PRESUMPTIVE SERVICE CONNECTED DISEASES

WHAT ARE PRESUMPTIVE SERVICE-CONNECTED DISEASES?

There are some chronic diseases that a veteran may be “presumptively” entitled to if the disease showed up, to a certain degree within a specified timeframe after the veteran’s period of service.

Once the disabled veteran proves that he/she has one of the below listed diseases, then that veteran will be entitled to “service connected” disability benefits.

The VA has acknowledged that if a veteran develops certain typical signs and symptoms of a long-term disease, within one year following discharge from service, it is more likely than not that the veteran had the condition in service.  Therefore, for the presumption to apply, the veteran does not need to have service treatment records showing he was treated for the condition, only that he does have one of these condition within the time and to the degree specified by the VA.  

There are currently 41 diseases that are considered “presumptive” for the purpose of proving a “service connected” disability and then receive your veterans disability benefits.

You can find the current list of these diseases HERE.

There are currently 41 illnesses and/or diseases that are considered “presumptive” for the purpose of proving a “service connected” disability and get your veterans disability benefits.

Some of the more common disease are:

• primary anemia

• arteriosclerosis

• arthritis

• cirrhosis of the liver

• hypertension

• gall stones or kidney stones

• diabetes mellitus

• epilepsies

• lupus

• organic diseases of the nervous system

• Raynaud’s disease

• Sarcoidosis

• multiple sclerosis

• active tuberculosis

• Ischemic Heart Disease

• gastric ulcers or duodenal ulcers

 

As mentioned above, the symptoms associated with the disease must show up to a degree of 10 percent or more within one year from the date of separation from service in order for the presumption to apply.  However, there are three exceptions to this “general rule”.  These are: Tuberculosis and leprosy which have extended periods of three years, and multiple sclerosis (MS) which is seven years.  The condition must meet the 10 percent threshold of impairment based on the VA disability ratings of diseases.

The symptoms of the diseases must be documented by a medical professional and a definitive diagnosis must be made within a reasonable timeframe.  This presumption helps veterans who may or may not have had symptoms in service because they do not have to show proof that the condition began in service.  It also helps those that failed to seek immediate medical attention for their symptoms until a couple of years after separation from service.

If a veteran develops symptoms associated with one of the chronic diseases listed in the Statute mentioned above, and is diagnosed within the presumptive period, then they will be granted presumptive service connected disability benefits.  However, there are many times when the veteran has a current disability, but it was not diagnosed within the presumptive period, what happens then?

After discharge, a lot of veteran’s attribute many symptoms to nothing more than them just readjusting to “civilian” life.  In this change, the veteran may have changes in foods and eating habits, adjustment to sleep patterns, and even abrupt change in weather.  All of these changes can cause severe problems with the digestive system, nervous system, and immunological system.  Luckily, for most veterans, these symptoms do improve and you can move forward with their life.  For many others, the symptoms may come and go until they become “chronic” (continuing), and ultimately end up with a definite diagnosis of a disease.  Proof of symptoms can be confirmed by acceptable medical evidence, but it can also be confirmed by lay evidence (buddy statements, family and friend statements, ect…).

For example, the 10 percent rating requirement for primary iron-deficiency or primary pernicious anemia, that is, anemia that has not developed secondary to an existing or known cause, is: Hemoglobin 10gm/100ml or less with findings such as weakness, easy fatigability or headaches.  In this case, lab work is required to show the hemoglobin value.  However, a “lay person” can easily describe characteristics of the condition in the veteran such as lethargy, inability to complete a task due to fatigue, excessive sleep, or frequent complaints of headaches.

Another example is Raynaud’s disease.  Raynaud’s disease causes your fingers and toes to feel numb and cold in response to cold temperature and stress.  It can also affect the nose, lips, ears, and even nipples.  Raynaud’s disease can arise secondary to an underlying medical condition. It can also occur on its own. The Statue does not specify whether presumption applies to primary or secondary Raynaud’s disease; therefore, you should be encouraged to apply regardless of the cause.  The 10 percent rating requirement will be met when you experience “characteristic attacks occurring one to three times a week.”

Raynaud’s disease causes the affected areas of the skin to turn white.  Then, they often turn blue and feel cold to the touch.  Once circulation returns, the areas turn red and swell.  These are the visual characteristics of the disease that can be witnessed and commented upon by a lay person.  For these situations, the veteran should obtain written statements from people he/she had served with, co-workers, friends, neighbors, and relatives who can describe the symptoms observed during the presumptive time period.  The use of lay statements can help strengthen your claim for compensation based on the theory of “presumptive service connection” and it is a very powerful tool to have on your side.

 

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