What does service-connected mean?
Service-connected means that your medical condition was caused by your military service, whether it occurred on active duty, was aggravated by military service, or was caused by other conditions that are themselves service-connected.
That means that if you have an illness or injury caused by—or worsened because of—military service (or was caused by a service-connected condition), you could be eligible for VA disability benefits and compensation.
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The five ways the VA determines a service connection:
- Direct Service Connection occurs when there is a solid link (nexus) between a military incident and your current condition.
- Presumed Service Connection refers to conditions the VA automatically accepts because of the unique circumstances of a specific veteran’s military service. For example, it’s assumed all service members who served in the Vietnam War were likely impacted by Agent Orange; therefore, their condition (as long as recognized as a presumptive condition by the VA) is automatically approved (as long as they meet the requirements set by the VA).
- Pre-Existing Injury Aggravated by Military Service – This applies to disabilities that worsened due to your time in the military.
- Secondary Service Connection refers to the conditions that occurred because of a direct service-connected disability. This type of connection usually makes up the majority of a VA rating for compensation.
- VA Medical Malpractice – Any condition or injury worsened or caused by the malpractice or negligence of the VA.
What are the criteria for a service-connected disability?
A service-connected disability means the VA has acknowledged that a veteran’s medical condition was directly caused by military service—whether on active duty, aggravated by military service, or caused by other service-connected conditions. But what criteria does the VA use to determine service connection?
Criteria for service-connection
According to the VA, a service-connected disability must meet the following criteria:
Both of these must be true:
- You have a current injury or illness affecting your mind or body.
- You served on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.
In addition, ONE of the following must be true:
- You got sick or injured while on active duty and can link the condition to your injury or illness, or
- You had an injury or illness before joining the military, and your time in the service worsened the condition
- You have a disability related to your active-duty service that didn’t appear until after you ended your service.
While you can prove your condition without medical records, the more proper information you have backing your case, the better chances you have of receiving a higher VA disability rating.
However, there are presumptive conditions where the assumption is your time in the service caused your condition. Examples of presumptive conditions include high blood pressure from Agent Orange, Fibromyalgia for Gulf War, and any anxiety disorder for POWs.
VA service-connected vs. non-service-connected
The VA recognizes some conditions like hereditary or congenital diseases as non-service-connected.
In addition, you aren’t covered if the condition arose due to personal misconduct, like being in a car accident while under the influence.
Check out our VA Claim Denied Not Service Service Connected: Top 3 Reasons Why to find out why you were denied and what to do next.
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Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!