Service-Connected Disability Legal Definition
A service-connected disability is a condition (i.e. injury, illness, or disorder) that VA determines resulted from (or emerged during) your military service. Your disability must be service-connected to be eligible for VA disability benefits and monthly compensation.
Entitlement to service connection requires the following:
- A current diagnosis of a disabling condition
- An in-service event, injury, or illness
- A nexus between the in-service event and the diagnosis
To provide a positive nexus opinion, a medical professional must state that it is at least as likely as not that your condition is a result of your military service. We can also use your service and medical records to support your claim for service connection.
How to Establish Service Connection
There are several ways to establish service connection, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Direct Service Connection: Direct service connection means you satisfied all of the criteria above.
- Secondary Service Connection: To establish secondary service connection, you need to prove that an additional condition stemmed from an already service-connected disability (e.g. peripheral neuropathy secondary to diabetes mellitus type 2).
- Aggravation: You need to show an existing condition worsened due to your military service (e.g. you had a knee condition prior to service, but the training exercise in service caused that condition to worsen). Additionally, if you have a service-connected condition that aggravates a non-service connected condition, service connection can be awarded on the basis of aggravation.
- 1151 Service Connection: “1151 claims” refer to claims under 38 USC § 1151 and applies to disabilities or death that result from “hospital care, medical or surgical treatment, or examination” by a VA medical professional or facility, or due to participation in a program of vocational rehabilitation.”
Our team of veterans lawyers at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to help you establish service connection.
In Some Cases, You Do Not Need to Provide a Nexus to Establish Service Connection
There are certain circumstances in which you do not need to provide a nexus opinion to establish service connection. This is known as “presumptive service connection.” The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will presume service connection if you meet certain criteria. Two examples of this involve exposure to Agent Orange and veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune and exposed to contaminated water.
Agent Orange Exposure
VA will offer presumptive service connection for certain conditions if you have qualifying service. For example, if you served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975, and later developed type 2 diabetes, VA will presume service connection your diabetes due to your exposure to herbicides in Vietnam.
Toxic Water at Camp Lejeune
VA also offers presumptive service connection if you develop specific diseases and served at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987. For example, service at Camp Lejeune from 1960 to 1964 and later development of liver cancer meets these criteria; VA will presume service connection for your cancer diagnosis due to your presumed toxic water exposure.
Get Help from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD: 800-544-9144
In many cases, veterans receive denials after filing an initial application for service connection. Our veterans’ disability lawyers may be able to help. Call 800-544-9144 today for a free case evaluation with a member of the Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD team.