The VA can only provide disability compensation to veterans for illnesses or injuries that are connected to their time in military service. This can result in claim denials for veterans that are clearly disabled, but do not provide evidence showing that their disability is service-connected.
The most straight forward way to prove your disability is service-connected is by providing evidence of a specific in-service illness, injury, or event that caused your current disability. If you have service treatment or personnel records that document your injury, and you are currently disabled, then you should have a strong case for direct service-connection.
However, many veterans are not that fortunate. They may not have clearly documented evidence of a specific illness or event that caused their disability, or they may not be precisely aware of what caused their disability. This does not mean that a disability is not connected to service, but it does mean that the evidence will have to be developed a bit more to prove service-connection.
File Claims as Early as Possible
Filing a claim as soon as possible has several benefits. First, your memory of the specific event that caused your disability will be fresh. It may also be easier to find documentation or statements from friends or fellow veterans that support your claim. You also get the earliest possible effective date for your disability compensation.
Understand the Theories of Service-Connection
Besides direct service-connection, there are other theories that can entitle a veteran to compensation for their disability.
Presumptive service-connection is an implied service-connection mandated by law. This does not require any proof of a specific event that caused an injury. Gulf War Veterans and Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange each have their own set of presumptive service-connected disabilities for which they may be eligible.
Secondary service-connection is also available if a service-connected disability causes a new disability to develop. A service-connected knee condition that led to the diagnosis of a back condition could fall into this category.
Understanding which theory of service-connection you are pursuing will help you determine what evidence will be required by the VA. If your disability was not granted service-connection and you need help appealing your denial, contact an experienced veterans attorney.
If you are a veteran working to file a claim for disability benefits or want to file an appeal and need to speak with an attorney, contact one of the experienced attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Call us at 401-331-6300 to receive your no-cost case evaluation.