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WASHINGTON - Salaries and wages of veterans who received monthly disability payments averaged 16% less than the earnings of their able-bodied peers, according to a new federal report that examined annual income levels for “working age” male veterans.

Veterans with military service-connected disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs had annual earnings of $52,200 on average, according to a Congressional Budget Office report issued this month.

But veterans without a disability determination from the VA averaged $60,552, according to the report.

The Department of Veterans Affairs compensates qualifying veterans with monthly disability payments for injuries, illnesses and other health problems that occurred or worsened while on active military duty, the report noted.

The CBO’s findings were based on a study that looked at the earnings and income of “working age” male veterans, 22 to 54 years old, from fiscal years 2017-2019, regardless of employment status.

Researchers compared earnings, personal income and household income of the disabled veterans with veterans who did not have a VA disability rating.

More than $125 billion was paid out in tax-free disability compensation to all VA beneficiaries in fiscal year 2022, according to the report. An estimated 5.3 million veterans received some level of monthly disability payment.

Compensation levels are calculated as estimated earnings lost due to disability. Disability payments are calculated using a rating system that ranges from zero to 100%.

Amounts are based on a veteran’s disability rating and number of family members who are dependents, which may include a spouse, children and/or parents.

“Those payments are based on VA disability ratings that reflect, as much as practicable, the severity of veterans’ service-connected conditions and the average earnings they would be expected to lose as a result of those conditions,” the report stated.

Qualifying for disability benefits does not limit or restrict a veteran’s ability to participate in the workforce.

The report found that the annual household income for all veterans, regardless of disability status, was more than $100,000, on average for the period studied.

Household income is defined as gross income for all occupants 15 years and older, according to the U.S. Census.

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Linda F. Hersey is a veterans reporter based in Washington, D.C. She previously covered the Navy and Marine Corps at Inside Washington Publishers. She also was a government reporter at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska, where she reported on the military, economy and congressional delegation.

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