Filing a VA disability claim? Here is what you need to know.
Service connected disability compensation is a benefit that is exactly what it sounds like: it’s compensation for a current disability that occurred as a result of your active duty service. In order to be successful and have your disability claim approved, you are going to have to satisfy three requirements:
- Diagnosis of a current disability
- An event or stressor that occurred during your active duty service
- A “nexus” or connection between the in service event and the currently diagnosed disability.
Diagnosis: you must have a condition that is currently diagnosed by a doctor in order to have a disability. A common mistake is to claim a condition that occurred during service, but currently is not disabling. For example, if you broke your ankle on active duty but it healed completely with no residual effects, then you cannot claim a disability for the ankle. Another one is Agent Orange. Although you may have been exposed to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, if you do not have a currently diagnosed condition that was caused by Agent Orange, then you do not have a VA disability claim. Exposure itself to Agent Orange is not a disability.
In service event: there must have been something that occurred on active duty service that caused the current disability, or the condition started while you were on active duty and has been chronic and continues to this day. For example, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is caused by a stressful event, or stressor, that happened while you served such as being directly involved in combat.
The complaint of the condition must be documented in your Service Treatment Records, or a stressor that is proven through other means such as witness statements.
Nexus: A nexus is the connection between the event that happened in service and the currently diagnosed disability. A nexus can be provided by a VA examiner from a C&P exam, or an independent medical opinion from a private doctor with specific knowledge of the diagnosed disability. For example, if you were treated for a knee injury in service and you continued to have chronic problems with it up until the present time, then you have a disability claim for a knee condition if it’s diagnosed.
Presumptive conditions: presumptive conditions are those conditions where you do not need to provide a nexus between the in service event and the current condition; the VA automatically presumes the event caused the disability.
Agent Orange is the biggest presumptive condition for a VA disability claim. If you set foot on the ground in Vietnam during the war, then you are automatically presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. If you are diagnosed with one or more of the presumptive conditions, such as ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, or Diabetes Mellitus, Type II, then the VA presumes that exposure to Agent Orange caused the disabilities.
For Gulf War veterans who served on active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, there is a presumption of service connection for certain medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illnesses. These conditions include: fatigue, headaches, joint pain, indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, respiratory disorders, and memory problems. A complete list is also available at vetdisabilityaid.com.
For PTSD claims, if you were awarded a Combat Action Ribbon or Combat Infantryman Badge, then you do not need to provide a stressor, it’s automatically presumed because of your involvement in combat.