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5 Ways to establish service connection in VA disability compensation claims

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To receive compensation from the VA, a veteran’s disability must be service-connected. There are five ways to establish a service connection:

Direct Service Connection.png


Service Connection through Aggravation.png

  • Service connection through aggravation is when a disability the veteran had before going into service gets worse because of their service. In other words, the veteran’s service caused the condition to progress faster than it should have naturally.  All veterans undergo an entrance medical examination before entering active duty to establish the veteran’s health before service. If the veteran has pre-existing conditions, the medical examiner should have noted them on the Report of Medical Examination. A claim for service connection through aggravation is best supported by a medical opinion written by a doctor showing that service aggravated the condition beyond the natural progression. Suppose the pre-existing condition does not appear on the Report of Medical Examination. In that case, the veteran is assumed to be in good health and sound of mind when entering service, called Presumption of Soundness.

Presumptive Service Connection.png

By law, the VA has established that veterans diagnosed with certain diseases within a specific period of time after service don’t have to prove that their disease is service-connected; it is presumptively service-connected.

  • A full list of presumptively service-connected diseases and circumstances can be found here, but the most common circumstances include:
  • Diagnosis of specific diseases within one year of being discharged from active duty
  • Vietnam Veterans exposure to herbicides, such as Agent Orange
  • Gulf War Veterans
  • Former prisoner-of-war
  • Exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987, for a minimum of 30 days (cumulative)
    • References


Secondary Service Connection.png

  •  This is granted if a service-connected disability aggravates a non-service-connected disability worse. The more common type of secondary service connection is where a service-connected disability causes another disability.   An example of this would be a case of a veteran’s diabetes causing his/her peripheral neuropathy. Another example would be a veteran’s service-connected back ailment or injury causing radiculopathy or the same back ailment or injury leading to knee problems.

Service Connection by Injury Caused by VA Health Care

  • Oftentimes, an injury or aggravation can be caused by poor care and treatment by VA hospitalization, VA medical or surgical treatment, VA exams, or VA vocational rehabilitation, and can be service-connected. If a veteran dies due to VA health care, eligible survivors can receive certain VA benefits.
  • References

In most or all of the ways a veteran can receive service-connected disability benefits, it is vital to the claimant's success to have a physician’s medical opinion thatit is more likely than notthat the injury or illness was incurred or aggravated during active service.

Source: Republished from Hill and Ponton

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