Establishing Veterans Affairs Service Connection for Disability Compensation

VA Disability Claims

There are two types of service-connection: Direct and Presumptive There are three requirements to establish direct service-connection for residuals of injuries and diseases; In-service documentation of an injury or disease. A current condition with a medical diagnosis and a medical nexus connecting 1 and 2.

“Before November 2000, when the VCAA was enacted, veterans had to obtain a medical diagnosis of a current disability on their own. The VA was not generally obligated to help them in obtaining this medical evidence. Some veterans, who could not afford a private doctor, were placed in a no win situation. They could not receive disability compensation until they submitted a medical diagnosis of their current disability; they could not get the VA to provide them with a free medical examination to obtain this diagnosis because veterans who already had service-connected disabilities were more likely to receive free VA medical care; and they could not obtain a medical diagnosis from a private doctor because they could not afford to pay for the private doctor. As a result of the VCAA, most veterans who file an original claim for disability compensation do not need to obtain a medical diagnosis on their own. The VA is generally obligated to provide veterans with a VA medical examination to diagnose the current medical condition. There are only a few legitimate reasons for which VA may refuse to schedule a VA medical examination.”

An in-service injury/disease means that for the most part it must be documented in the veteran’s service medical records (SMR’s). One thing to keep in mind is that, generally, the in-service injury/disease must be shown to be “chronic” while in-service. If it is not shown to be a “chronic” condition while in-service, then you’ll more than likely need an Independent Medical
The Post-Determination Team is where the rating decision is promulgated. In other words, it is where the decision gets entered into the system and the rating decision is prepared and sent out to the veteran. If the veteran has a Power of Attorney (POA), they give a heads up to them as to what the decision was. If a claim has been granted and the retro involves over $25,000.00, it is sent to the VSCM (Veterans Service Center Manager) or their assistant for a third signature. The Post Determination Team also does the following action; accrued benefits claims not requiring a rating, apportionment decisions, competency issues not requiring a rating, original pension claims not requiring a rating, dependency issues, burials, death pension, and specially adapted housing and initial CHAMPVA eligibility determinations when a pertinent rating is already of record. Opinion (IMO) to substantiate the claim. If a veteran doesn’t have either a documented “chronic” condition, or an IMO, the VA will more than likely state that the claimed condition is “Acute and Transitory,” meaning that the injury/disease resolved itself and there is no residuals.
A current condition with a medical diagnosis means that the claimed condition has to show current residuals from that in-service-injury, and it must have a current diagnosis from a physician. A lot of times the diagnosis can and will be obtained from the VA C&P exam. If the VA sees that your condition was “chronic” while in the service, or that you have medical documentation of continuity of treatment since discharge, more often than not they will schedule the veteran for a C&P exam to obtain the needed diagnosis and current disabling affects of the claimed disability.
Something connecting the two means either continuity of treatment of the claimed disability from time of discharge to the present, or, if this is not the case, then an IMO will be needed from a physician. A lot of times an IMO is a critical part of the veterans claim. An IMO can sway the benefit of the doubt in the veteran’s favor if the claim is borderline, or it can flat out prove service-connection when one of the three components of establishing service-connection aren’t met! For example, by borderline I mean let’s say that a veteran was seen for lower back pain once while on active duty over a period of a five year enlistment. And now it is ten years since his discharge and the veteran hasn’t been seen for the lower back until recently, or only had one episode of back pain within those ten years since getting out of the military. The veteran will need an IMO stating something to the affect that his current lower back condition is some how related to the episode while on active duty. If the RVSR (Rating Veteran Service Representative, or “Rating Specialist”) is very liberal in applying the regulation, he/she may award service-connection without the IMO. However, if the RVSR is “by the book,” then he/she may deny service-connection in the absence of a good IMO. An example of where an IMO can establish service-connection with which one or more of the three criteria listed above are absent would be, let’s say that a veteran was seen one time for a knee condition while on active duty and this incident is noted in his SMR’s. Ten years later the veteran is experiencing pain in that same knee but didn’t have any type of treatment since his discharge, he would need a really good IMO to establish that his current disability is somehow related to the in-service episode.
As far as presumptive service-connection is concerned, a veteran needs to be able to show that a condition listed in §3.307, §3.308, and §3.309 has manifested itself within the prescribed time limits after separation from the service. A presumptive condition does not need to be noted in a veteran’s SMR’s, hence presumptive, or it’s presumed that the said disability/disease occurred while in the service. There are some presumptive disabilities that do need to have manifested themselves within the first year after separation and to degree of 10% disabling in order to warrant presumptive service-connection. One common one is Arthritis.