The VA may presume that certain diseases are connected to a veteran’s military service when that veteran applies for service-connected veterans disability benefits. However, these presumptions only apply when certain requirements are met, such as serving in a certain location during a particular conflict.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a presumptive condition for all veterans with 90 days or more of active service in the military. However, for most diseases, presumption of service connection only applies to a narrow category of veterans.
The diseases that are presumptive for a particular veteran will depend on when and where they served, or if they fit into a certain category of veterans. There are presumptive diseases for prisoners of war, veterans exposed to Agent Orange, and Gulf War veterans.
Presumptive Diseases for Prisoners of War (POWs)
All POWs will be granted presumptive service connection for the following disabilities:
• Osteoporosis (on or after October 10, 2008, if the POW has PTSD)
• Neuro-Psychiatric, including psychosis, dysthymic disorder (Depressive Neurosis), any of the Anxiety States (e.g., PTSD)
• Cold Injury
• Traumatic Arthritis
• Heart Disease
POWs who were in captivity for 30 days or more receive an additional presumption of service connection for the following conditions:
• Osteoporosis (on or after September 28, 2009)
• Nutritional deficiencies, including avitaminosis, beriberi, malnutrition, and pellagra
• Peripheral Neuropathy
• Digestive disorders, including peptic ulcer disease, chronic dysentery, irritable bowel syndrome, and cirrhosis of the liver
Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange
Veterans exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam will receive a presumption of service connection for the following diseases, including:
• Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
• Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
• Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
Certain chronic multi-symptom illnesses that have persisted for 6 months or more are eligible for presumptive service connection for veterans of the Gulf War. This includes undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms such as abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances.
Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and functional gastrointestinal disorders also receive a presumption of service connection for Gulf War veterans. Many of these symptoms are undiagnosed or medically unexplained, so consider applying if you are experiencing symptoms, even if you do not have a definitive diagnosis.
It is important to note that even if you do not have a condition that is eligible for presumptive service connection, you may still be eligible for disability benefits. However, you will have to provide proof that your disability is connected to your military service.
If your claim has been denied, get help from an experienced veterans law practitioner. Our veterans lawyers have over 25 years of experience helping veterans and their families. Call us at 401-331-6300 for a no-cost case evaluation.