If you’re one of the millions of people who has a pre-existing condition, then you may be wondering how you can get VA disability benefits. Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes that many veterans suffer from conditions that predate their military service.
As such, they are willing to grant special consideration when determining eligibility for disability benefits, allowing vets access to the services and assistance that they require. In this blog post, we’ll cover some key points to keep in mind when trying to get approved for service connected benefits. To learn more, just keep reading!
What Does the Veterans Administration Consider a Pre-existing Condition?
Typically, a pre-existing condition is any medical condition that existed prior to entering the military. This includes both physical and mental health conditions. It is important to note that the VA does not consider a pre-existing condition to solely be the result of military service or aggravated by those same circumstances.
If your condition wasn’t documented after a physical exam conducted by the VA, it’s assumed that your condition existed before military service. Basically, if your condition was not noted during your induction exam, then you were assumed to be healthy. This is referred to as the presumption of soundness.
There are two things that you have to prove to be eligible for VA disability benefits relating to a pre-existing condition:
- You had the condition upon entering military service
- The condition is service-related, and it was either caused or aggravated by military service.
If you want to prove your pre-existing condition, there are a few things you can do.
Proving Aggravation of a Pre-existing Condition
As stated above, the VA considers aggravation to be when a pre-existing condition worsens due to military service. This can occur in two ways: through a single incident or continuous exposure.
In order to prove that your condition increased due to military service, you must provide documentation of your pre-existing condition prior to service. This can include medical records and/or other evidence, such as statements from your doctor or family members.
Under 38 CFR § 3.306, a prior medical condition is deemed to have been aggravated when there was a spike in the illness or injury after military service. However, if it’s found that the increase in disability occurred due to natural progression or aging, then aggravation cannot be considered service-related.
An example of aggravation would be if you had a pre-existing back injury and, after serving in the military, you experienced worsening back pain. If your doctor can provide evidence that proves that the increased pain was a result of your military service, then you may be eligible for VA disability benefits.
Keep in mind, when submitting evidence to the Veteran’s Administration, your doctor cannot merely imply that your pre-existing condition occurred before you began active military duty. They must provide clear and unmistakable evidence that confirms it through detailed medical records and other documentation.
Common Pre-existing Conditions Aggravated by Military Duty
There are numerous conditions that the VA considers to be pre-existing. These include mental and physical health conditions, such as:
- Knee injuries
- Flat Feet
- Muscle injuries
- Herniated discs
- Anxiety and depression
- Chronic pain disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Infectious diseases
- Heart conditions
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Genetic diseases
- Bone fractures
- Neck pain
- Sleeping disorders
There are several duty-related events that can agitate these conditions, such as physical exertion, dust inhalation, and exposure to environmental toxins. Contaminated water, as well as exposure to extreme temperatures and noise, can also worsen pre-existing conditions.
How to File for Veteran Benefits
If you want to file for disability compensation, there are a few things you can do. One of the easiest ways to file is to submit an online claim through the VA’s eBenefits portal. This can be done by registering an account, filling out the required forms, and attaching any supporting documents that may be necessary.
You can also file by mail or in person at your local VA Regional Office. If you decide to mail your claim, it goes to:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444
What to Expect After Filing for Veteran Benefits
It generally takes the VA around 102 days to make a decision on an initial disability claim. During this time, the VA will review your application and contact you for any additional information that may be needed.
If you submit it online, the VA website will give you a confirmation message letting you know that your submission was received. If you mail it, they’ll send you a letter.
During the decision-making process, they’ll be busy gathering evidence from multiple sources. The next phase is the review process, where they analyze the evidence they’ve gathered.
Once a decision has been made, they’ll reach out to you with the results, either through mail or electronically. If your claim is approved, you’ll receive compensation for disability benefits and any additional benefits you may be eligible for.
If you get a denial, you have the right to appeal their decision.
Get Help With Obtaining Veteran Benefits
If you have a pre-existing condition, and you want to increase your chances of getting veteran disability benefits, we can help you. At Veterans Educating Veterans, we’ll coach you through the VA claims process. We understand how much of a hassle it is, so we’ll stick by you every step of the way and provide helpful tips.
To contact us, call 551-399-1342, or contact us online to get started. We look forward to assisting you!