What is a service-connected disability?

Veteran Benefits Folder for Service-Connected DisabilityIf you are applying for disability benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as a member of the armed forces, you must be eligible for these benefits. One of the first things that you will need to show is that your disability or illness is connected to your military service. This is also called showing that you have a service-connected disability.

Ways of Establishing a Service-Connected Disability

There are five basic ways to show that you have a service-related disability that entitles you to benefits. They include the following:

  • Direct Service Connection. A direct service connection can be shown if there is a specific incident that is linked to an illness or disability. For example, if a Veteran becomes paralyzed as a result of gun shot or a helicopter crash while in combat, he can show the direct service connection between his disability and service in the military. Hearing loss due to repetitive exposure to extremely loud noises would fall under this category as well (see Tinnitus).
  • Presumed service connection. Some illnesses and disabilities are presumed to be service-connected by the VA. The VA has a list of these conditions and the length of time a Veteran would be presumed to be disabled. Examples of presumed medical conditions include chronic illnesses, tropical illnesses, tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis as long as the disability rating is 10 percent or more.
  • Pre-existing injury. A pre-existing injury can be used to establish a service-connected disability if the Veteran had the medical condition prior to his service in the military and it was made worse by an event while he was serving. In most cases, the pre-existing injury or disability must be noted on the serviceman’s initial medical exam.
  • Secondary service condition. A secondary service condition is one where one service-related disability causes another one. The second disability may not be connected to the veteran’s service, but would not have occurred if he did not have the first service-connected illness or disability. For example, if a serviceman contracted tuberculosis, which is presumed to be service-connected, and suffered hearing loss due to taking medication with this as a possible side effect, his hearing loss would be considered caused by the first service-related illness.
  • Treatment by VA. If a Veteran suffers an injury due to his medical treatment by the VA, this would automatically be considered a service-related disability.

If you are a member of the armed forces and are disabled due to your service, our experienced VA disability attorneys can help you file your application and gather the evidence you need to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. To learn more about how we can assist you, fill out our convenient online form.