There are certain health conditions the VA automatically assumes were caused by the unique circumstances of some veterans’ military service. A presumption of service connection can make it easier to start earning the VA disability benefits you deserve.
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If you’ve been diagnosed with a presumptive condition, and you are eligible based on the time, location, and other circumstances of your service, you don’t need to show a connection between the condition and your military service to be granted VA disability compensation. In this article we describe what a presumption of service connection is, examples of presumptive conditions, and which veterans may qualify.
In this article about VA presumptive disability:
- Types of service connection for VA disability
- What is a presumptive disability or presumptive service connection?
- Presumptive conditions based on toxic exposures
- Presumptive disability for former prisoners of war (POWs)
- Presumptive conditions within a year of service
- How Woods and Woods can help
Types of service connection for VA disability
A service-connected injury or illness is one that is caused or aggravated (made worse) by military service. Service connecting your disability is a key part of filing a claim for VA benefits. There are five types of service connection. Let’s break down each one to help you understand how a presumption of service connection is different from the rest.
- A direct service connection means that your condition began during or after military service and was directly caused by service-related activities or environmental exposures.
- Service connection through aggravation can be claimed if your condition pre-existed service and was aggravated, or made worse, during service or due to another service-connected condition. Here, the VA would award you compensation for the increase in the severity of your condition.
- A secondary service connection can be made if you have a disability that was caused or aggravated by another service-connected condition.
- Service connection for injuries caused by VA healthcare can be made if your disability is caused by or worsened by negligent VA care or treatment. If you file this type of claim, you’ll have to show that your new or worsened disability is a result of VA medical negligence. These types of claims are also called 1151 claims.
- A presumptive service connection is granted when the VA admits certain conditions were caused by the circumstances of certain veterans. Unlike other service connections, you are not required to submit a medical nexus explaining the connection between your service and condition to get compensation.
What is a presumptive disability or presumptive service connection?
Now that you know more about the five types of service connection, let’s dive deeper into how a presumptive service connection works.
In presumptive cases, the VA acknowledges that certain disabilities are service connected if you can prove that you served in a specific place during a given time. Additionally, there are certain presumptive disabilities veterans are eligible for up to a year out of service, regardless of when and where they served.
VA disability lawyer, Cecilia Ton said, “The VA presumes that certain conditions are related to a veteran’s military service. For example, if a veteran is diagnosed with one of the presumptive conditions within one year of military discharge and it also manifests to a 10% rating or higher during that time. VA will grant presumptive service connection without requiring the veteran to submit evidence of nexus.”
The criteria for who qualifies for a presumptive service connection varies and is determined by statute or VA regulation. Here are a few examples of what presumptive eligibility might look like:
- Those that served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 that have developed bladder cancer from possible exposure to Agent Orange
- Former prisoners of war with a PTSD diagnosis
- Those that worked in gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, Kentucky; Portsmouth, Ohio; and area K25 at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for at least 250 days before February 1, 1992, and have been diagnosed with liver cancer from possible exposure to radiation
Presumptive conditions based on toxic exposures
The VA recognizes each of the following exposures to be the cause of certain disabilities, known as presumptive conditions. If you’re diagnosed with any presumptive condition, the VA won’t ask you to prove a connection between your condition and your service to qualify for benefits. Remember – you must have served in set locations and during established time periods, under specific circumstances that meet the terms of the regulation. These regulations are typically very specific about who qualifies for a presumptive service connection.
Presumptive disability for Agent Orange exposure
Agent Orange was a toxic herbicide that was used to clear foliage in Vietnam prior to its ban in 1971. Agent Orange is known to have caused several kinds of cancer and numerous diseases among those that were exposed.
If you served in specific areas during the periods established by the VA, the VA will presume you were exposed to Agent Orange. If you’ve been diagnosed with a presumptive disability the VA has acknowledged is connected to Agent Orange exposure, you could be eligible for VA benefits. Some of these presumptive conditions include:
- Diabetes mellitus type 2
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple forms of cancer
Presumptive disability for burn pit exposure
Burn pits are areas of open land the U.S. military used to dispose of on-site waste. Things like chemicals, human waste, plastic, and rubber, among other materials, were burned, releasing dangerous toxins into the air.
The list of burn pit presumptive conditions includes:
- Multiple forms of cancer, including 9 rare lung cancers
As with other presumptive exposures, where and when you served affects your eligibility for VA compensation. The full list of conditions, time periods, and locations that could make you eligible for a presumptive service connection from burn pits even includes the airspace surrounding the pits.
Presumptive disability for atomic veterans
Atomic veterans were exposed to ionizing radiation from weapons, waste, or equipment during military service. Exposure to radiation can cause a variety of health issues, some of which the VA recognizes as presumptive conditions.
A few of the conditions the VA considers to be presumptive include:
- Stomach cancer
- Cancers of the bile duct
- Multiple myeloma
Other conditions associated with exposure to radiation, like brain tumors, are not presumptive and are considered on a case by case basis by the VA.
“If you were injured while serving this country and are reading this review, I encourage you to contact Woods and Woods right away. They are always standing ready to assist veterans in need.”
J.B., a Navy veteran in VirginiaGoogle review
Presumptive disability for former prisoners of war (POWs)
Former POWs are eligible for the same benefits as all other veterans, but they can also qualify for certain presumptive conditions. When a former POW is diagnosed with a presumptive condition that was caused or worsened by their captivity, they can file a claim regardless of when symptoms manifest. The VA presumes several disabilities to be related to their experiences during service, based on research on the effects of captivity on mental and physical health. The duration and location of captivity do not affect whether a POW can receive presumptive disability.
Some presumptive conditions for former POWS include:
- PTSD and anxiety
Gulf War Syndrome
Referred to as “chronic multisymptom illness” or “undiagnosed illnesses” by the VA, this set of chronic, medically unexplained symptoms has been widely reported by Gulf War veterans.
To qualify for a presumptive service connection, these veterans must have served in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, and have symptoms which:
- Last for at least six months
- Appeared during active duty
- Aree rated at least 10% disabling
Presumptive conditions within a year of service
It’s important to pay attention to when you start experiencing symptoms of an illness, during or after discharge. There are several conditions that are presumptive only if they have manifested within one year of discharge.
These disabilities include:
- Peptic ulcers
If you notice symptoms of any of these qualifying illnesses within a year of discharge, you could be eligible as long as your condition is rated at least 10% within that year.
How Woods and Woods can help
Many veterans applied years ago and were denied for conditions that are not presumptive. If you need help appealing a VA disability denial, call us today for a free case evaluation to see if the VA-accredited attorneys at Woods and Woods can help. You won’t pay us unless we win your case, and we never dock any future monthly benefits.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
A presumptive service connection is granted when the VA presumes, or assumes, that certain conditions were caused by the unique circumstances of military service for certain veterans. This type of service connection may not require a medical nexus to earn compensation.
There is a list of 40 presumptive disabilities for first-year veterans. To establish a presumptive service connection, the disability must show up within one year of your discharge, and must be rated at least 10% disabling within that year.