Generally, the veteran must have been “discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.” 38 U.S.C. § 101(2); 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(d). The military’s discharge characterizations do not correspond to the VA’s definition, therefore if you see a strange discharge description on your DD-214 you should consult your Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM). Disability is defined as an impairment in earning capacity. Allen v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 439 (1995). The veteran must prove that they have a current disability, diagnosis, or current disabling residuals from a disease or injury. Service-connected means that the claimed disability was incurred or aggravated in line of duty in active military, naval, or air service. Ferenc v. Nicholson 20 Vet. App. 58, (2006). The veteran must show at least a 50% chance of incurrence, occurrence, or aggravation of a disease or injury during service. This may be established by medical or, in some circumstances, lay evidence. You must show a link between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the present disability. The VA compensates service-connected diagnosis whether the diagnosis arises as a direct result of your military service or is secondarily related to your military service. For example, if you lost your leg while serving in Iraq, this would be a direct service-connected loss. If you became depressed as a result of your amputated leg, this would be a secondary service-connected diagnosis.
The VA has a schedule of ratings of reductions in earning capacity attributable to specific injuries or conditions. The ratings are based on the “average impairments of earning capacity resulting from such injuries in civil occupations.” The schedule allows for 10 possible ratings ranging, by tens, from 0%-100%. If there is a question as to which rating the VA should assign to the disability, the veteran is entitled to the higher rating. See Caffrey v. Brown, 6 Vet. App. 377, 383 (1994). Sometimes you will receive a rating of 0% service connection. Although you will not receive any compensation for a 0% rating, you have cleared the service-connection hurdle and can appeal for a higher rating.
If you have been denied benefits or you feel you have received an unjust disability rating, the most important thing to remember is… ALWAYS file an APPEAL! You NEVER want to start a new application because you will put yourself back at square one. The closer you are to hearing in front of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA), the better. This means you will have the opportunity to present an argument on why your claim should be approved. We recommend having an experienced disability representative or advocate by your side from the start. An experienced representative or advocate will save you a lot of time and aggravation. If travelling or sitting for hours is difficult for you, The Disability Help Group can help. Contact our group of trained legal assistants – we will evaluate your claim for FREE! If we take your case, we will file your claim for you.