Monday, November 4, 2013

Veteran's Service-Connection: Presumed for Certain Diseases

Is there any connection between diseases or disabilities that show up after a veteran has been released from service?

If a veteran is discharged from service, and then develops a chronic, tropical, prisoner-of-war related disease, or a disease associated with exposure to an herbal agent, which manifests itself to a compensable degree (generally 10%) within a specified period after discharge from service, it is possible that he/she may receive a service-connected disability rating and compensation for that disability.   There is a whole laundry list of chronic diseases that, even if there is no evidence the veteran had symptoms while in service, are presumed to have been caused by their service.  If those diseases cause the veteran to be disabled – to lose some ability to earn money- the VA will award a monetary amount based on that disability.

The presumption means that the veteran does not have to provide proof that the disease was incurred in the service, as long as the disease shows up within a certain period of time, which may be different for different diseases.  That period of time is called the presumptive period.  The presumptive periods vary from one year for most of the diseases, to three years for Hansen’s Disease and Tuberculosis, to seven years for Multiple Sclerosis to any time for ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Although a presumption means that the veteran does not have to prove causation, the VA can present evidence to rebut that presumption if they can show that there was an intervening cause for the disease.

The list of presumptive diseases is listed at 38 C.F.R. sections 3.309 and 3.317, and includes Diabetes, Leukemia, Epilepsies, Tuberculosis, and Ulcers.  There are over 40 diseases on the list, so veterans who develop chronic diseases after discharge should check to see whether the disease for which they have been diagnosed is on the list of presumptive service-connected diseases.

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