The first step in gaining VA disability benefits is getting your disabilities service connected. In order to get your disabilities service connected you must have: 1) a current diagnosed disability 2) an in-service injury or illness or aggravation of a preexisting injury or illness and 3) a nexus between your current diagnosed disability and the disability in service.

We often hear accounts of veterans who were discharged not knowing what their disabilities were until 20 years later. Posttraumatic stress disorder is a good example of one of these kinds of disabilities that is not diagnosed or recognized until several years after the veteran has been discharged. In situations where there is not evidence of an in-service injury or illness there are two suggestions.

First, if you have kept in contact with any of the people with whom you served, request that they write a “buddy statement” to help support your claim. A buddy statement is simply a service member’s written account of what he or she experienced with the veteran or saw them experience. In the case of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a buddy could have witnessed the veteran in combat or seen the veteran experience a traumatic event. You can also ask friends or family members for statements.

Second, a veteran may request an independent medical opinion from a private physician. This is a physician’s opinion as to whether or not your current condition is related to your military service. It is helpful for physicians to have a copy of your service medical records; however, if those are not available some physicians will rely on the veteran’s personal account. For PTSD, a veteran may be treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist and request a medical opinion.

These are two ways a person who is trying to get service connection can help to provide evidence of an existing condition that also existed during military service, was aggravated or was caused by something that happened during their military service. If you need help getting your claims service connected, call the Berry Law Firm at 1.888.883.2483. We have experienced attorneys who can assist you.