There are five ways to establish service connection for a disability:
- Direct service connection
- Service connection through aggravation
- Presumptive service connection
- Secondary service connection
- Service connection for injuries caused by VA health care.
Today, we will take a look into presumptive service connection. Presumptive service connection makes it easier for some veterans to prove service connection. Veterans with certain diseases (for example, multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus, and arthritis) that appear within a specific period of time after service, do not have to prove that their condition is service connected. Instead, the VA will assume that the veteran’s condition is service connected. A complete list of these diseases can be found here.
Just because a veteran has a disease that has been listed as presumptively service connected does not mean that veteran will actually get presumptive service connection. The veteran must also develop the disease within a specific time period. This specific time period that determines whether a veteran can receive presumptive service connection is called a presumptive period and can range from one year after service, to any time after service. In other words, the length of the presumptive period will vary depending on the disease. For example, a veteran who was a prisoner of war and begins to suffer an anxiety condition 20 years after he was discharged should still be able to have that anxiety condition presumptively service connected. On the other hand, a veteran who has Tuberculosis must have symptoms appear within 3 years after being discharged from service.
How can a veteran prove to the VA that they are entitled to presumptive service connection? The easiest way to do this is to get a clear medical diagnosis of the disease within the applicable presumptive period. If the veteran does not have a medical diagnosis within this time frame, they will need to obtain lay and medical evidence that supports their claim. For example, the veteran should get statements from friends, family, or coworkers describing that they noticed certain symptoms within the appropriate presumptive period (these statements are also called “buddy statements”). The veteran will also need medical statements from doctors that say the symptoms the veteran has experienced are symptoms of the disease that qualifies for presumptive service connection. This medical statement should also include a statement that “it is more likely than not that the veteran had the disease within the presumptive period.”