Types of VA Claims: Compensation
General Compensation For In-Service Injuries
Veterans who suffer from injury or disease related to active duty service can seek compensation benefits for those disabilities or ailments caused by their active service. There are three basic requirements:
- Evidence of a current disability.
- Medical/lay evidence of in-service occurrence of a disease or injury (or aggravation of a prior existing injury, please see page here [link to aggravation page]).
- Evidence of a nexus between the in-service event/aggravation and the current disability.
Compensation benefits can be granted to veterans who sustained injuries/ailments while “in the line of duty.” “In the line of duty” has been interpreted very broadly to cover anything that occurred during the veteran’s time in active duty. This can include incidents which occurred when a soldier was on leave and other events which don’t relate to actual military service, such as accidental injuries from playing sports. In addition, veterans can claim “delayed direct” service connection for latent medical conditions which don’t appear during active service, but arise years later. With limited exceptions, service connection does not extend to problems caused by willful misconduct, such as the abuse of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
Combat-related occurrences may not be recorded, or may be inadequately recorded, or the records may be destroyed or lost over time. Because of this, combat veterans receive special treatment with regards to proving an in-service injury/event. Federal law lowers the veteran’s burden in showing that the occurrence in service actually happened.
While combat veterans have an advantage in proving an in-service occurrence, credible medical evidence is still required for the other two prongs of proving service connection – evidence of a current disability, and nexus between that current disability and the in-service occurrence.
The lower burden of proof for in-service occurrences only applies to those which are combat related. Veterans who did not engage in combat or who are claiming a disability from an occurrence which happened outside of combat cannot take advantage of the combat injury statute.
If a veteran makes a claim for a combat-related injury but does not have sufficient records showing that he was in combat, the VA is obligated to assist the veteran in finding evidence to support his claim. This is part of the VA’s affirmative duty to assist veterans in making their claims.
Ultimately, determining whether a veteran engaged in combat depends on the facts of each case and the available evidence.
If you are a veteran looking for general compensation for service-related injuries, or if you’re looking to file another type of claim, Bluestein Attorneys is here to help. For more information or to request your FREE consultation, give Bluestein Attorneys a call at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time.