national guard, reserveAfter a review of ten years of data, the federal government’s watchdog agency—the Government Accounting Office (GAO)—reported that disability approval rates were 11% to 20% lower for reservists and members of the National Guard.

The most recent 2022 census revealed that more than 700,000 men and women were serving in the reserves or National Guard. As a result of their unique part-time service, only those who fall ill or are injured while serving on federal orders for periods of at least 30 days, or during annual active-duty training (ADT), or during prescribed (typically monthly) inactive-duty training or maintenance (IADT) are eligible for VA disability compensation.

A servicemember injured during ADT or IDT needs to show evidence of duty status, usually this is accomplished by submitting a Line of Duty form (DD 261) or alternatively submitting a Leave and Earnings Statement documenting their period of service, treatment records documenting that an injury occurred during service, an official order directing the member to a period of service, or a retirement document which verifies the total time a person has served on active duty (NGB 23). 

Even though many of the troops had incurred severe service-connected disabilities similar to active-duty service members there were notable differences in approval rates for disability compensation. These differences “appeared each year and persisted across service members' military service factors such as service branch and rank, as well as demographic factors such as race and ethnicity and sex," according to the report.

The GAO identified several factors that have contributed to these discrepancies and the two principal causes are: 

  • Because they only serve part-time reservists and National Guard members have a more difficult time in proving that their impairments are service-connected and not incurred in their time as civilians.
  • Inaccurate documentation of dates of service due to poor recordkeeping by the Defense Department. reports that “[t]he GAO made 14 recommendations to the VA and Defense Department to improve data collection and help eligible reserve and National Guard members receive disability benefits they have earned. The departments largely agreed with the GAO recommendations and pledged to implement them, although they did not provide any targeted dates of completion.”

Have you served or are serving as a member of the National Guard or reserves and have a impairment due to an illness or injury caused by or made worse by your time in service? You may be entitled to VA disability benefits, but, as this article spelled out, winning benefits can be difficult. The VA accredited attorneys at Cuddigan Law may be able to help you. Call or email us for a free, no-strings attached evaluation of your situation.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska
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