How to Establish a Service Connection for Veterans' Disability Benefits

Posted on behalf of The Nye Law Group on Feb 07, 2017 in Veterans' Benefits

shadow in front of flagOne of the toughest things to do when applying for veterans' disability benefits is to establish a connection between your existing disability or medical condition and your service in the armed forces.

There are five ways to establish a service connection to your disability:

Direct Service Connection

This means there is clear evidence of a connection between your disability and a documented incident during your service. For example, there would be a direct service connection between paralysis and a severe back injury suffered during a drill or training exercise.

If there are no records of the event, you can obtain statements from other veterans you served with to confirm what happened.

If you have evidence that your symptoms began before you were discharged, you usually do not need a medical opinion to establish a link between your service and your disease.

Presumed Service Connection

If you were involved in certain situations during your service and you developed certain disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will presume a service connection.

For example, if you have Parkinson's disease and were exposed to Agent Orange during your service, the VA will presume there is a service connection.

The VA would also presume a service connection for veterans who were prisoners of war for at least 30 days and developed anxiety, post-traumatic osteoarthritis or residual frostbite.

There would also be a presumed service connection if you were exposed to a nuclear testing site and developed certain types of cancer.

For the VA to presume a service connection, you must be at least 10 percent disabled. In addition, your disability must appear during a certain time period after your service. The time period varies depending on the disability.  

Other diseases where the VA is likely to presume a service connection include tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis and Hansen’s disease.

Pre-Existing Injury Aggravated by Military Service

Veterans can also establish a service connection by showing that their service aggravated a preexisting injury. An example would be a veteran who entered the service with a skin condition that was aggravated because he or she was exposed to certain chemicals.

However, the condition must have been listed on the veteran's original medical exam when he enlisted. You also need evidence of an event during your service that made your disability worse.

If you do not have proof of an inciting event, the VA will assume your symptoms are a natural progression of your preexisting illness.

Secondary Service Connection

This refers to a secondary disability that was caused by the first service-connected disability.

It does not matter if the secondary disability is connected to your service. You just have to show that it would not have occurred if you had not suffered the first disability, which is connected to your service.

For example, there is likely to be a secondary service connection between peripheral neuropathy and service-connected type-2 diabetes.

However, you will need to have medical documentation showing that the secondary condition was caused or aggravated by a service-connected medical condition.

Injury Caused by VA Healthcare

If a veteran is injured due to a treatment, hospitalization or rehabilitation by VA healthcare, the injury is deemed service-connected.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

In cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you will need to have three things to show a service connection:

  • A statement about a traumatic event that occurred during your service
  • Medical documentation of a PTSD diagnosis
  • A documented opinion from a VA psychologist or psychiatrist stating that the traumatic event was strong enough to cause PTSD

At the Nye Law Group, our skilled Savannah veterans’ disability attorneys will help you gather the necessary documentation to prove your medical diagnosis and establish a service connection for your disability so you can receive the benefits you deserve.

Contact us today to set up your free legal consultation so we can explain to you how we can help you throughout the claims process.

Fill out our Free Case Evaluation form or call us at 855-856-4212.

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About Nye Law Group

The personal injury lawyers at The Nye Law Group have a strong reputation of standing up for the rights of those who have been injured throughout Georgia and South Carolina.

We are committed to fighting for justice and compensation for injury victims who have suffered because of another’s negligence in auto accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse and many other situations.

We offer personal injury victims a free consultation to discuss their legal options. YOU OWE US NOTHING UNLESS WE RECOVER COMPENSATION FOR YOU.

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