What is Needed for a Disability to be Considered Service-Connected?

VA disability compensation is a monthly, tax-free payment to Veterans who have received a disability related to their service. To receive the compensation, a Veteran must submit a claim for disability to the VA who can either grant or deny the disability. Veterans filing for VA disability benefits often find that their disability claim gets denied or rated too low, but they often do not completely understand why. With the VA’s duty to assist, many Veterans are confused as to why their VA claim isn’t granted. They have a disability. The disability happened in service. Now they are being denied the VA disability benefits they are entitled to. Understanding what you must prove to get service-connected, however, is vital in ensuring that you are providing the VA with the necessary information to approve your claim. So, what does the VA need to grant disability benefits? For a disability to be considered service connected, you must provide 3 important pieces of information:

  1. A disability with a current diagnosis
  2. An event that occurred in-service that caused or aggravated a disability
  3. A medical nexus that connects the current disability with the in-service event

Disability with a Current Diagnosis

Although it may seem obvious, you must have a current disability to be eligible for service connection. When submitting a VA disability claim, Veterans often overlook this simple task. They assume, I have a disability, my therapist/doctor has even stated so. Although this may be true, you must still submit this as evidence to the VA to assure that you are service-connected. The easiest way to show evidence of a disability with a current diagnosis is through medical records.

Another often overlooked aspect of when probing a disability is a current diagnosis. To be service-connected, a Veteran must have a CURRENT diagnosis of the disability. This means, that can’t submit medical records from 1974 of a disability and assume you will be granted disability benefits. When filing a claim, make sure you cover your basics and prove that you have a current, diagnosed disability.

If a medical condition is considered presumptive by the VA, then there is no need to prove that an illness occurred in service. A good example would be the presumptive connection of agent orange with Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam.

In-Service Event that Caused a Disability

Although this may seem obvious as well, it is important to understand that you must prove an event that occurred while you were in service caused the disability. Understanding that an injury does not have to have occurred in a combat situation is also important when filing for benefits. Any sort of disability that occurred while you were active duty can be considered for a disability by the VA.

However, it is also important to understand that any injury or illness that arose from a Veteran’s ‘willful misconduct’ would not be eligible for VA disability benefits. The VA defines willful misconduct as “an act involving conscious wrongdoing or known prohibited action. An example of this would be a Veteran sustaining an injury in a car crash while driving under the influence.

Medical Nexus

The last and often most difficult aspect of a VA disability claim is proving medical nexus. All-in-all, a medical nexus proves the claim by showing that an in-service event caused a current, diagnosed disability. Oftentimes, a nexus is proved through medical evidence in the form of a nexus letter. A nexus letter is a written statement from a current medical professional establishing that it is “at least as likely as not” that the disability is the result of an in-service event. With this in mind, it is sometimes in the best interest of a Veteran to get an independent medical opinion to help prove nexus.

Veterans Disability Appeals Attorneys

At Berry Law, we are committed to assisting Veterans appealing VA disability claims. A firm founded by Vietnam Veteran John Stevens Berry, Sr., Berry Law is dedicated to helping Veterans receive the disability compensation they are entitled to. If you or somebody you know has been denied a disability claim or has been rated to low by the VA, contact our team of experienced VA appeals attorneys to schedule a free consultation. Call today at (888) 883-2483.