Ask a Service Officer: Get service-connected compensation

Q: Am I eligible to apply for service-connected disability compensation?

A: If you are suffering from a disability that was caused or worsened while you were on active duty for the military, you may be eligible for VA’s service-connected disability compensation. Remember, with each service connection, you must be able to prove your medical condition is related to your service, which can be done through a medical statement from a qualified provider. The following are five ways to establish if a disability is service-connected:

Direct Service Connection. First you must have a disease, injury, illness or occurrence in service which produces a chronic, debilitating condition. Second you must have the same or closely related condition presently. Third you must have a nexus (link) between the two either through interval medical treatment for the condition or a statement from a qualified medical person stating the following: diagnosis of a chronic condition; that the medical person has reviewed your entire medical history, to include service treatment records (STR); that it is "at least as likely as not" (50/50) that your current condition is related to military service; and reasons and bases for the medical opinion. Direct service connection may be established when the chronic, debilitating condition did not begin to produce symptoms while on active duty but did manifest to a compensable degree within a certain time period after exit from active duty. This criterion is IAW 38 CFR 3.303(d).

Presumptive Service Connection. The Veteran must have served in certain places in the world, at certain times and/or during certain operations in order to qualify for presumptive service connection. Some common examples of presumptive service connection involve exposure to agent orange defoliant, exposure to ionizing radiation, being held as a prisoner of war and other criteria as outlined in 38 CFR 3.309.

Secondary Service Connection. This type of service connection results when a service connected condition is shown to be the cause of another disability. For example if a Veteran is service connected for a right knee disability and the left knee begins to have issues due to uneven weight bearing, improper gait and other factors caused by the right knee then the left knee by be service connected as secondary. A competent medical statement is usually needed in order to provide medical basis for secondary service connection.

Aggravation. This type of service connection may be considered in two different ways. First if a Veteran entered active duty with a pre-existing condition but that condition becomes worse there may be basis for service connection due to aggravation. Again a medical statement from a qualified provider which states that there is a chronic condition, review of medical history, that the condition was aggravated "beyond normal limits" by military duty, and reasons and basis will be needed to substantiate the request for service connection. The other means of establishing service connected aggravation is when a presently existing condition is aggravated by a service connected condition. This must again be presented with corroborating evidence from a medical person.

U.S.C. 1151 Claim. This type of service connection results when will full negligence and/or misconduct occurs in a VA healthcare facility which results in a chronic debilitating condition. The 1151 claim is facilitated by an accredited service officer, investigated by a VA identified senior medical provider, and compensated using the service connected rating codes in 38 CFR Part 4.