government employees, they aren’t covered by workers’ compensation after service-related injuries and illnesses because they have access to VA disability compensation. However, that only applies if their injuries or illnesses occurred during the course of their military service. If they become disabled while performing other types of non-military work, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation.

Who Is Eligible for VA Disability Benefits?

To receive VA disability benefits, service members must first suffer injuries or illnesses while doing military-related work. In addition, their injuries must classify them as being at least 10% disabled (as determined by the physician who evaluates their injuries or illnesses), and they must receive a general discharge.

Service members who suffer “secondary disabilities”—or disabilities that are initiated during active duty but that don’t become apparent until after their service ends—also may be eligible for VA disability benefits. The amount of money that service members receive through VA disability benefits depends on their disability ratings and their number of dependents.

Can Someone Get Both VA Disability Compensation and Workers’ Compensation?

Many veterans spend only a short time in the military. After their service contracts end, they enter the private or public workforce to begin second careers. When this happens, it’s possible for injured former military members to also receive workers’ compensation after on-the-job injuries and illnesses. 

Former service members who get hurt on the job are eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits just as any other injured employee. However, if they’re already receiving VA disability benefits, the amount of money they currently receive may factor into how much money they get from the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission.

What Are the Differences Between VA Disability Compensation and Workers’ Compensation?

VA disability compensation is paid by federal funds. It’s a government-provided service, similar to Social Security Disability (SSD). Workers’ compensation, although mandated by Oklahoma and other state governments. It is paid through private insurance policies that each business owner purchases— depending on requirements based on their number of employees and overall payroll.

In addition, both types of compensation award benefits differently. VA disability benefits are awarded to injured service members based on the severity of their injuries, with each disabled service member being assigned a disability rating. Workers’ compensation benefits, on the other hand, are awarded based on current and future wage loss and the cost of required medical treatments.

Confused About What to Do After an Injury? We’re Here to Help.

At Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers, we believe that all injured workers deserve compensation when they get hurt on the job and can no longer earn paychecks for themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, we also know that the process of getting disability benefits and compensation isn’t easy.

If you or someone you love suffered a disabling injury or illness while working, it may be months or years before you’re able to earn a living again. You may even be hurt badly enough to have to change careers or retire early. That can be devastating for you, your family, and your future.

Our Oklahoma City workers’ compensation lawyers want to help you get the benefits you’re owed. In addition, we can help you maximize your workers’ compensation benefits if you’re already receiving money for VA disability compensation.

Contact us today for a free consultation to find out how we can help.