The Presumption of Sound Condition

“[E]very veteran shall be taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted, and enrolled for service, except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at the time of the examination, acceptance, and enrollment.” 38 U.S.C. § 1111; see also 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(b). Therefore, when no pre-existing medical condition is noted upon entry into service, a veteran is presumed to have been sound in every respect. See Wagner v. Principi, 370 F.3d 1089, 1096 (Fed. Cir. 2004); Bagby v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 225, 227 (1991). The burden then falls on VA to rebut the presumption of soundness by clear and unmistakable evidence that the veteran’s disability was both pre-existing and not aggravated by service. Wagner, 370 F.3d at 1096; Bagby, 1 Vet. App. at 227. Upon entering service, an individual will be presumed sound, “except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at [entry], or where clear and unmistakable evidence demonstrates that the injury or disease existed before [service] and was not aggravated by such service.” 38 U.S.C. §§ 1111, 1132; 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(b). “Clear and unmistakable evidence,” as used in the governing statutes, has been interpreted to mean evidence that “cannot be misinterpreted and misunderstood, i.e., it is undebatable.” Vanerson v. West, 12 Vet. App. 254, 258-59 (1999) (citing definition of “clear and unmistakable error” in Russell v. Principi, 3 Vet. App. 310, 313-14 (1992) (en banc)).

The presumption of soundness is an important legal presumption for veterans who apply for VA disability benefits. To make sure you are taking advantage of all appropriate legal presumptions talk with the Vet Defender. You can schedule a time to talk with the Vet Defender by clicking this link: Schedule an Appointment.