When leaving the military and filing an injury or condition claim for Veterans Affairs (VA) disability, the term "service-connected" appears a lot in the process. The term involves injuries that were caused by military service, but there are many other details that could qualify your condition or make approval harder. If you've been denied, don't quit; take the time to understand the service-connected test and how to maintain your appeals for approval and increased disability ratings.
Understanding the Service-Connected Category
At the most basic level, a service-connected condition is any condition that was either caused by military service or became significantly worse. First, take a look at what it means to be caused by military service.
If you're a combat veteran, being shot or hit by shrapnel, falling out of a vehicle, or any injury that was involved in combat counts. As a technician, being shocked by live wire, or burned due to blowback from a torch or by high-powered antennas counts. They aren't the only types of injuries that count, though.
Being in a car accident outside of a military base with a civilian is an injury that counts. Accidentally shooting yourself also counts, as well as breaking your leg at a bar fight that you may or may not have caused. Unless specifically denied, any and every injury or condition that happened during active duty or reserve service is eligible for VA disability. Denials are on a case-by-case basis, and require a claim for the final answer.
If you're not sure, put in a VA claim anyway. As long as your injury is valid, the worst that the VA could say is no, which can still result in medical assistance through basic VA benefits. The only major benefits you'll be missing is paid surgery and a disability check.
Time Is of the Essence with Medical Proof
With every service-connected requirement comes the burden of proof. You'll need documentation showing that your condition was caused during military service, which can come in many forms. A medical record injury could show clear, concise writing that details your injuries, or your service record could show that you were involved in events that caused your condition.
There are times when the medical record entry isn't enough or not there at all. You could have been injured in a place that didn't have medical administrative personnel, and by the time you reached a major military base, the paperwork simply wasn't written. It could be a mistake caused by the medical administrative team, but your lack of evidence means that you have no proof.
The best thing to do is the visit the VA as soon as possible. It makes sense to take a vacation after leaving the military, but luckily, going to the VA is no major chore. Even though there are long wait times in both the VA hospitals and the claims process as a whole, what matters is putting in your claim as soon as possible.
If you wait for too long, it becomes easier for the VA to suspect that your condition was caused by civilian events. Although there are some exceptions, an injury that occurs even a day after your end of military service isn't covered by the service-connected category.
If you've already let a year or two slip by without complaining to the VA, you have a lot of work to do—but for the disability compensation and medical benefits for life, it's worth it. Contact a team of personal injury lawyers to begin searching for evidence that could support your claim, and connect with medical professionals who can identify the cause and possible time frame of your injuries. Speak with a representative from a firm such as Kornfeld Robert B Inc PS to get started.