Eligibility for VA Benefits

A veteran is entitled to disability compensation if he or she were:

  1. Discharged or released from the military under conditions other than dishonorable.
  2. Their disease or injury was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
  3. The disease or injury was not the result of their own willful misconduct or abuse of drugs.

Requirements to Receive Disability Compensation

  1. Must have a current medically diagnosed disability. This means a veteran must be able to show that he or she currently suffers from a disability. An injury or illness incurred during service without lasting symptoms is not eligible for compensation.
  2. Evidence of a precipitating disease, injury or event while serving in the military. The standard for proving that a disease or injury occurred or was aggravated during service is called the “at least as likely as not” standard, which means the evidence must show there is at least a 50% chance the disease or injury occurred or was aggravated during service.
  3. The current disability must be related to the precipitating disease, injury or event from veterans service time.This is commonly referred to as service connection. Failure to show service connection is the most common reason disability claims are denied so it is important to know the type of evidence required to support a successful claim.

How to Establish Service Connection

Here are the four methods of establishing service connection for a current disability, disease, or illness.

Direct service connection – can be established in any number of ways, this generally means of establishing service connection usually means that there is clear evidence of a disability, an incident that occurred while the veteran was in service, and evidence of “linkage” between the two. The most common example is this: A veteran is currently paralyzed from the waist down. In military service, the veteran suffered an injury in Airborne School, and broke his back during a parachute landing. In this example, the veteran’s paralysis is directly connected to his military service.

Secondary service connection – exists when a one-service connected disability is the cause of another disability. The second disability is not directly related to military service, but would not have occurred but for the first disability (which was caused by military service). An example is Diabetes Type II. When Diabetes Type II is service-connected, conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, or the panoply of medical conditions caused by Diabetes Type II should be given serious consideration for secondary service connection.

Aggravated service connection – in this type of service connection, the veteran had a condition prior to military service, an event occurred in military service, and the event aggravated the pre-existing condition. An example of this is the Veteran that had a skin condition prior to entering military service. However, due to exposure to certain chemicals in the military, the skin condition is made worse than it ever would have been on its own. In situations such as this, the military service is said to “aggravate” the pre-existing condition.

Presumptive service connection – certain conditions or diseases are presumed to be service-connected. The VA has lists of these conditions and their presumptive periods. Most of these conditions must manifest to a degree of 10% of more within one year from the date of separation. For example, General Shinseki directed the VA to grant service connection by legal presumption to any Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during their military service and who now have Parkinson’s disease. Veterans do not have to prove that their current medical condition is related to their military service — the law presumes it.