In order to receive disability benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (otherwise known as the VA), you need to demonstrate that you have a service-connected disability. If you do not have such a disability, or you cannot show your disability is service-connected, you will not be eligible for VA disability benefits. For many veterans, this is not an issue, but in some cases it can be difficult to connect a disability with your military service.
What Does it Mean for a Disability to Be Service-Connected?
A service-connected disability, also known as a service-related disability, is any kind of physical or psychological condition that can be linked to a person’s military service. This could be the result of an injury or illness that they suffer during their service, or it can be one that manifests later due to things that occurred during a person’s service (for example, the manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder, or cancer resulting from exposure to carcinogens). It can also include disorders you already had when you entered service that were worsened due to your service, such as depression or asthma that becomes more severe.
Why Does it Matter if Your Disability is Service-Connected?
Put simply, the VA does not grant disability benefits to veterans with disabilities that are not related to their military service. This means that if you want to get VA disability benefits, you must be able to show your disability is somehow service-connected. Typically this is done through medical records, witness testimony, and other forms of evidence that demonstrate a medical condition manifested during or after military service.
What if You Cannot Show the Connection Between Your Service and Your Disability?
If you are unable to demonstrate that your disability is service-connected, you will have your claim for benefits denied. This is true even if you are suffering from a severe disability and have access to other disability benefits, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The VA only grants benefits to people with service-connected disabilities, making the evidence you have for your disability essential.
What Can You Do if You Are Denied?
If your claim is denied, you have some options for potentially getting it reversed. First, you can go and try to collect new evidence to help prove your claim. You can also attempt to appeal your claim to show your disability actually is service-connected. However, your best chance of succeeding on your application for VA disability benefits is to get the assistance of a lawyer, who can assist you with filling out your application and arguing on your behalf for any appeals.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.