VA Presumptive Service-Connected Disabilities
Category: Veterans Disability Law
Article by Tuley Law staff
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible for compensating disabled veterans who can prove that their time in the military caused their disability. A disabled veteran must present substantial evidence to the VA to be granted service–connection disability, which means that the condition is a direct result of an event or period of time in active military duty. Veterans with conditions that are not service-connected are denied compensation. Some conditions, however, cannot fulfill the typical requirements for service connection.
The VA began to recognize a pattern in the types of disabilities that developed over time in veterans who served in similar circumstances. Many of these disabilities couldn’t meet the requirements for service-connection because they were not present during military service. With a significant number of veterans developing the same conditions in a relatively close time frame, the VA decided to create a list of disabilities that were likely caused by military service but did not need to be proven. This is called the VA Presumptive List.
What is a Presumptive Condition?
The VA Presumptive list is filled with presumptive conditions that veterans can receive compensation for. A presumptive condition is any disability or illness that the VA presumes to be caused by military service. To qualify for the VA presumptive list, a veteran must have served at least 90 continuous days of active service unless otherwise specified.
All conditions on this list will automatically be considered service-connected unless there is clear evidence that it was not caused by service. For example, typically, a brain hemorrhage that develops 12 months after military service is presumed to be connected. However, if the individual was in a car accident 3 months after leaving the military, which clearly caused a head injury that led to the brain hemorrhage, the condition will not likely be service-connected.
Presumptive Disability VA Ratings
Certain conditions on the VA Presumptive List have specific parameters to be eligible for compensation. For example, a condition may need to meet the requirements for a 10% disability rating under its respective criteria within one year of exposure if the veteran is to receive benefits.
While some of these may not be diagnosed until after the window of exposure has passed, if the veteran can prove that the condition had reached a certain manifestation during the given window, they may still be eligible for disability benefits.
VA Presumptive List of Post-Discharge Chronic Diseases
The first category of presumptive conditions that the VA addresses in their list is chronic diseases that present themselves or are diagnosed after military discharge. The term “chronic” implies that a disease was not suddenly caused by something unrelated to military service.
The following diseases are granted service connection as long as not otherwise incurred or aggravated on the condition that they manifest to a compensable degree (10 percent) within time limits (typically 12 months) following service in a war or peacetime service on or after January 1, 1947.
Here is the first and longest list of VA presumptive conditions:
- Anemia (primary)
- Atrophy (Progressive muscular)
- Brain hemorrhage
- Brain thrombosis
- Calculi of the kidney, bladder, or gallbladder
- Cardiovascular-renal disease (including hypertension)
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Diabetes mellitus
- Encephalitis lethargica residuals
- Endocarditis (This term covers all forms of valvular heart disease)
- Hansen’s disease
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Lupus erythematosus (systemic)
- Myasthenia gravis
- Other organic diseases of the nervous system
- Osteitis deformans (Paget’s disease)
- Palsy (bulbar)
- Paralysis agitans
- Purpura idiopathic (hemorrhagic)
- Raynaud’s disease
- Sclerosis (amyotrophic lateral)
- Sclerosis (multiple)
- Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger’s disease)
- Tuberculosis (active)
- Tumors, malignant, or of the brain or spinal cord or peripheral nerves
Post-discharge chronic diseases are not specific to any one military conflict or event, making them some of the easier presumptive conditions to claim.
VA Presumptive List of Tropical Diseases
Depending on the location in which a veteran served, they may qualify for certain presumptive conditions associated with that location. As long as a tropical disease manifests to 10 percent within 12 months of serving in that tropical location, the illness or disease will be considered service-connected.
The VA presumptive list of tropical diseases which are considered service-connected is as follows:
- Blackwater fever
- Leishmaniasis (including kala-azar)
- Oroya fever
- Yellow fever
- Any disorders that result from these diseases or originate due to the administered therapy/treatment
Some of these diseases are known to have periods of incubation after infection and before symptoms in which the veteran may not know they have the disease. For the illnesses that are medically known to have a lengthy incubation period beyond the 12-month limit, they will still be considered service-connected.
VA Presumptive List for Prisoners of War
Prisoners of War (POWs) are individuals that were at some point captured and held by the enemy during a conflict. These individuals can experience extremely traumatic events, prolonged emotional responses, and sometimes physical torture.
Due to these factors, the 90-day rule does not apply here. POWs receive these presumptive conditions regardless of the amount of time they served. The only thing that matters is the time imprisoned. There are two separate lists for POWs. For the first one, conditions can be claimed if they were held at all. For the second list, they must have been held for at least 30 days to qualify for compensation.
List of presumptive conditions for POWs that were held for any length of time:
- Cold injury
- Stroke and complications
- Heart disease and complications
- Post-traumatic osteoarthritis
- Osteoporosis (if the veteran has PTSD)
- Dysthymic Disorder
- Any anxiety disorders
- Chronic depression
List of presumptive conditions for POWs that were held for at least 30 days:
- Any other nutritional deficiency
- Chronic dysentery
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Liver cirrhosis
- Peptic ulcers
- Peripheral neuropathy
These conditions qualify once they manifest to a 10 percent disability rating at any time after military service ends.
Veterans Exposed to Radiation VA Presumptive List
Exposure to radiation can cause a variety of issues later in life and therefore have no specific time frame for development. The following conditions are presumed to be service-connected if they manifest at any time to any degree in a veteran that served during specific instances:
- Thyroid cancer
- Breast cancer
- Pharynx cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Stomach cancer
- Small intestine cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Lymphomas (aside from Hodgkin’s disease)
- Bile duct cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Primary liver cancer (unless the individual has cirrhosis or hepatitis B)
- Salivary gland cancer
- Genitourinary cancer
- Bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma
- Bone cancer
- Brain cancer
- Colon cancer
- Lung cancer
- Ovarian cancer
If a veteran develops one of these conditions after participating in a radiation-risk activity, it may be presumed service-connected. There are multiple situations that qualify as radiation-risk activities, including:
- A veteran was within 10 miles of either Nagasaki or Hiroshima between August 6, 1945, and July 1, 1946.
- A veteran was a prisoner of war in Japan within at least 75 miles of Hiroshima, or 150 miles of Nagasaki, worked in those areas, or were repatriated through Nagasaki between August 6, 1945, and July 1, 1946.
- A veteran participated in onsite nuclear testing. This includes presence at the test site, on an aircraft, ship or equipment supporting the test within 6 months after the test. Or the veteran helped decontaminate the used equipment.
- The veteran was exposed to radiation from nuclear tests underground on Amchitka Island in Arkansas before January 1, 1974.
- The veteran served in forces at Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands between any of the following dates: June 21 1951-July 1 1952, August 7 1956-August 7 1957, or November 1 1958-April 30 1959.
- The veteran was monitored with a dosimetry badge that measured radiation at the gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, or K25 at Oak Ridge, TN for 250 days or more before February 1, 1992.
- The veteran performed a job with equivalent exposure to a dosimetry badge monitor on the gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah, KY, Portsmouth, OH, or K25 at Oak Ridge, TN for 250 days or more before February 1, 1992.
Beyond this radiation, there are also other chemicals that can cause presumptive conditions.
Herbicide Exposure and Agent Orange Presumptive Conditions List
During the Vietnam War, there was a multitude of herbicides used in support of military operations — the most notorious was Agent Orage. For veterans that served between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, in the Republic of Vietnam, the following disease are presumed to be VA service-connected:
- AL amyloidosis
- All chronic B cell leukemias
- Chloracne or other acneiform disease consistent with chloracne
- Diabetes mellitus (Type II)
- Early onset peripheral neuropathy
- Hodgkin’s disease
- Ischemic heart disease (including myocardial infarctions and coronary diseases)
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Prostate cancer
- Respiratory cancers
- Soft-tissue sarcomas
There are also certain children’s defects presumed to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange, including:
- Spina bifida
- Birth defects in the children of female veterans
Presumptive Conditions for Camp Lejeune Veterans
Camp Lejeune was a U.S. Marine Corps Base in North Carolina where the drinking water had been contaminated with unhealthy chemicals, including industrial solvents and benzene. The VA established a presumptive list for service members who lived there or were exposed to the water supply between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
The VA presumptive list for veterans that were exposed at Camp Lejeune includes these eight conditions:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia (and other myelodysplastic syndromes)
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
If you develop any of these conditions, you will not likely have to prove their service connection to receive compensation.
Tuley Law Office
Understanding VA disability benefits is important if you or a loved one is dealing with residual conditions from active service in the military. If you’d like to know more or require the help of an experienced VA disability attorney, contact Tuley Law Office to schedule a consultation today.
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