Do I Qualify for Presumptive Service Connection?

Do I Qualify for Presumptive Service Connection?

In the realm of Veterans’ affairs, questions we hear frequently are, “Do I qualify for presumptive service connection?” or “Why did my friend (or family member) receive service connection for this condition when I didn’t?”

It’s a question that can have profound implications for Veterans seeking clarity on their eligibility for VA disability benefits. Many times, the answer is related to whether the condition is considered presumptive for service connection, which in turn depends on when and where a Veteran served.

Understanding presumptive service connection is pivotal for Veterans navigating the VA benefits system. It streamlines the process, acknowledging the inherent risks and sacrifices made during military service. So how do you know if you qualify for presumptive service connection? 

Let’s take a closer look at this topic so we can arm you with the knowledge to secure the benefits rightfully earned through your service to our great nation.


What Does Presumptive Service Connection Mean?

Presumptive service connection simplifies and shortens the process for Veterans to get VA disability benefits. It’s based on the idea that certain health issues are probably connected to a Veteran’s time in the military, even if it’s not easy to prove exactly how.

Imagine trying to show that a specific health problem is directly linked to your military service – it can be tough. Presumptive service connection steps in to make things simpler, acknowledging that some conditions are more likely because of military service, especially if you faced specific challenges or were exposed to certain things.

Presumptive service connection comes into play even if a health condition shows up long after you leave the military. Instead of making you prove that your health issue is directly because of your service, it assumes a connection, making the process smoother.

Categories where presumptive service connection applies include conditions related to specific diseases showing up after you leave the military, the experiences of prisoners of war, exposure to Agent Orange, contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, and  Gulf War Syndrome or burn pit exposure. Here is more information about each of these:

Diseases Diagnosed after Discharge

Many chronic diseases are automatically considered to have been caused by military service if they manifest themselves to 10% or more within a year after a Veteran is discharged from the military. Some of these conditions are:

  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Leukemia
  • Hypertension
  • Valvular heart disease
  • Gallstones
  • Cirrhosis of the liver, and associated Hepatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney stones
  • Tuberculosis
  • Any psychotic disorder
  • Arthritis
  • Encephalitis
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis

These are only a few conditions. The VA provides a list on its Presumptive Disability Benefits fact sheet.

Prisoners of War

Those who endured the hardships of being a Prisoner of War (POW) are presumed to be service-connected for certain conditions, recognizing the unique challenges they faced during their service. Those imprisoned for more than 30 days can be service-connected for even more. Once any of the following conditions manifest to at least 10% or more any time after discharge, a Veteran can be service-connected.

  • Any psychotic or anxiety disorder
  • Chronic depression
  • Degenerative arthritis
  • Hypertensive heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoporosis

Agent Orange Exposure

Veterans with the following types of service are presumed to have Agent Orange Exposure:

  • Between January 9, 1969, and May 7, 1975 service in the Republic of Vietnam, or aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, or on a vessel not more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia
  • Any U.S. Or Royal Thai base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, to June 30, 1976
  • Laos from December December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969
  • Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
  • Guam or American Somoa or the territorial waters off either from January 9, 1962, through July 31, 1980
  • Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972,m through September 30, 1977
  • Korean DMZ September 1, 1967, through August 31, 1971
  • Service on active duty in a regular Air Force unit location with C-123 aircraft
  • Etc.

If you have service in any of these areas, you are entitled to presumptive service connection for the following conditions:

  • Bladder Cancer
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Hodgkin’s Disease
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Respiratory Cancers
  • Some soft tissue sarcomas
  • Hypertension
  • Ischemic Heart Disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Prostate cancer
  • Chloracne
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Prostate, lung, bronchial, larynx, or trachea cancer
  • Early onset peripheral neuropathy

Contaminated Water at Camp Lejeune

Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, are now entitled to presumptive service connection for the following eight conditions related to contaminated water exposure:

  • Adult leukemia
  • Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Bladder cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease

That is not to say that service connection for other conditions cannot be granted, but you will need a doctor’s opinion that provides a nexus, or link, between your current condition and your past military service.

Gulf War Syndrome

Veterans with service in Southwest Asia at any time between August 2, 1990, to the present (which include Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, the waters of the Persian Gulf, etc.) may receive presumptive service connection for chronic multi-system illnesses or undiagnosed illnesses under the umbrella of Gulf War Syndrome.

Those illnesses include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders

Veterans with service in Southwest Asia may also receive presumptive service connection for:

  • Respiratory, brain, head, neck, pancreatic, gastrointestinal, lymphoma, kidney, or reproductive cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Respiratory conditions including asthma, chronic sinusitis, chronic rhinitis, emphysema, interstitial lung disease, pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, glioblastoma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Again, Veterans who are not entitled to presumptive service connection may still receive compensation, but they will need to provide a nexus between their condition and an in-service injury or event.

How Do I File for Presumptive Service Connection?

The first step in filing under presumptive service connection is to determine your eligibility. Identify if your situation falls under one of the presumptive service connection categories as listed above, such as diseases diagnosed after discharge, POW status, exposure to Agent Orange, contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, or Gulf War service.

Collect Evidence and Submit the Application

Next, collect evidence supporting your claim. This may include medical records, service records, and any documentation related to the presumptive condition. Fill out the VA Form 21-526EZ, the application for disability compensation.

Be thorough and provide all requested information, including details about your military service and medical condition. Submit the completed form to the VA. This can be done online through the VA’s eBenefits portal, by mail, or in person at a local VA office.

The VA may schedule you for a medical examination to assess the extent and impact of your condition. Attend these appointments, as the results will influence the decision on your claim.

Wait for Review and Decision

The VA will review your claim and supporting evidence. The timeframe for a decision varies, but you can check the status of your claim through the VA’s online system. Once a decision is made, you’ll receive a letter from the VA detailing whether your claim for presumptive service connection is approved or denied. If approved, the letter will also specify the assigned disability rating.

This can be a challenging and complex claims process. Consider seeking assistance from a Veterans’ law firm, like Berry Law, to ensure your rights are protected and you receive the benefits you deserve. Seeking guidance from professionals can significantly enhance your chances of a successful claim.

What Type of Disability Rating Can I Expect?

The disability rating you receive with a presumptive service connection depends on the severity of your condition, as assessed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Disability ratings are typically assigned in increments of 10%, ranging from 0% to 100%.

Here’s a general overview:

  • 0% Rating: No significant impairment. The Veteran may have the condition, but it doesn’t impact their ability to work or perform daily activities.
  • 10% to 40% Ratings: Mild to moderate impairment. The condition affects the Veteran’s ability to work or carry out daily tasks, with the percentage indicating the level of disability.
  • 50% to 100% Ratings: Substantial to total impairment. A higher rating reflects a more severe impact on the Veteran’s daily life and ability to work. A 100% rating indicates total disability.

The VA considers medical evidence, such as medical records and examination results, to determine the appropriate rating. For presumptive service connection, the rating is assigned based on the specific criteria outlined for each condition.

Veterans need to understand the assigned rating, as it directly correlates to the amount of disability compensation they receive. In some cases, Veterans may receive additional benefits or special considerations based on the severity of their conditions.

Lawyers also understand the criteria used by the VA to assign disability ratings. They can work to maximize your rating by presenting evidence that accurately reflects the severity of your condition and its impact on your daily life.

What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied

If you believe you should be granted presumptive service connection for your condition and the VA turns you down or gives you a lower disability rating than you initially expected, you will have to appeal that decision to continue fighting for your benefits.

If necessary, your lawyer can represent you in hearings before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) or other relevant bodies. They can present your case persuasively and argue for the benefits you deserve.

Veterans’ law is subject to changes and updates. A lawyer focusing on this field stays informed about the latest regulations and can apply this knowledge to your case, ensuring that you benefit from any relevant changes.

At Berry Law, we work alongside Veterans to meet their goals, even if we must appeal all the way up to the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. When the VA doesn’t grant you the benefits you need to care for yourself or your family, please contact us. Our team of Veterans’ disability attorneys may be able to help.

Contact Berry Law

At Berry Law, we’re more than a law firm; we’re a team of Veterans who understand the challenges you face. We believe Veterans deserve every benefit owed to them.

We help you navigate the complexities of disability claims, ensure you meet all requirements to qualify for disability benefits, gather essential evidence for your case, and advocate for the maximum benefits you have earned.

Our team is ready to stand by your side, just as you’ve stood for our country. Call our legal team at 888-883-2483 or fill out our online contact form. We represent Veterans in all 50 states and our legal team is available to you 24/7. Your fight is our fight. Let’s secure the benefits you deserve together.

John S. Berry, , Attorney for VA Disability Benefit
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Benefit Lawyer
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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