How do you file a disability claim with the VA and tie it to your military service? There are four categories of disability claims that veterans can file:
- Direct service connection
- Service connection through the aggravation of an existing condition
- Secondary service connection
- Presumptive service connection
Sometimes connecting your injury, disability, condition, or illness to your military service is easy – for instance, you were shot or were in an accident, you were treated by military personnel, and you have the records to prove it. This is a clear example of a direct service connection. However, sometimes you have a direct service connection but lack the evidence. Or perhaps your condition falls into one of the other categories. That’s when we, as veteran attorneys, help you collect the evidence needed to connect your medical issue with your service.
Additional Ways to Prove Military Connection
In our experience, proving military connection is rarely as easy as described above, and claims are often initially denied. Even if you do have the evidence, you may believe that the compensation offered is too low. Either way, we can help you once you have received your first denial. Some complications may be:
No military medical records of injury, illness, or condition: This can happen if records were lost or destroyed or if you were hesitant to seek medical care for fear of a medical discharge. This is not uncommon. In such cases, we help you find competent, credible witnesses who can provide powerful testimony regarding your condition – its onset, seriousness, etc. These lay witness statements (sometimes called buddy statements) can be from other military personnel, family, friends, or medical experts. But they must be worded properly. A buddy who exaggerates your injury is likely to hurt your case. A testimony about your “arthritis” from your mother who is not a doctor is going to be rejected since she is not qualified to diagnose. So we will help you develop strong and appropriate testimonies to support your case.
Prior service aggravation: The VA does not recognize and will not compensate a prior service condition that worsens as would normally be expected with a chronic or long-term condition (such as arthritis worsening over time). However, we would seek to demonstrate, if appropriate, that your military service worsened your condition beyond what would be expected, or perhaps worsened a condition that normally does not change over time. This would require expert medical witnesses to demonstrate how your condition deviates from the normal progression of the disease.
Secondary condition: Some service-connected conditions have shown links to certain secondary conditions. For instance, veterans with PTSD have a higher rate of subsequent autoimmune disease. We will work with you to determine if there is a connection between your current condition and your service-connected condition.
Presumptive connection: The VA has a list of presumptive conditions connected with certain theaters of service, experiences (such as POW), or contaminants. You will need to demonstrate your condition, using the examples described above, such as expert witnesses, lay witnesses, medical records, etc. The list of presumptive conditions can be found here. A list of contaminants and associated disabilities can be found here.
If you are not diagnosed while in the service, you will need to show a continuity of condition or a continuous recurrence of the condition from the time of service to the time of diagnosis. Again, lay witnesses are a very strong support in this situation, especially if some time has gone by between your discharge and your diagnosis. Contact us to see how we can help you collect the strong evidence you need to craft a claim that will get you the compensation you deserve.