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Veterans Law

1151 Claims – What They Are and How to File

Kaitlyn Degnan

August 13, 2018

Updated: February 16, 2024

1151 claims VA malpractice

If a veteran suffers an injury or illness as a result of VA medical care, they may be able to obtain service connection for their condition. These claims are called 1151 claims, and they offer veterans another avenue for getting service-connected compensation.

Background: Service Connection

Service connection is when VA recognizes that a veteran’s condition was the result of, or due to, their military service. There are several ways to obtain service connection for a condition, including through aggravation or on a secondary basis. For direct service connection, VA requires that a veteran show three things:

  1. That they have a current medically diagnosed disability
  2. An in-service event, injury, or symptom
  3. A medical nexus linking their current disability to the in-service occurrence.

However, veterans can receive service connection for a condition that did not directly result from their military service. This is where 1151 claims come in.

What Are 1151 Claims?

An 1151 claim refers to a means of receiving VA disability compensation as outlined in 38 U.S.C.S. §1151. The statute allows for veterans to receive compensation for a qualifying additional condition as if it were service-connected in two circumstances.

The first is if the additional condition “was caused by hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, or examination furnished the veteran under any law administered by” VA. In this case, the additional condition must have resulted from the “carelessness, negligence, lack of proper skill, error in judgement, or similar instance of fault on the part of the [VA] in furnishing the hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, or examination,” or from “an event not reasonably foreseeable.”

The second circumstance is if the qualifying additional condition “was proximately caused by” the veteran’s participation in a Chapter 31 rehabilitation program or in a Section 1718 “compensated work therapy program” (CTW).  Claims based on Voc Rehab or CTW do not require evidence of negligence or fault on the part of VA.

How to Prove an 1151 Claim

Claiming service connection for a condition under 38 U.S.C.S. §1151 is similar to claiming service connection in other ways. A veteran will still submit a VA Form 21-526, a claim for VA disability compensation, to start the process. When filing, veterans should specify that they are claiming their condition as an 1151 claim. Veterans will also still need to provide the three elements of service connection, however, there are some slight differences. A veteran will need the following three elements for their 1151 claim:

  1. A current medically diagnosed disability
  2. An event or occurrence while under VA hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, or examination furnished by VA;
  3. A medical nexus that links the disability to the occurrence, and that the event or occurrence was the result of negligence, carelessness, improper skill, error in judgment, or similar fault on the part of VA.

These types of claims can also be filed by a veteran’s surviving spouse or dependents if the veteran died as a result of a condition or injury that falls into this category. In the case of surviving spouses and dependents, an 1151 claim would result in them receiving Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

Claims filed under U.S.C.S. §1151 can be especially difficult to prove, and it is recommended that veterans speak with their representatives or seek advice from a veterans disability attorney, accredited representative, or veterans service organization.

About the Author

Bio photo of Kaitlyn Degnan

Kaitlyn joined CCK in September of 2017 as an Associate Attorney. Her practice focuses on representing disabled veterans before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Kaitlyn