There are five criteria to establish service-connection for a disability. Each criteria is based on a specific legislation section contained in “The Code of the Laws of the United States of America, Title 38-Veterans’ Benefits.” To qualify for a service-connected disability rating, your claim must meet one of the five criteria which is referenced in 38 U.S.C. 101 (16).

Per 38 U.S.C. 101 (16), “the term service-connected means, with respect to disability or death, that such disability was incurred or aggravated, or that the death resulted from a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty in the active military, naval, or air service.” It is important when filing your claim to present your claim correctly.

The five criteria for establishing service-connection of a disability are:

  1. Direct service-connection as established in 38 CFR 3.303 states that, “Service connection… means that the facts, shown by evidence, established that a particular injury or disease resulting in disability was incurred coincident with service in the Armed Forces, or if preexisting, such service, was aggravated therein.”
  2. Aggravation of a Condition during Service is defined in 38 CFR 3.306 which states, “A preexisting injury or disease will be considered to have been aggravated by active military, naval, or air service, where there is an increase in the disability during such service, unless there is a specific-finding that the increase in disability is due to the natural progress of the disease.”
  3. Proximity, according to 38 CFR 3.30, “disability is due to or the result of a service-connected disease or injury shall be service connected.   When service connection is thus established for a secondary condition, the secondary condition shall be considered a part of the original condition”   Examples of Proximate result of the service connected injury are “….(c) Cardiovascular disease developing from a veteran who has a service-connected amputation of one lower extremity at or above the knee….shall be held to be the proximate result of the service-connected amputation ….(d) Traumatic brain injury service-connection, the following shall be the proximate result of the service connected brain injury: (i) Parkinsonism…(ii) Unprovoked seizures… (iii) Dementias… (iv) Depression… (v) Diseases of hormone deficiencies.”
  4. Disability was caused by medical care or vocational rehabilitation provided by the Department of Veteran Affairs and such disabilities are treated as service-connected conditions.
  5. Statutory Presumptive Service-Connection gives the VA authority to bypass the first four criteria and grant disability compensation based on 38 CFR 3.307, 38 CFR 3.309, 38 CFR 3.310 and 38 CFR 3.311. This group of legal regulations establish service-connection for “chronic diseases as incurred in or aggravated by service if manifested to a compensable degree within the applicable time limits….” even though there is no evidence of such diseases during the service period. Presumptive Service-Connection is for a chronic, topical, prisoner of war related disease, or a disease associated with exposure to certain Herbicide agents…”   “…diseases specific to radiation-exposed veterans…” and “Claims based on exposure to ionizing radiation…”