When the United States military takes on new recruits, it performs a medical examination of each servicemember. However, conditions such as asthma, certain mental health concerns, and joint damage may not necessarily disqualify a recruit from service.
When a person’s pre-existing conditions become worse as a result of active duty service, they may be eligible for disability compensation benefits offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). If you need advice on how to obtain benefits for pre-existing conditions which were made worse by your active duty service, consider reaching out to our experienced team of lawyers.
Every person who joins the United States military must undergo a series of medical tests and evaluations to determine their physical and mental fitness to serve on active duty. However, some diagnosed medical conditions do not prevent entry into the armed forces.
Many recruits enter the military with diagnosed medical conditions that can range in severity, from the need to wear glasses and occasional bouts of depression to joint damage and chronic asthma. Therefore, a claim for compensation must demonstrate a pre-existing condition noted by the military and the effect of that condition on the applicant’s health prior to joining the armed forces.
A servicemember’s medical condition may worsen while on active duty. In fact, it is not uncommon for conditions such as asthma, mental health issues, or joint damage to become more severe over the course of active duty service. The worsening of a condition which existed prior to entering the military, otherwise called “aggravation” by VA, can form the basis of a successful claim for disability benefits.
According to 38 C.F.R. §3.306(a), the law presumes an applicant’s entitlement to service-connection when their pre-existing condition is worsened due to active duty military service. Depending on whether a condition was or was not noted on entry to service, VA may be required to provide “clear and unmistakable evidence” to rebut the presumption of aggravation.
If a condition was noted upon entry onto active duty, the veteran generally has the burden to show the condition increased in severity during service. However, if a condition was not noted upon entry onto active duty, VA generally bears the burden to show two things: first, that the condition clearly and unmistakably preexisted service, and second, that the condition clearly and unmistakable did not increase in severity during service. This is a high burden to meet.
Former servicemembers who are unsure of when an impairment started can work with their doctors to trace the origins of their pre-existing medical conditions. An attorney from our firm can advice a claimant on how to effectively use that evidence to obtain benefits.
Not every person who enters the United States military has a clean bill of health. In fact, many people disclose their diagnoses of asthma, joint pain, or mental health conditions to doctors upon entering the armed forces. When these conditions become worse as a direct result of serving active duty, VA may issue benefits to qualifying veterans.
An attorney from our firm can prepare you for pursuing VA disability compensation benefits for pre-existing conditions and even help you file an appeal if you are met with a denial. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you file an effective claim or appeal a rejection.