The Five Ways to Establish a Service Connection

Soldiers in a transport vehicle

In order to receive disability compensation, you must prove that your disability began or was aggravated through your service in the military. There are five ways to establish a service connection:

1. Direct service connection;
2. Service connection through aggravation;
3. Presumptive service connection;
4. Secondary service connection;
5. Service connection for injuries as a result of VA treatment.

1. Direct Service
If the cause of your disability began during your time in the armed forces, rather than an aggravation of an existing injury, this is called a “direct service” connection. This connection is the most common filing. By providing service medical records and medical evaluations, the connection between injury and service may be established.

An example of a direct service connection may be if you suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from being in combat. It should be noted that a direct service connection does not need to occur during combat but must fall within the timeline of enlistment and discharge.

2. Service Connection Through Aggravation
If you previously suffered from a pre-existing condition or injury, you may still be eligible for disability if your condition or injury was aggravated due to your military service. An example of service connection through aggravation is if you had lower back pain prior to entering the military, but during your service it was exacerbated.

3. Presumptive Service Connection
As the name implies, presumptive service connection occurs when VA examiners can reasonably presume an injury or illness has a connection to a veteran’s status. Often times, a presumptive service connection is determined for Prisoners of War (POWs) who have been confined for at least 30 days or for veterans diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to carcinogens during their service.

4. Secondary Service Connection
A secondary service connection occurs when an injury or illness that you received by one of the previous three ways listed (direct, aggravation, presumptive) cause additional symptoms. For example, if you injured your back through direct service and the chronic pain caused depression, your depression may qualify as a secondary connection. In this case, you may be eligible for additional compensation.

For more information on what qualifies as a secondary service connection, click here.

5. Service Connection for Injuries as a Result of VA Care
If you were injured as a result of any form of medical care by the VA, you may be eligible for disability compensation and potentially a civil lawsuit.

If you have more questions about establishing a service connection or need assistance defending your disability claim with confidence, please contact us today at (855) 312-5575.