The first hurdle to obtaining VA disability compensation benefits is obtaining service connection. Before you can request an earlier effective date or higher evaluation, you first need to make sure to get your disability service-connected, meaning that the VA agrees your disability is related to, began during, or was worsened by your time in the military.
To achieve service connection, your disability must be shown to have either stemmed from an in-service event or exist in relation to an already service-connected disability. For many veterans, this requirement can be difficult to meet. During service, many service members choose to fight through the pain rather than go to sick call, so evidence of injuries may not even exist.
But corroborating evidence doesn’t have to come from service records. For example, if you told friends or family members about your injuries, they could write statements in support of your claim. Friends from service who witnessed your injuries may be able to write statements, as well. Even social media posts made at the time can help establish an in-service injury.
The next element needed is a current disability or condition. The VA has a duty to assist you by providing a medical evaluation, but it can be helpful to your case if you have other medical records showing a diagnosis or treatment for the claimed condition. If you have been receiving care, collecting and submitting those records to the VA can move your claims along faster. Remember, the VA is unlikely to grant service connection for a condition that is transitory (or “comes and goes”).
Finally, you need to show that the in-service injury or event and your current condition are as likely as not related to each other. Sometimes, veterans can easily establish that they have been seeking medical care for their conditions since leaving service. In these cases, a nexus is easier to establish. When a veteran has left service and many years have gone by between separation and seeking benefits, establishing a nexus can be harder to do. If you did not seek care for specific reasons — religion, lack of insurance, not knowing you could receive compensation — it’s important to record this in your claim. Again, buddy statements from friends and family members who know you well and can attest to the fact that this was an ongoing, chronic problem can be very helpful to your claim.
Establishing entitlement to service connection is a difficult hurdle to jump, but having an experienced attorney can help you get the evidence you need to receive the benefits to which you are entitled.
Berry Law has been fighting the next battle with veterans for decades and represent thousands nationwide. If you are appealing a VA claim, contact our team of veterans’ law attorneys today.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.