‘Legal Presumption’ Of Disability for Vets, Former POWs

This guest post is brought to you by Terry Duschinski, a former journalist, turned advocate for disabled Vet’s. (If you’re interested in contributing a guest post, please see our guest posting guidelines.)

Acquiring disability benefits from the United States Veterans Administration is easier if there is a “legal presumption” that your affliction stems from your military service, which in many cases depends on the nature of the illness.

Certain chronic diseases are more easily accepted for a legal presumption of military service origin. It’s a lengthy list.

The Chronic Diseases List

Included are numerous forms of cancer along with:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Epilepsy

Tropical diseases are common maladies in the geographic location of military service, such as:

  • Yellow fever
  • Dysentery
  • Cholera

Presumptive Period

Texas disability lawyers, a firm that provides a free ebook on veterans’ disability benefits, explained that veterans need to show that “the condition manifested to a degree of at least 10% no more then one year after their active service ended to be able to apply for service connection based on legal presumption for their VA claims. If you were diagnosed and treated with a chronic condition within the presumptive period your case will be fairly clear cut and should be simple to obtain the service connection by legal presumption.”1

Presumption Primer

A presumption relieves the burden of supplying medical proof in the VA claims process. Actually, so long as the claimant suffers from the condition at the time the claim is filed, the claim can be overturned only if the government proves there is no connection, which signifies a shift in the burden of proof.  This is like presumption of innocence in criminal law. Here your claim is presumed legitimate until and unless the government proves otherwise, if it chooses to attempt to do so.

Presumptions streamline the adjudication process.

Other Presumptions

There are several types of presumptions, too. For instance, you’re presumed to be physically sound upon entering the military unless medical problems are specifically noted at the time of entry. But if you suffer from a noted pre-existing condition and it worsens during service, it’s presumed the service aggravated the condition.  Again, however, this presumption can be overturned if the government proves worsening of the condition was due to a natural progression of the disease.

Presumptions for Former POWs

Regardless of time held captive, former prisoners of war are presumed service-connected for the following conditions:2

  • Osteoporosis (on or after October 10, 2008, if the POW has PTSD)
  • Neuro-Psychiatric conditions
  • Traumatic arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Cold injury
  • Stroke

If held for more than 30 days, the following additional conditions are also presumed service connected:

  • Osteoporosis (on or after September 28, 2009)
  • Peripheral Neuropathy
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Digestive disorders
  • Helminthiasis

Non-service Disability Pension

You can collect your VA pension earlier than age 65 if you become permanently or totally disabled, even if the disability is not connected to your military service. A report prepared in March 2006 for the Veterans’ Disability Benefits Commission3 explained that:

“…veterans may be presumed to be permanently and totally disabled if  they are patients in nursing homes for long-term care because of disability, if they have been determined disabled for purposes of  Social Security benefits, or if they are determined to be unemployable as a result of disability reasonably certain to continue throughout their life.”

Given its Teflon coating through the bureaucratic machinery, legal presumption should always be examined as a first resort for VA benefits applicants.

As a former journalist, Terry Duschinski blogs on a variety of matters utilizing relevant information resources. He relied heavily upon the  Texas disability lawyers, Marc Whitehead & Associates, in preparing this report on Veterans and disability conditions they experience.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fortwainwright/7242490288/


2 https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-pow.asp


The Military Guide was founded by retired Navy Officer, Doug Nordman, author of the book, The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement. The goal of this site is to help you to use your military and veterans benefits to make better informed financial decisions. Thank you for your service!

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