Establishing a Service-Related Connection in VA Disability Claims
Defining a service-related connection. In a nutshell, any illness or injury which occurred while the Veteran was on active duty. Whether or not the illness or injury was directly tied to military activity, like a combat or training injury, is service-related for VA disability purposes.
Generally, illnesses include things like cancer and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Frequently, symptoms for conditions like these do not appear for months, years, or even decades following the incident. Injuries usually include immediate trauma injuries, like motor vehicle crash injuries, combat wounds, or fall injuries. Sometimes, these things overlap. For example, a fall can cause latent injuries that do not appear for a long time.
Because the service-related definition is so broad, if you served in any capacity and suffered a disability in any way, a VA disability attorney should at least evaluate your claim. You never know what benefits the VA will grant you until you ask.
Ultimately, the VA disability system exists to compensate Veterans for any and all conditions related to their military service. So, if the Veteran establishes a direct temporal relationship, that is usually enough. Enough to at least create a presumption in favor of benefits.
For example: If Pedro falls and breaks his arm while attempting to negotiate an obstacle in less than 10 [expletive] seconds, that injury is clearly service-related. If Pedro falls while he is on leave or develops breathing problems while he is on duty, the VA usually considers these as service-related, even though there is no direct connection between his military occupation and those injuries. It will be deemed by the VA as sufficient that the injury occurred while he was on active duty status.
A chart usually determines the disability rating, mostly based on the Veteran’s physical symptoms. This process is a bit subjective when it involves things like brain injuries.
Pre-existing conditions will cause an even murkier situation. Service-aggravated conditions are illnesses or injuries which have their roots prior to military service, but military service made aggravate them.
Some people are prone to certain conditions. Generally, VA will not award benefits for any condition which existed prior to service (EPTS). However, when service aggravates the pre-existing condition, the VA will compensate that condition for the degree of aggravation (if the VA cab establish a degree of impairment prior to service)
For example, Assume Joel hurts his knee prior to service but was asymptomatic upon entry into service. During military service, the knee becomes chronically unstable. Following his discharge, he breaks his ankle. Every time his knee weakens, he re-injures his ankle, so it never heals properly. In this situation, Joel’s service aggravated his bad knee, which in turn caused a bad ankle, so the VA will consider both as service-related conditions.
Most of the time, to rate such conditions, the disability usually will be rated by Claims Examiners as if it had occurred while the Veteran was in the service.
Radiation, chemicals, and other substances often negatively affect health over a long period of time. To obtain benefits, Veterans must show that the actual exposure to the substance occurred during their service periods or they have an illness on the presumptive list.
Agent Orange exposure is a good example. If a Veteran develops an illness on the presumptive list, she must only show that she served in the military in any capacity where Agent Orange was used, mostly in the 1960s. If Veterans have a non-presumptive condition, The VA still entitles them to compensation if they prove actual exposure.
Reach Out to Dedicated Attorneys
The VA normally entitles Veterans with service-related disabilities to benefits. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.