Like Social Security, many VA claims for service-connected disability compensation are denied in the initial claims process. The reasons for denial can be varied. For those seeking service connected claims while employed, or after recently being employed, the arguments of the VA often appear hard to overcome. In every case, there are three fundamental tenets of all successful VA claims.
Failing to answer one of these will usually result in claim denial and confusion for the Veteran claiming service connection.
1) Something currently exists that is disabling.
You must present a disabling condition. This can be either mental or physical or both. For example bad back, bad knees, poor hearing, lost eyesight, bad sleep, emotional outbursts, anti-social behavior, and other challenges or disabling conditions. Of course, you’re not a doctor, so you do not have to self-diagnose, you can claim to experience these and get an official diagnosis during the process.
Regardless, for successful VA claims you must have a disabling condition by the time your claim is being decided.
2) Something must have occurred during service to act as a nexus event to your current claim.
An event or series of events can be shown to have had at least a 50% chance of causing or making worse your condition. This last statement is one that most claimants don’t realize. Neither do many health care providers, doctors, or advocates.
A doctor does not need to be 100% certain that a certain event caused a Veteran’s current condition. The doctor only needs to be willing to state that in their medical opinion:
“the claimed nexus event is/was as likely as not (50/50) the cause of the Veteran’s current condition.”
Or, that the nexus event made the injury worse. This last point is often not made clear to doctors.
3) A clear connection between the Nexus service event and today’s current condition must be shown.
For the working disabled, or the recently working disabled, this is often the key piece to detail for successful VA claims. It is also, the piece most missed when filing a claim or appeal.
Most people will say something to the effect of:
“I have a bad back, it’s caused by a fall while in service.”
While this meets the criteria of #1 and #2 above, it does not explain how you have been able to work for 20 more years on your bad back. The argument for #3 is not answered and the result is usually denial.
Denied claims for Veterans who are working are often a result of failing to answer #3 clearly.
Successful VA Claims
For item #1, there is not much you as the Veteran can do except to seek the diagnosis of your condition from a doctor or therapist.
#2, is a challenge due to the state of many Veterans’ service records. The challenge can be overcome by a good advocate or attorney that knows the requirements of VA law. And one that knows to adapt your claim into an effective appeal strategy.
The best thing an advocate or attorney can do for a Veteran is to get a timeline created of what happened. Then to start gathering evidence from the time of the injury to today. Build a timeline. This is also the best way to approach answering #3 as well.
For #3, an advocate or attorney should detail where you, the Veteran, went after discharge. Also
Why you discharged.
Whether you were successful in school or work after discharge.
If there were any accommodations made for you to be successful at work or school.
Did you took additional sick time, rest days, or required working from home at any point.
If you have a healthy family life and history of one, e.g. divorce?
All of the pieces of your life since your injury reflect in some manner on your current condition. You and your attorney have to tell a story that makes sense how you got from your military service to today. Whether that journey has been 3 months or 30 years.
Lilac City Law advocates on behalf Veterans in appeals for Service Connected Disability Benefits
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