Of all the ways you could have been denied your VA disability benefits, you never expected to hear this. The VA doesn’t deny that you have a health problem, or even that it could be potentially disabling—it just doesn’t think that your condition is related to your military service. What can you do to prove to the VA that you are suffering as a direct result of your years in the armed forces?

Proving a Link Between Military Service and VA Disability

One of the biggest challenges when applying for VA benefits is establishing a firm link between your disabling condition and your military service. There are many different ways to establish this connection, each of which has its own methods of proof, including:

  • Direct Service Connection. Veterans have a direct service connection if their injury occurred while they were performing active military duties. A direct service connection usually relies on proof established in the veteran’s service medical records. If there is medical evidence that an accident occurred, a medical condition was diagnosed, and a doctor agrees that your current condition is related to the incident, you have a good chance of approval under a direct connection.
  • Aggravated Service Connection. This connection applies to veterans who suffered from a health problem before they began military service, but their duties in service aggravated the condition and led to an eventual debilitating injury. Proof can be established using the veteran’s entrance medical exam records, or another medical diagnosis of your condition prior to your entering service. It is important to note that veterans will also need to establish a specific event during service that led to a worsening of the condition, since many pre-existing conditions will worsen over time.
  • Presumptive Service Connection. Some medical conditions are automatically accepted as service-connected by the VA as long as they have arisen within a certain amount of time after service has ended. Brain injuries, cancers, infectious diseases, conditions caused by chemical exposure and injuries suffered by prisoners of war may be established under presumptive service connection. Proof for a presumptive condition includes a positive diagnosis and medical evidence that symptoms appeared before the maximum time period has expired (the limit in most cases is 90 days).
  • Secondary Service Connection. In some cases, a service-connected disability will lead to a secondary medical condition, such as when a head injury causes depression. If the first injury has been established through a direct service connection, you will need to provide a medical diagnosis of the secondary condition, as well as a doctor’s opinion linking the secondary condition with your service-connected disability.

At Cuddigan Law, we can help you gather evidence to establish that your combat wounds, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, chemical exposure, disease, illness, or other condition is related to your military service. We also do not charge any fees before taking your case, and we do not get paid until your claim has been approved. For more helpful information on your case, call us at (402) 933-5405 or email us at [email protected] today or download a free copy of our book, The Essential Guide to VA Disability Claims


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