Establishing Service Connection
If you choose to apply for disability benefits with the VA, you will undoubtedly encounter many hurdles. One of the first hurdles to clear when you apply for VA benefits is “establishing service connection.” This is the term for proving to the VA that your disability is somehow a result of your military service.
When establishing service connection there are typically five broad categories to use. There are certainly more ways to prove your disability is service related than the five listed below, but these five are commonly used. For a complete list of options for establishing service connection, contact a local West Virginia VA benefits lawyer.
- Service Connection by Legal Presumption- Occasionally the VA will paint with a broad brush and make blanket rulings on certain disabilities. This means if you have a certain disability and fit a few guidelines, the VA will presume you are eligible for disability benefits. For instance, the VA will legally presume any veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and now have Parkinson’s disease, are eligible for disability benefits.
- Direct Service Connection- This category is fairly comprehensive, and there are a lot of ways to leverage this. To use direct service connection a veteran needs to have three things: a disability, an event during service, and evidence that the event caused the disability. Take Forrest Gump as an example. As we all know, Forrest was shot in the buttocks while serving in the Vietnam War. If Forrest could prove the bullet wound was causing a disability he could prove a direct service connection.
- Pre-existing Injury Aggravated by Service- Often military service can make a pre-existing injury worse because of prolonged high intensity physical activity. Injuries that are aggravated by service are eligible for disability benefits.
- Injury Caused by VA Treatment- If a veteran is receiving treatment at a VA facility and this veteran is injured by the treatment, this injury is considered to be service connected. In order to claim this category, the veteran cannot be at fault for the treatment related injury.
- Secondary Connection- In a few instances, one disability will cause another to occur. In World War II servicemen and women were given a treatment for tuberculosis that causes hearing loss. The hearing loss was not directly related to service, but the tuberculosis was. So since the hearing loss was connected to a disability that was directly service related, the veteran could receive benefits for hearing loss.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list of ways to establish service connection. If you have questions about proving your disability to be service connected call Jan Dils Attorneys at Law.