In many cases a veteran must show that their specific disability was caused by their military service in order to receive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, there are exceptions to this requirement—certain disabilities are presumed to be caused by military service and that connection need not be shown. If one of those presumptive disabilities is diagnosed in a veteran than disability compensation will be awarded automatically without necessary proofs of service connection.
The conditions which are presumed to be caused by military service are not necessarily intuitive. In many ways the categories are created to help those who may have developed unique conditions as a result of military service but which are hard to obtain documentation to prove the connection to that service.
There is a presumed service connection for Veterans who develop chronic conditions diseases within one year of release from active duty. Some of the most common chronic conditions, which qualify veterans under this category, are diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, and related conditions.
There is also a presumed service connection for Veterans who develop amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease). To qualify for this presumption, veterans must have had active, continuous service for ninety days or more.
Finally, there is a presumed service connection for Veterans who fall within certain specified groups. Those groups include the following:
- Former prisoners of war. Any service member who was imprisoned may have various conditions presumed to be connected to their service so long as the condition is deemed “ten percent disabling.” Those conditions often include anxiety, psychosis, heart disease, stroke, and others.
- Service members exposed to ionizing radiation. Atomic veterans who participated in nuclear testing or were exposed during the Hiroshima or Nagasaki bombings are covered for a wide range of conditions like leukemia, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, lymphomas, liver cancer, and many other cancers. It is important to note that this presumption also applies to those who served during active nuclear working at plants in Paducah, Kentucky, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Amchitka Island, Alaska.
- Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. As the code name for one of the herbicides used during the Vietnam War, many veterans suffered a range of ailments as a result of their exposure to this substance during the war, from early 1962 to mid-1975. The exposure may result in various forms of leukemia, heart disease, forms of lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and several types of cancer.
- Gulf war veterans experiencing “chronic, multi-symptom illnesses.” These illnesses are somewhat scattered, including things like chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia. The VA notes that the symptoms most associated with these presumed service connected injuries are headaches, muscle pain, joint pain, respiratory problems, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular issues, weight loss, and similar concerns.
The above list of conditions presumed to be connected to military service is not exhaustive. As a result it is important for all veterans to seek the guidance of an veterans disability benefits attorney or veteran service representative to determine if they are eligible to receive benefits from the VA to help deal with their ailment.