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Caluza Triangle defines what is necessary for service connection

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Caluza Triangle – Caluza vs Brown defined what is necessary for service connection. See COVA– CALUZA V. BROWN–TOTAL RECALL

This has to be MEDICALLY Documented in your records:

  1. Current Diagnosis.   (No diagnosis, no Service Connection.)
  2. In-Service Event or Aggravation.
  3. Nexus (link- cause and effect- connection) or Doctor’s Statement close to: “The Veteran’s (current diagnosis) is at least as likely due to x Event in military service”

This is also known as the “Hickson Elements” for a later case. Why you need to know: If all three of these things are not documented in your medical and service records, you will need to obtain this documentation before getting service connected. This applies whether you applied last week or 10 years ago.

Note:  Secondary Service Connection and Presumptives are a little easier.  If you have a diagnosis, and a doctor says that your diagnosis is at least as likely as not due to your (service-connected condition), then you need not AGAIN establish an in-service event or aggravation.    A presumptive Service connection means if you meet the applicable criteria, your condition is “presumed” to be caused by military service.  You will still need a current diagnosis, but you may get a bye on the nexus if you meet the requisite criteria for presumptive conditions.


Hickson Elements –In order to establish a service connection for the claimed disorder, there must be: 
1. medical evidence of a current disability;
2. medical, or in certain circumstances, lay evidence of the incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury in service or during the presumptive period; and
3. medical evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the current disability. Hickson v. West, 12 Vet. App. 247, 253 (1999).

From VA.gov




What the case is about:

The Court held that 38 U.S.C. 1154(b) does not establish service connection for a combat veteran, it aids the combat veteran by relaxing the adjudicative evidentiary requirements for determining what happened in service. The statute has three evidentiary elements that must be met:  (1)  The evidence must be satisfactory; (2) it must be consistent with the circumstances, conditions, or hardships of combat service; and (3) it can prevail notwithstanding the fact that there is no official record of the incurrence of aggravation of the disease or injury during service.

The Court also concluded that, in the case of a combat veteran, once the above three elements are satisfied, section 1154(b)’s relaxation of adjudication evidentiary requirements dictates that the veteran’s lay or other evidence be accepted as sufficient proof of service incurrence of aggravation unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the disease or injury was not incurred or aggravated in service or during an applicable presumption period.

The Court held that application of section 1154(b) required three adjudication rules:  (1)  Every reasonable doubt is to be resolved in favor of the veteran in determining if the three elements are met; (2) service connection must be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary; and (3) the decision must be recorded in full.  

The Court, in discussing the credibility of lay evidence, held that the truthfulness of evidence is presumed and that credible testimony is defined as that which is plausible or capable of being believed.  

Impact on VBA:

No new impact warranting regulatory revision or Manual change. 

Summary of the facts and Court’s reasons:

In January 1971, service connection for a right-foot injury was denied because the discharge examination had indicated no significant abnormalities and the veteran had not claimed any wounds or illnesses in his August 1947 affidavit.  The veteran attempted to reopen his claim by submitting buddy statements, a doctor's statement concerning 1985 treatment, and a 1988 x-ray report diagnosing osteoarthritic changes of the right tibio-fibula.  The Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA) denied entitlement to service connection for shell fragment wound residuals in the right leg.

The BVA held that the veteran's and buddy statements were not credible and thus not satisfactory because they were in contradiction to a 1947 affidavit by the veteran.  In that affidavit, the veteran indicated that he did not incur a leg wound in service.  The Court held that having found that the new evidence was "clearly" not credible, the BVA properly never reached the question as to whether the evidence was rebutted by "clear and convincing evidence to the contrary."

Although the Court affirmed the BVA's denial of service connection, this case thoroughly dissects 38 section 1154(b) and its role in the adjudication of combat injury claims.  


CAVC case number: No. 90-818


M21-1, Part IV, Subpart ii, Chapter 2, Section B - Determining Service Connection (SC)



More on Caluza Triangle from member Broncovet:

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