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VA Disability Service-Connection Requirements

The VA gives out disability benefits to veterans who have become disabled due to their service in the United States military. Whether the disability surfaced during service or after discharge, a veteran needs to be able to prove to the VA that the cause of the disability occurred during service or that their previous disability worsened because of service; this is also known as a service-connection.

Overall the VA lists three different kinds of service connections; direct service connection, aggravated injury connection, and presumed service connection.

Direct Service Connection

A Direct Service Connection is when a veteran’s disability is directly related to their military service such as loss of a limb during combat. This connection requires documental evidence that proves the disability occurred during service and is currently affecting the veteran in everyday life.

This type of service connection is easy to prove if the military documented the incident in which the veteran developed the disability. If the incident where the veteran became disabled was not recorded during service, officers and comrades who served during the same time as the individual will need to confirm the incident.

Aggravated Service Connection

An Aggravated Service Connection is when a veteran who entered the military with a pre-existing condition is able to prove that their service within the military caused their condition to worsen. This connection requires medical evidence and proof that some incident or event caused the veteran’s condition to be worse than it previously was before. Otherwise the fact that the condition has worsened will be assumed as natural progression of the disability.

In most instances, the pre-existing condition should have been mentioned within the entrance medical exam given by the military. If not, you will need to gather medical evidence of the condition before entry into the military.

Presumed Service Connection

A Presumed Service Connection is when a veteran develops a certain disability that the federal government already recognizes as a “presumed” disability that resulted from military service. A veteran who has served at least 90 days must have one of the disabilities listed by federal law that are presumed to be a consequence of military service to qualify for a presumed service connection. The veteran’s disability must develop within a particular time period (varies depending on the condition) after military service.

Common presumptive service connections include:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) will need to meet certain requirements to establish a service connection. In 2010, new regulations passed for veterans with PTSD making the restrictions for qualification for veteran’s disability less difficult. Listed below are the requirements.

  • The veteran has been diagnosed with PTSD that is related to a traumatic event
  • A VA psychiatrist confirms the that the stressor (traumatic event) has caused the PTSD
  • The stressor is related to fear of terrorist activity and/or military hostility
  • The stressor occurred during veteran’s service


Secondary Service Connection

When a veteran is already receiving VA benefits for a service-connected disability and this same disability causes another separate condition to arise, the veteran may qualify for additional compensation; this is known as a “Secondary Service Connection.” A veteran may also qualify if the individual had a pre-existing condition before service that worsened due to the service-connected disability.

Just like in all other service connection cases, you will need to medically prove that the secondary condition that arose was caused by the service-connected disability.