Soldiers marching
Elements of a Service Connected Claim

Service Connection is a concept that confuses a lot of claimants for veteran disability compensation. Veterans tend to know how and where their injuries occurred. We remember those things. I remember with very vivid clarity all the times I was hurt as an infantry officer in the Army. Some of the things that hurt me didn’t become apparent right away, but I knew right away where they came from when I started suffering symptoms.

The Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t know where we got hurt until we explain it and provide evidence. It’s not enough to have a disability and have military service; we have to show a particular type of “causation” that is unique to Veterans Law. The legal term for this is “service connection.” An injury or illness that is not service connected will not be compensated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. It’s black and white. It’s also the part of a claim that is most often neglected or not shown with sufficient or appropriate evidence and is a source many denials. Often the evidence exists but the veteran didn’t know what to send.

A claim for service-connected benefits requires (1) a current disabling condition; (2) an in-service disease or injury; and (3) a nexus between the current disease and the in-service injury or disease. It’s not enough to show a disabling condition and some kind of injury while you were in the service, although you need to show those things. You must also provide particular evidence that connects the in-service injury and the present disabling condition to each other.

If you are a lawyer reading this, take note – it’s not the same thing as tort causation. The nexus is simply evidence enough to plausibly link the injury and the current disability.

A common example is arthritic knees. Most infantry personnel will develop premature arthritic knees but frequently this doesn’t show itself until sometime after service. Instead of getting arthritic knees at age 60 a soldier gets them at 33 or 35. The soldier is often able to show lower extremity injuries while in service and is frequently able to show that the condition is currently disabling. What they sometimes fail to submit is the nexus – some particular, specific piece of evidence, for example a doctor doing a record review and saying very clearing “it was that injury back in the Army, that was what caused you to have the premature arthritis” You need to show that the injury happened, that it’s currently disabling, and that the injury caused the current condition – all three things.

What kind of evidence you need to establish each of these three things depends on the condition. Usually good medical descriptions of your current condition can show the present disabling condition. The best thing you can produce to show that an injury happened in service is something contemporary to the accident, like an accident or incident report or an emergency room record from the time the accident happened. However, you can also submit affidavits (notarized statements) from people who witnessed the accident or people you spoke to at the time of or just after the accident who remember you telling them about it. Evidence that satisfies the nexus requirement is frequently the hard part and can be done by positively showing something connecting the in service injury or illness to the disability or evidence that excludes all other plausible causes for the injury or illness.

If you have been denied benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the denial letter said VA could not establish service connection, it means your claim did not provide sufficient evidence of one of the three factors above, most likely either the in-service injury or the nexus. Divis Law provides representation for veterans and can help you appeal your denial. We can also help you find the evidence you need to win your case. Our founding attorney, Robert Divis, is a former army officer and has been there. Mr. Divis is fully accredited to practice veterans law before the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. When you receive a denial, you need expert help to discern what the problem is and help you find the remedy. Contact Divis Law to schedule a free consultation. We will help you get the benefits you fought for.

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