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What is Service Connection?

Service Connection

A veteran is entitled to compensation for disabilities incurred in or aggravated during active service.  38 U.S.C. 1110.  The condition does not need to have arisen from the performance of duties. An injury sustained while playing basketball off duty, for example, is compensable, as long as it ocurred during an active period of service.  The exception to this general rule is that conditions resulting from misconduct are not compensable. 

Service connection of a condition requires

  • Evidence of a current disability, and
  •  Evidence of an incident, injury, or event during the period of the veteran's active military service, and
  • Evidence of a link between the current disability and the in-service incident, injury, or event.

 The linkage between a current condition and something that happened or was evident during service is often called the “nexus” requirement.  The standard of proof in establishing a nexus is favorable for veterans.  The veteran must show only that it is “at least as likely as not” that there is a nexus and that the condition is service-connected. 

Example:  A forty-year-old veteran files a claim for disability compensation for arthritis of the left knee, which he injured five years earlier during service as a paratrooper.  An orthopaedist reviews the treatment records dating back to the in-service injury and opines that it is at least as likely as not that the knee injury during service caused the development of arthritis after discharge from the service.  This “nexus” opinion is evidence that might be found to satisfy the “at least as likely as not” standard of proof. 

 Secondary Service Connection

If a veteran has a service-connected disability that causes another disability after discharge from service, that disability can also be service connected.  For example, a veteran with a service-connected low back problem may develop depression as a result of chronic pain.  The depression can be service connected because it is secondary to the low back condition.

Excluded Conditions

The following may not be service-connected:

  • ·       Personality disorder
  • ·       Refractive error of the eye
  • ·       Diseases caused by smoking
  • ·       Conditions that arise from misconduct
  • ·       Disease that pre-existed service, if not aggravated during service