To be eligible for disability benefits for depression, a veteran needs to show that his condition is connected to his military service. This is called “direct service connection.” You have this connection if an event that took place during your service caused the depression you suffer from now. To prove this connection, a veteran must show that:

  • He has been diagnosed with disability depression
  • He has evidence of an event during his military service that caused his depression.
  • He has medical evidence that shows a connection between the service event and his current state of depression.

Types of Direct Service Connection

There are different types of direct service connection. To prove the connection, most types require a doctor’s medical opinion and your medical records. Here are the different types of direct service connection:

  • Aggravated Service Connection. This connection is established if you can show that an existing medical condition was aggravated or made worse after an event that occurred during your military service. If that pre-existing condition isn’t cited in your entrance medical exam, you’ll need to have medical evidence of its diagnosis and treatment. If you believe the symptoms of your pre-existing illness or injury got worse during service, you’ll need to prove that it’s not just a natural progression of your condition. You may need a doctor’s opinion to help show the connection to a service event.
  • Presumptive Service Connection. For veterans who have served at least 90 days in the military, there are medical conditions that, by law, are assumed to be service connected. Presumptive service connection is available for POWs who acquired certain illnesses after being confined for more than 30 days, certain chronic health conditions such as infectious diseases acquired after serving in the Gulf War, and for certain cancers due to exposure to hazardous chemicals. You need medical evidence of the diagnosis and that the condition occurred within the presumed time period.
  • Secondary Service Connection. You’re eligible for disability benefits if your illness or injury has caused another different or separate condition. For example, a second service connection might be depression caused by an injury you sustained while in combat. You’ll need medical evidence and a doctor’s opinion that prove this. 

If your depression is interfering with your ability to work, contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation. We can help determine if you’re eligible for VA Disability benefits.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska