VA Service Connection for Chronic Diseases That Start After Military Service
There are certain conditions that a veteran can develop after their service and still have service connected. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has regulations that give very specific circumstances where many diseases can be service connected, even if they were not diagnosed during the veteran’s service. 38 CFR Section 3.307 addresses chronic, tropical, prisoner of war related diseases, as well as herbicide exposure diseases. This article explains service connection for chronic diseases.
For the VA to service connect a chronic disease that is diagnosed after separation from the military, the veteran must prove:
- They served at least 90 days of active, continuous service; and
- They were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable; and
- They have one of the conditions listed in 38 CFR Section 3.309(a)(see list below); and
- The disease must have been diagnosed and developed to a degree of 10 percent or more based on VA’s rating schedules within 1 year from the date of their separation (except for Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy, and tuberculosis, which must develop to that degree within 3 years, or multiple sclerosis, which must develop to that degree within 7 years).
If the condition preexisted the veteran’s service, it may still be service connected by the presumption in 38 CFR Section 3.307 if is manifests to a degree of 10 percent disability or more during the required time period after service.
38 CFR Section 3.308(a) lists the following conditions as eligible for the presumption of service connection as a chronic disease if they manifest to the required degree in the specified period of time:
Atrophy, Progressive muscular.
Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder.
Cardiovascular-renal disease, including hypertension. (This term applies to combination involvement of the type of arteriosclerosis, nephritis, and organic heart disease, and since hypertension is an early symptom long preceding the development of those diseases in their more obvious forms, a disabling hypertension within the 1-year period will be given the same benefit of service connection as any of the chronic diseases listed.)
Cirrhosis of the liver.
Encephalitis lethargica residuals.
Endocarditis. (This term covers all forms of valvular heart disease.)
Lupus erythematosus, systemic.
Other organic diseases of the nervous system.
Osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease).
Purpura idiopathic, hemorrhagic.
Sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral.
Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger’s disease).
Tumors, malignant, or of the brain or spinal cord or peripheral nerves.
Ulcers, peptic (gastric or duodenal) (A proper diagnosis of gastric or duodenal ulcer (peptic ulcer) is to be considered established if it represents a medically sound interpretation of sufficient clinical findings warranting such diagnosis and provides an adequate basis for a differential diagnosis from other conditions with like symptomatology; in short, where the preponderance of evidence indicates gastric or duodenal ulcer (peptic ulcer). Whenever possible, of course, laboratory findings should be used in corroboration of the clinical data.
If a veteran is trying to prove service connection for these chronic conditions, gathering evidence of the diagnosis, as well as the symptoms, of the condition within the 1 year period (or longer for selected conditions) is often very important. Sometimes, a physician may not have listed the actual diagnosis, but may have described various symptoms during the relevant period which may be viewed in retrospect to show that the condition had actually manifested itself to a 10 percent disabled level in the required period of time.
John Tucker is a VA disability benefits attorney based in Tampa Bay, Florida.