VA Service Connection explained
A chronic residual from an illness or injury that happened to the veteran while that veteran was on active duty may qualify as a service-connected (SC) condition. A veteran did not have to serve in a war or during a period of wartime, to have a SC condition. For any medical condition to be service-connected, the first thing a veteran has to do is submit their claim to the VA for adjudication. If it is the Veterans first application for benefits, they need to complete VA Form 21-526. The VA has created an alternative to submitting the paper form. Veterans can actually apply on-line by going to www.va.gov. On that page, place the cursor over Veteran Services. That will cause a sub-menus to display. Click on the link to Disability Compensation. The apply on-line link is on this page. If you are mailing in your form and have any of the following material, attach it to your application:
- Discharge or separation papers (DD214 or equivalent)
- Dependency records (marriage & children's birth certificates)
- Medical evidence (doctor & hospital reports)
Once the VA Form 21-526, or on-line application, is submitted, the VA will notify the veteran the application has been received. The veteran will then be scheduled for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) examination. The VA will arrange for this examination.
The examination may be at a VA Hospital or the VA Regional Office may refer the veteran to a non-VA provider. Either way, the VA will pay the veteran for travel to their appointment. Make sure you either get your travel pay or submit the appropriate paperwork for it to be mailed to you before leaving your appointment. After all the medical information has been received, and all supporting information has been obtained, the VA will adjudicate the claim. Three elements must be met in order for a condition to be SC.
- Evidence of in-service relationship. What actually happened on active duty that caused or contributed to the current medical condition? Was there an injury? Was this a disease? Was the veteran exposed to something? The burden of proof is on the veteran to establish this relationship.
- Current diagnosis. This is pretty straight forward. What is the actual diagnosis? The veteran needs to ensure they received a diagnosis by a licensed provider if they are using a non-VA provider and the veteran should be diagnosed by the appropriate discipline. If the veteran is seeing a dentist and asks them about a heart condition, the VA may not find the condition service-connected.
- Medical nexus. What is medical connection between the current diagnosis and the in-service occurrence. This is quite often the part of the claim that will or won't connect a condition to service.
Once all three elements have been answered, the VA adjudicator can determine the claim. If the condition was related to active duty and the physician finds the current diagnosis is at least as likely as not related to active duty, then the claim may be service-connected.
Please see your local county veterans service officer if you have any questions. You can contact your local VSO at (218) 631-7617 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, have a great week.