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 lift overhead.
“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 VA, a medical condition must be service-connectedin order to be considered a disability that qualifies for VA Disability.
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.
As long as a condition fulfils these requirements, it will be eligible for Military Disability Benefits.
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 the VASRD.
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.