The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides monetary benefits to retired servicemembers living with disabilities. Qualifying disabilities must be directly related to a veteran’s active duty service. Proving this requires evidence of a nexus between the veteran’s condition and their military service.
Proving a nexus in a VA disability claim can be challenging. Fortunately, the VA presumes that many conditions are connected to military service even without evidence of a nexus. To learn more about presumptive service-connected conditions, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney at our firm.
For most VA disability claims, a veteran seeking benefits must provide a nexus between their impairment and an event which took place during their military service that caused it. There are exceptions to this rule, thanks to the VA’s list of presumptive service-connected conditions. In other words, there are certain disabling conditions that the VA presumes are related to military service.
This means a veteran could obtain benefits for a disability even if they are unable to provide evidence connecting it to their time in the military. Only the conditions named in the VA’s list of presumptive conditions qualify. Some examples include:
Some former servicemembers qualify for presumptive service connections based on when and where they served. For example, Vietnam veterans who were exposed to the chemical Agent Orange and now suffer from conditions like diabetes type II or prostate cancer have a presumption service connection.
Former prisoners of war who live with psychosis, heart disease, or the effects of frostbite also presumptively qualify for disability benefits from the VA. Veterans of the Gulf War who displayed symptoms of a disability by the end of 2016 have a presumption of service connectivity for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, among other conditions.
While it is possible to secure VA benefits without the presumption that a veteran’s condition is service connected, there are significant benefits to having a presumptive service-connected condition. When the VA presumes that a condition is connected to a veteran’s active-duty service, it saves that veteran the time and effort of having to prove a medical nexus between his or her disability and an incident that took place during their military service.
This is important for a number of reasons. First, many of the conditions are not easily connected to service-connected incidents, allowing former servicemembers to collect disability compensation even in cases where they might struggle to prove a connection to service link.
More importantly, most of the conditions on the list are severe or deadly. By presuming that these conditions are service-related, the VA allows veterans to avoid lengthy bureaucratic delays as they deal with a life-threatening illness or injury.
While the VA acknowledges certain presumptive service-connected conditions, this presumption is not limitless. For many disabilities, the VA only presumes a service connection if the diagnosis occurs shortly after discharge from the military. For certain conditions like arthritis, diabetes mellitus, and leukemia, the diagnosis must manifest to a 10 percent degree within one year of discharge under honorable conditions.
For other conditions, the time between a disabled veteran’s discharge and diagnosis can be as much as three years. There are even conditions – such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – that qualify as presumptive for the remainder of a former servicemember’s life.
The VA will not simply take the word of a veteran that he or she is living with a disability on the list of presumptive service-connected conditions. Like with any VA claim, a former servicemember must meet a minimum standard of proof that he or she does in fact suffer from the condition for which they are claiming disability benefits.
While the simplest way to go about obtaining this proof is securing a medical diagnosis during the eligible time-frames listed by the VA, there are still options available for veterans who were not diagnosed during the presumptive period. This process starts with obtaining a clear medical diagnosis. The doctor providing the diagnosis could provide evidence that the condition in question was present during the presumptive period even though the diagnosis came later.
Additional pieces of evidence that could be used to establish a presumption of service connect could include statements or testimony of friends and family indicating that the veteran exhibited symptoms of the condition during the presumptive period. While this type of evidence collection might be similar to what is required of a former servicemember without a presumption, the burden of proof is much lower for presumptive conditions.
Obtaining the evidence necessary to secure this presumption is not always easy. Many veterans are unaware of the steps needed to obtain a diagnosis that will qualify them for a presumption of service connection. A seasoned attorney could ease the burden of making this case.
Attorneys who understand the VA claims process can do more than help a veteran pursue his or her claim or an appeal. Our team’s efforts also include ensuring that disabled vets take the necessary steps to secure an accurate diagnosis that gives the VA the entire picture of their health.
Benefits could still be available for conditions that do not show symptoms until after the time limit for presumptive service connection expires. These claims will require evidence of a nexus between the disability and a service-related event. This can make it challenging for a veteran to obtain the disability benefits they need. Fortunately, our attorneys are here to help.
A lawyer on our team can help you determine whether your condition qualifies for presumptive service-connection by the VA. To learn more, set up a confidential consultation at our firm today.