Veterans Disability Benefits

This manual describes the step-by-step procedures by which ImpactMatters analyzes veterans disability benefits nonprofits. We recommend reading the program analysis methodology first.

Benefits claimed

We record the dollar value of disability benefits secured for veterans as a result of the nonprofit’s assistance. This value is usually present in the Form 990, line 4a-e, but could also be found in financial statements, annual reports or websites.

There are a number of ways that nonprofits can report the benefits they’ve earned for veterans:

  • The most common way is to report cumulative and retroactive benefits for all of the veterans they serve. For example: Disabled American Veterans reports “obtaining for [our beneficiaries] more than $4.3 billion in new and retroactive benefits.”

  • Nonprofits may also report cumulative benefits as one figure, and retroactive benefits as a separate figure.

  • Rather than report cumulative values, some nonprofits may report the monthly value of non-retroactive benefits they’ve secured for their beneficiaries (and then a separate figure for retroactive benefits, if applicable).

These distinctions are crucial as they impact how we adjust the raw dollar value to account for social discounting. For a full discussion of how we adjust the values differently for each method of reporting benefits, see the program analysis methodology.

If a nonprofit uses vague language when it reports benefits, using phrases like “benefits earned” (for example, Veterans of Foreign Wars reports $8.3 billion in “benefits won”) without any further explanation, we assume they are the sum of cumulative and retroactive benefits.

As an additional quality check to ensure we’ve made the correct determination, we multiply the number of veterans served by $1,300, the average monthly claim received by veterans — call this the estimated monthly benefits figure — and compare this number to the benefits reported by the nonprofit. If the nonprofit reports a cumulative figure (with or without retroactive benefits), the estimated monthly benefits figure should be an order of magnitude lower than the reported numbers. If the nonprofit reports a monthly number, the estimated monthly benefits figure should be relatively close to the reported number.

If nonprofits do not report a dollar value for benefits earned, we do not evaluate them.

Number of veterans served

We record the number of veterans given benefits assistance by the nonprofit. This value is usually present in the Form 990, line 4a-e, but could also be found in financial statements, annual reports or websites.

Nonprofits generally provide one of two values:

  • Veterans served

  • Claims filed

When the nonprofit reports veterans served, no adjustment is necessary. When the nonprofit reports claims filed, we divide by 5.35 claims per veteran, the average claims per veteran as reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

If nonprofits do not report the number of veterans served or claims filed, we do not evaluate them.

Costs

We want to record the isolated the costs of the nonprofit’s veterans disability benefits assistance program. To do so, we look for a figure in the same areas we look for data on benefits earned and veterans served: Form 990 line 4a-e, financial statements, annual reports and nonprofit websites.

If nonprofits report the isolated cost of their benefits assistance program, we use that cost directly.

If nonprofits report the total cost of multiple programs, but report the separate costs of programs that are not relevant to their benefits assistance program, we subtract the irrelevant costs from the total cost.

  • E.g., If a nonprofit reports a $10 million total cost for a benefits assistance program and a scholarship program, but note that the latter program costs $2 million, we subtract the $2 million from the $10 million total to isolate the cost of the benefits assistance program..

If nonprofits describe additional services offered to the same veterans who receive benefits assistance, but do not give the costs of those programs, we take a standard deduction of 5 percent off the total cost for each additional service. In order to try to standardize what counts as a program that merits a deduction, we apply the following criteria:

  • The additional service must be meaningfully separate from the benefits assistance program.

  • The additional service must be provided to the same population that receives the benefits assistance program.

  • Unless clearly a substantial activity, we generally do not count advocacy as an additional service.