What Does it Mean For a Disability to Be Service-Related?

One of the most important questions in any application for veterans’ disability benefits is whether the applicant has a service-related disability. No matter how bad someone’s disability is, if it is not considered to be service-related, they will not qualify for disability benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). But what exactly does it mean for a disability to be service-related, and how do you know if you qualify?

Defining “Service-Related”

In legal terms, someone is said to have a service-related disability if they have a medical or psychological condition that is the result of their military service, which substantially impairs their ability to work or to perform regular daily tasks. This includes disabilities that are the result of injuries sustained during combat, as well as psychological conditions that manifested during or after a person’s service. It can also be a more indirect disability, such as cancer caused by exposure to carcinogenic chemicals while serving in the military, or even conditions such as “Gulf War Syndrome.”

Potential Complexities

While this seems like it should be a straightforward set of criteria, it is not always so simple. For example, someone who already had an existing medical condition could see their condition worsened due to their service, or their service-related disability may not manifest until months or years after they return to civilian life. In these cases, it can be more difficult to prove that their disabilities are the result of their service, and not due to circumstances that occurred long before (or long after) their time in the military.

How to Know if You Qualify

The key to determining if you may qualify for veterans’ disability benefits is whether you can connect your disability to your military service. This requires medical records, preferably contemporary ones, that show when your condition manifested and how it may have changed or worsened over time. Without that medical evidence, it can be difficult to tie a specific medical condition to military service, making it harder to obtain disability benefits.

What You Should Do

If you are unsure about whether you qualify for VA disability benefits, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling veterans’ disability claims. They can help you to apply for benefits, and argue on your behalf to give you the best chance possible at success. The sooner you call, the sooner they can get to work to help you get the benefits you deserve.

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.

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