WHAT IS SERVICE-CONNECTED?
Although a condition must result from actions "in the line of duty," service-connected conditions are not limited to "battlefield" wounds or similar injuries. The "in the line of duty" requirement has been broadly interpreted to mean almost anything that occurs during service, including such things as car accidents, sports injuries, and illnesses unrelated to specific military activity. The condition generally needs only have occurred or begun during service, including authorized leave periods. Establishing a service connection typically requires:
The condition must have occurred in or resulted from the veteran's military service. In most cases, the evidence of the event (wounded by enemy action, training injury) can be found in service records, service medical records, or unit documents. Under certain circumstances, a claimant may establish an in-service event by other evidence, such as "buddy statements" or testimony by other service members witnessing the event or private medical records. Whatever the case, V.A. will also review service medical records to determine if the claimed condition existed when the veteran entered service. The claim will be denied if a condition is determined to be "pre-existing" and not aggravated in service.
"Presumptions" regarding specific conditions and in-service events (gulf war exposures and agent orange exposures) that may apply. A presumption is when the law assumes an event occurs except when there is evidence that the event actually did not happen.
"Nexus" (a "connection") between the current condition and the in-service disease or injury. Nexus Letters are letters from a veteran's current physician(s) stating their medical opinion regarding the service-connection of a veteran's condition(s). Nexus Letters are essential for any condition on a V.A. Disability Claim that is not automatically considered service-connected. Providing adequate nexus evidence becomes even more difficult as the time between service and the claim grows.
A "Secondary Condition" develops as the result of another medical condition instead of developing on its own. Secondary conditions can essentially be thought of as complications from another condition. In some cases, a secondary disability could develop as a result of treatment for the original service-connected condition. For example, powerful prescription pain medications can cause kidney, liver, and stomach problems if they are taken for an extended period of time.
By "Aggravation," An appellant may obtain service connection for aggravation of a preexisting condition under 38 U.S.C. V.A. will compensate claimants for medical conditions that existed at entry into service that was made worse or "aggravated" by service. The essence of a claim for benefits based on a theory of aggravation is that a claimant's service caused a worsening of a preexisting condition. See Wagner v. Principi, 370 F.3d 1089, 1096 (Fed. Cir. 2004) ("[I]f a preexisting disorder is noted upon entry into service, the veteran cannot bring a claim for service connection for that disorder, but the veteran may bring a claim for service-connected aggravation of that disorder.").
V.A. is authorized to compensate eligible individuals only for "service-connected" conditions. A service-connected condition is caused by, aggravated by, or the result of, an event during military service or a condition considered service-connected by law (such as Section 1151 claims). As such, "service-connection" is a critical concept in V.A. benefits law. In practice, the determination of service connection can be difficult for V.A. and frustrating for the veteran. As a result, service connection is one of the most contested issues in the V.A. claims process.
The VA Disability Advocates Main Office is Located in Las Vegas, NV. We Represent Veterans throughout the United States. 702-209-5722