If you are experiencing a chronic condition that resulted from your active duty military service, you could be eligible for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While VA benefits can be life-changing for many disabled veterans, it is not unusual for most initial claims to be denied.

Denials for claims related to chronic medical conditions are especially common. It is often difficult to establish that a long-term condition is directly related to military service. The good news is that the VA presumes that certain chronic conditions relate to a former servicemember’s time in the military. To learn more about veterans’ chronic conditions claims, talk to a dedicated VA disability attorney at our firm.

Common Chronic Conditions in Veterans

Some chronic conditions commonly linked to military service result from injuries, while others involve exposure or disease. Some common chronic conditions among veterans include:

  • Cancer
  • Lou Gehrig’s Disease
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Diabetes

The Presumption of Service Connection

The VA recognizes that some chronic conditions are more likely to be tied to military service than others. A full list of chronic conditions can be found in 38 United States Code §1101(3), some of which include:

  • Lupus
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Active tuberculosis
  • Gall stones
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Hypertension
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Epilepsies

In most cases, a chronic condition’s symptoms must become apparent within one year of discharge from the military to qualify for disability benefits. Conditions like tuberculosis, however, could still qualify for benefits if they are diagnosed within three years of discharge.

How to Obtain Disability Benefits for a Chronic Condition

Not all chronic conditions can be attributed to combat situations. More often, chronic conditions are the result of training exercises or logistical work. Any servicemember who suffers an injury or illness while on active duty that later causes them to suffer chronic pain could have a viable disability claim through the VA.

Filing a claim for disability compensation requires applicants to provide medical evidence that a chronic condition exists and show that some type of causal event occurred during active duty service. Finally, a veteran must establish a nexus between the specified event or series of events and their disability. For many former servicemembers, establishing a nexus is the most difficult part of the disability claims process, as it is not always clear where a chronic condition might have originated from.

If a chronic condition claim is denied, a veteran has options to appeal their case. Some appellate options allow a former servicemember to address any deficiencies or mistakes in their original claim.

Common Reasons for Denied Chronic Condition Claims

The VA might deny a claim related to a chronic condition for several reasons. Ultimately, any reason given by the VA for a denied chronic condition claim could lead to a successful appeal. The VA commonly denies chronic condition claims based on a lack of evidence. Remember, there must be a link to an in-service event for a chronic condition to qualify a former servicemember for VA benefits. This can be especially challenging to prove for chronic conditions that develop long after a veteran’s active duty service has ended or which worsened during his or her time in uniform.

Sometimes it can be difficult for a veteran to establish that they have a disability at all. Some conditions are difficult to detect or categorize.

How an Attorney Could Help with a Veteran’s Chronic Condition Claim

There are numerous challenges that can come with any VA claim. In many cases, proving that a chronic condition exists can be far more difficult compared to an acute injury or an illness with an obvious cause.

A veteran seeking legal guidance after a denied claim could benefit from legal counsel who focus their practice on appealing VA denials. The VA disability system is complex, and an attorney who focuses their work on this area of law could be an invaluable ally in a chronic condition claim.

Appealing a Denial

When the VA denies a claim related to a chronic condition, a veteran has the right to pursue an appeal. An attorney can provide substantial insight when a chronic conditions claim is denied by the VA. While many veterans might assume a denial marks the end of their claim for benefits, appeals tend to yield more success than initial claims for chronic conditions.

The first important step in appealing a denial of a chronic condition claim is complying with mandatory deadlines. When a veteran disagrees with the denial of their claim, they have one year to file a document known as a Notice of Disagreement. Filing this form any later will result in the denial of an appeal, forcing a veteran to start their claim over from the beginning. Thankfully, our legal team can help disabled vets keep track of this important deadline.

There are two types of appeals available for veterans’ chronic condition claims. These options include appealing to a decision review officer (DRO) and the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA).

A veteran can seek either type of appeal. In fact, they can also appeal an unfavorable outcome from a DRO to the BVA. A DRO could be the best option in many cases, as this process is usually much faster than a BVA review. However, a veteran who received a subsequent denial at the DRO level could wait even longer to have their case heard by the BVA. Selecting the type of appeal to pursue is a strategic decision best made with the help of qualified legal counsel.

Ask an Attorney about Veterans’ Chronic Conditions Claims

Before you pursue a claim for VA benefits related to your chronic condition, it could be in your best interest to speak with an attorney first. Skilled legal counsel can assist you with building a strong case and avoiding mistakes that could lead to the denial of your claim.

An experienced VA disability attorney can improve your chances of obtaining the benefits you need for your chronic condition. Call now to learn more about veterans’ chronic condition claims from a professional.

Fight 4 Vets