There are three elements a veteran must prove to obtain service-connected compensation.
1) The existence of a current disability
2) An event or injury during service that caused or exacerbated the disability
3) The current disability is linked to the in-service event or injury.
This blog entry addresses element number one, proof of a current disability.
A veteran does not qualify for compensation unless they suffered an injury or disease during service that has lasting symptoms. An injury or illness that occurred during service and did not have a lasting impact on the veteran will not suffice. To be eligible for compensation, the veteran must be suffering from a current disability or from disabling symptoms resulting from a disease or injury. On the date that the veteran files the compensation claim or at some point while the claim is pending the veteran must have an existing disability. Note: certain genetic defects generally do not qualify as diseases for which a veteran can receive compensation.
VA Medical Exams
Generally the veteran's statements about their symptoms, alone, is not enough to prove current disability (there is an exception to this rule that applies only to veterans of the Persian Gulf War). However, a veterans statements about their disabling symptoms can compel the VA to help arrange for a free medical exam to obtain a medical diagnosis. It is important that a veteran report any ongoing or recurring disability symptoms that are associated with the veterans service, in order to compel the VA to provide the exam. The results of this medical exam may then provide the necessary proof of a current disability.
To qualify for this free exam, It is helpful for the veteran to submit detailed statements about each symptom - how severe it is, how often it occurs, and how long the veteran has had the symptom. Any people who have observed the veterans symptoms or heard the veteran speak about the symptoms can help by providing statements in which they detail their observations.
In addition, it is important to show that the reported symptoms are associated with the veterans service. A medical article that links the reported symptoms to a particular diagnosis is also helpful. Continuity of symptoms can also meet this requirement.
If a veteran can afford it, it is always useful to obtain a private medical diagnosis prior to having the VA medical exam. The exam report should describe details of the veterans medical history that support the diagnosis to be most persuasive.
If a veteran is trying to reopen a disability compensation claim, new evidence of a current disability will normally be required to compel the VA to provide the exam.
The best evidence of a current disability includes detailed statements from a veteran, friends and family members as well as a report from a private doctor that links the veterans current specific symptoms to a specific disease or injury and/or a relevant medical article or even just the continuity of the symptoms.
Once a veteran has proven there is a current disability, next there must be proof of an injury or event during service that caused or exacerbated the disability and finally a link must be established between the in-service event or injry and the current disability.