The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) provides monthly, tax-free compensation to former U.S. military service members who were injured or who suffer from a chronic disability related to their time in service. If you served on active duty or were honorably discharged, and have a service-related condition or injury, you are a candidate for VA Disability benefits. According to the VA, if you are diagnosed with a chronic disease within one year of active duty release, you should apply for disability compensation.
The VA recently added several presumptive conditions to the list of those that qualify for disability benefits. This means that veterans who have these conditions—including those who have applied and been denied in the past—may now qualify for compensation. As veterans who have undertaken the application process know, it can be daunting and time-consuming to complete. Georgia VA Disability lawyers with deep experience in the VA Disability application and appeals policies can help you through the detailed process, and support you as you seek to secure the benefits you are entitled to. The VA Disability lawyers at Affleck & Gordon are experts at advocating on behalf of veterans to secure the benefits that can ensure their financial security. We know how to bolster your claim for service-connected disability benefits, and we stay current on the VA’s requirements and list of qualifying conditions as they are updated.
What is a Presumptive Condition?
A presumptive condition is a medical condition or disability that can be connected to your time in military service. The VA presumes that the unique circumstances of a veteran’s deployment and/or service can cause certain disabilities. In order to determine if a veteran’s medical condition is included among the VA’s list of presumptive conditions, the VA identifies locations, circumstances, and time frames associated with a veteran’s service. If the VA finds that the veteran’s condition meets the criteria specified, the condition is presumed to be service-connected. Veterans must provide documentation of both their medical condition and their presence in specific locations during designated time frames in order to qualify. If a veteran’s application is approved, benefits may be received in the form of compensation (payments) or health care. An experienced VA Disability lawyer is highly knowledgeable about the types of documentation required and can save you time and money by ensuring that you pursue exactly the information the VA is looking for.
Several qualifying presumptive conditions are believed to be caused by exposure to specific environmental hazards. Veterans who had contact with VA-specified environmental hazards while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas, and who have illnesses or other conditions, may qualify. If these medical conditions are believed to be caused by toxic chemicals in the air, water, or soil in a veteran’s location of deployment, that veteran may qualify for disability compensation or benefits. The list of potentially qualifying environmental hazards includes:
- Particulate matter or large burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti
- A large sulfur fire at Mishraq State Sulfur Mine near Mosul, Iraq
- Hexavalent chromium at the Qarmat Ali water treatment plant in Basra, Iraq
- Pollutants from a waste incinerator near the Naval Air Facility at Atsugi, Japan
What Conditions Have Been Added?
The specific conditions that have been added to the list of presumptive conditions include:
In order to qualify for VA disability benefits for these conditions, your symptoms must have begun within ten years of your separation from active military service. Inclusion of these conditions will expand coverage to the following locations and time periods of military service:
- Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, and Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, from September 19, 2001, to the present, or
- Southwest Asia from August 2, 1990, to the present
How Do I Qualify?
If you are a veteran who came into contact with certain environmental hazards while serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas, and you have a listed medical condition, you may qualify for VA disability benefits. To begin the process, you must file a claim with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. You will need to gather and send exhaustive documentation supporting your claim that you came into contact with environmental hazards, including (if this applies to you) information from the Burn Pit Registry. Importantly, if you have a claim already pending regarding one or more of these conditions, you don’t need to do anything more. The VA will send you a decision regarding the status of your claim.
In terms of timing, a post-service claim can be made at any time following your separation from active duty. However, the longer you wait to file your claim, the more challenging it may be to prove the timeline and locations of your exposure to specific environmental hazards. Proving a connection between your exposure and your medical condition can be much more challenging long after the fact. So, particularly if you are planning to make a claim regarding exposure that happened a substantial number of years in the past, legal counsel can help. Lawyers who specialize in VA Disability law understand how to prove the direct connection between exposure to environmental hazards and ongoing medical conditions, whether they occurred recently or in the more distant past. At Affleck & Gordon, veterans can get access to expert Georgia VA Disability Lawyers who are competent to handle these more complex claims.
A post-service claim can be made any time following your separation from active duty. However, the later you file your claim following your service, the more challenging it may be to prove your claims. After all, you are trying to connect the in-service issues to your current medical problems, after the fact. Documenting a recent injury is much more straightforward than substantiating one that occurred decades ago. If you plan to make a claim for injuries sustained during a time in the less-than-recent past, the right legal team can be critical to navigating the system.
Unfortunately, 31% of VA disability claims are denied. If you are one of the many veterans who are denied disability benefits each year, you would likely benefit from advice and support from the right legal team. Experienced VA Disability lawyers can help identify and present legal theories that provide a path to approval amid the multiple steps of application and subsequent appeals. At any point in the application process—whether you have already applied or have yet to do so—a VA Disability lawyer can assist you in understanding what is required to qualify and in gathering the needed documentation. Affleck & Gordon are Georgia’s VA disability lawyers who have years of experience navigating the process of applying for VA disability benefits. They will be happy to help you prove that your condition is tied to your service and that you served in a specified region during a specified time frame.
Affleck & Gordon attorneys are VA accredited and have been serving Georgia’s veterans for over 45 years. Let us help you determine if your medical condition qualifies you for VA disability compensation as defined by the VA’s updated list. We can help you get approved for the VA disability benefits you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation today!
Call Affleck & Gordon at (404) 990-3945.