If you did something in the military that resulted in an injury, you are typically entitled to disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, the VA may decide that you are not entitled to service connection benefits if the injury is a result of your “willful misconduct.”
The VA defines willful misconduct as:
“deliberate or intentional wrongdoing with knowledge of, or wanton and reckless disregard of, its probable consequences”
There are certain rules the VA must follow in order to determine whether or not you acted with willful misconduct.
There is a presumption that if an injury occurred during active military, naval, or air service, it occurred in the “line of duty,” and thus is entitled to service connection. On the other hand, the VA may have already decided that your injury was not incurred in the “line of duty.”
However, even with a negative line of duty determination, you may not actually be barred from service connection for your disability. The VA is still required to make its own determination on whether there is a bar to service connection or not.
Oddly, the regulation governing this rule says that if an injury, disease, or death was not due to misconduct, this finding is binding by the VA – unless it is inconsistent with the facts and the law. In other words, a negative line of duty finding is not binding on the VA – but a finding that the injury was incurred in the line of duty is binding, unless the finding is inconsistent with the law and the facts.
Finally, willful misconduct requires that you knew the results of the misconduct were foreseeable. Not only must the results be foreseeable, but the Veteran is required to act in “reckless disregard” of these consequences.
That means that the Veteran could have done something wrong – but if he was not acting in “reckless disregard” of the consequences when he acted, he may not be barred from service connection. In other words, if the injury was not foreseeable, and even if it was foreseeable, if the Veteran was not acting recklessly, he may be entitled to service connection.
The willful misconduct also must be the proximate cause of the injury, disease, or death. So, if the act did not actually directly result in the injury, disease, or death, the Veteran is not barred from benefits.
The Veterans disability attorneys at Berry Law proved Veterans the legal firepower they need to effectively appeal their VA disability claim. As a firm founded by a Vietnam Veteran with Veterans on staff from 4 branches of the military, Berry Law understands the difficulty Veterans face when fighting for the disability compensation they are entitled to.
If you’re a Veteran and you have been denied disability benefits, Berry Law may be able to help. Their aggressive and experienced Veterans law attorneys have successfully appealed thousands of VA claims for Veterans. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.
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