Individuals enlisting in the armed forces committed to serving their country often jeopardize their lives to protect our freedom. Unfortunately, many veterans develop service-related conditions during their military service.
These conditions can range from physical injuries to mental health issues, significantly impacting a veteran’s quality of life.
According to recent statistics, there are over 18 million veterans in the U.S., with over 9 million enrolled in the VA healthcare system. Of these veterans, around 26% have service-connected disabilities.
Claiming a service-related condition can be a daunting task. However, with the proper guidance and support, you can navigate the claims process and get the compensation you deserve.
Now let’s explore the factors one should consider before claiming a service-related condition.
What is a Service-Related Condition?
A service-related condition refers to any physical or mental health issue caused or aggravated by a veteran’s military service. It may include PTSD, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury (TBI), hearing loss, combat injuries or strains, and specific conditions due to exposure to hazardous materials. One such rare condition is mesothelioma, caused by consistent exposure to asbestos.
The widespread use of asbestos in military vehicles, aircraft, and buildings has put veterans at an increased risk of developing mesothelioma.
Hence, you could be eligible for compensation if you receive a mesothelioma diagnosis. Today, several dedicated organizations are assisting mesothelioma veterans and their families to find resources and information to help them navigate and receive the support they need during this difficult time.
Understand Your Eligibility and Claims Process
Veterans must meet specific requirements to be eligible for compensation for a service-related condition. To begin with, eligibility requires serving in military service on active or inactive status. Secondly, veterans must have a diagnosed medical condition related to their military service. Lastly, they must have an honorable or general discharge from the military.
The first step in the claims process is to submit a claim to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VA will then review the claim and may request additional evidence or information from the veteran. Once all documentation is gathered, the VA will decide on the claim.
If established that the condition is service-related, the VA will assign a disability rating, determining the veteran’s eligible compensation. If the claim is denied, the veteran can appeal the decision. It may involve submitting additional evidence or attending a hearing to present their case.
Find the Right Legal Assistance
Working with a knowledgeable attorney or the right legal team can significantly affect the outcome of a veteran’s claim. An experienced attorney can help veterans navigate the complexities of the claims process, gather the necessary evidence, and increase their chances of receiving the compensation they deserve.
When seeking legal assistance, veterans should seek attorneys or law firms with sound knowledge about VA claims and experience working with veterans and service-related conditions.
One way to find a reputable attorney is to ask for recommendations from other veterans who have gone through the claims process. Veterans can also search for attorneys through the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) or the VA’s Office of General Counsel.
Gather Medical Evidence
Medical evidence is crucial for demonstrating the connection between the condition and the veteran’s military service when claiming a service-related condition. A few tests and procedures that can be used as medical evidence in support of a claim for a service-related condition are:
- X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans
- Blood tests or other lab work to demonstrate abnormalities or irregularities that are consistent with a particular condition.
- Biopsy results.
- Physical therapy or rehabilitation records to show ongoing treatment for a particular condition.
- Written statements or reports from medical professionals who have treated the veteran for their condition.
Veterans must gather as much medical evidence as possible to support their claims. The more evidence available, the stronger the case for a service-related condition.
One of the best ways to gather medical evidence is to request copies of medical records from any healthcare provider (military or private) the veteran has seen. Veterans should also record any symptoms of their condition as evidence to support their claim.
Identify the Source of Exposure
A critical step in making a successful claim is identifying the source of exposure that led to the development of the condition. It may include exposure to certain hazardous chemicals or materials or other environmental factors commonly associated with the veteran’s particular branch of service.
It can be challenging, mainly if the condition developed years after the veteran’s service.
Identifying the source of exposure can involve carefully reviewing the veteran’s military service history, including their duty stations, job responsibilities, and any environmental hazards they were exposed to. Such information can also be obtained through military records and speaking with other veterans who may have been exposed to similar risks.
Know Your Compensation Options
When claiming a service-related condition, veterans may be eligible for various types of compensation, depending on the nature and severity of their condition. These include:
- Disability Compensation is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to veterans with a service-related disability.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) – It is a tax-free monetary benefit paid to the surviving family (spouse, children, or parents) of a veteran who died due to a service-related disability.
- Special Monthly Compensation – It is a tax-free benefit paid to veterans with specific severe disabilities or conditions, such as loss of limbs or blindness.
- Healthcare Benefits – Veterans with a service-related condition may be eligible for free or reduced-cost healthcare through the VA.
Be Prepared for Potential Challenges
Claiming a service-related condition can be difficult and sometimes frustrating. Here are a few potential challenges that veterans may face:
- To file a claim, veterans may need to work with the VA, which involves navigating a complex bureaucracy and providing extensive documentation to support your claim.
- For a successful claim, sufficient medical evidence is required that often becomes difficult to gather.
- For a successful claim, you must provide complete and accurate personal information, military service information, or medical information. Failing to provide accurate information can delay the processing of the claim or a denial of benefits.
- Dealing with a lawsuit can be emotionally challenging, causing mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
Veterans suffering from a service-related condition have a right to get compensation, but navigating the legal system alone can be difficult. However, with persistence, a better understanding of the legal process, and the proper support, veterans can increase their chances of success and receive the compensation they deserve. We encourage all veterans who believe they may have a service-related condition to explore their options and utilize the available resources. We must support and care for those who bravely served our country.
Alex is fascinated with “understanding” people. It’s actually what drives everything he does. He believes in a thoughtful exploration of how you shape your thoughts, experience of the world.