Are you a veteran suffering from a service connected disability? That would be any medical condition that started while you were on active duty or which is related to your active duty service. If so, then you may have the option of filing a VA disability compensation claim. Knowing how to prove a service connected disability is important. This could help you avoid receiving a denial of benefits from the VA. For a direct service connection, you must have proof of the following elements.
- Current disability diagnosis
- In-service occurrence
- Connection between your current disability and your in-service occurrence
Note: There are other ways to prove service-connection, including secondary service-connection (when one condition caused another condition to develop) or presumptions (the most common is Agent Orange exposure), but those will be covered in other articles.
Element One: Current Disability Diagnosis
The VA defines a disability as any injury or illness in service that affects your earning capacity. To show proof of your disability, you need a copy of your medical records with a current diagnosis listed. The bottom line: you must have a medical condition now if you are going to claim it as service connected.
Element Two: In-Service Incident
An in-service incident is any event, injury or illness that happened during active duty. Treatment records and military service records are the main types of evidence used to prove an in-service incident occurred. However, there are situations where these forms of evidence are unavailable. In this situation, you may need lay evidence to help you corroborate when and how the in-service incident took place. The bottom line: you must prove that something happened while you were in the service – a diagnosis for a doctor, an injury, some kind of exposure, etc.
Element Three: Connection Between Your Current Disability and the In-Service Incident
Finally, you must establish a connection between your current disability and the in-service incident. The best way to establish this connection is by using medical evidence. Your treating physician can issue a statement confirming your condition was likely caused by the in-service incident. This is called a “nexus statement.” You can also prove this with continuous medical records showing you treated for the condition since you left the military. The bottom line: The best way to prove nexus is a detailed letter from a doctor explaining why your current condition was “at least as likely as not” caused by your in-service occurrence.
The VA will conduct its own medical assessment of your condition. This is called a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Examination. The results of your examination may confirm the connection between your current disability and the in-service incident. However, many C&P doctors connected to the VA may look exclusively for evidence to disprove your claim. You could receive a VA disability claim denial as a result of his or her assessment. You can protect yourself by regularly treating with doctors outside of the VA, giving those doctors the history of your condition and documenting all the symptoms to prove the severity of your claim, then having your private doctor write a detailed nexus statement with a good detailed rationale.
Was Your VA Claim Denied for Not Being Service Connected?
If this is the case, then you may have the option of appealing the decision. An experienced attorney can help you throughout the entire appeals process. He or she will know the laws and procedures that apply to your specific case. He or she will also know how to prove a service connected disability and present your appeal in a clear and effective manner.
At Tucker Law Group, we have decades of combined experience helping disabled veterans appeal VA disability claim denials. For more information, contact us today at (866) 233-5044, or message us online. We provide counsel in all fifty states. Our attorneys are licensed in Florida and many federal courts across the nation. Receive answers to your legal questions during a free initial consultation.