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List of VA Presumptive Disabilities: What Veterans Need to Know

December 5, 2023

Navigating the VA benefits system can be complex and overwhelming, especially when it comes to proving the connection between your disability and your military service. However, the VA has implemented a policy that eases this burden for veterans by establishing a list of presumptive disabilities.

By understanding what these conditions are and how they are connected to your service, you can streamline the claims process and increase your chances of a successful outcome. In this article, we will explore VA presumptive disabilities and provide valuable information to help veterans get the most out of the VA program.

Overview of Presumptive Disabilities

Presumptive disabilities represent a significant aspect of the VA's approach to supporting veterans. By acknowledging the inherent risks and exposures associated with military service, the VA simplifies the process for veterans to receive the benefits they need. This policy is particularly important for conditions that may take years to manifest, making it challenging to establish a direct causal link to service. It also reflects a broader understanding of the long-term impacts of military service on veterans' health. 

In essence, this approach not only streamlines the benefits process but also honors the sacrifices veterans have made by presuming their service contributed to specific health issues. This recognition is crucial in ensuring timely and appropriate support for veterans facing health challenges after their service.

List of Common VA Presumptive Disabilities

“VA presumptive disabilities include conditions like chronic illnesses post-discharge, respiratory disorders, and infectious diseases linked to military service.”

The list of common VA presumptive disabilities addresses a wide range of physical and mental health issues, acknowledging the diverse environments and experiences encountered during military service. Understanding these conditions is crucial for veterans seeking benefits, as it provides a clearer path to the support they need.

Exposure to Hazardous Substances

Veterans often encounter various harmful substances during their service. Exposure to these substances can lead to long-term health effects, recognized by the VA as presumptive disabilities.

  • Agent Orange Exposure: Includes conditions like cancer and diabetes, primarily affecting Vietnam War veterans.1

  • Gulf War Illness: Symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain due to exposure to environmental hazards.

  • Radiation Exposure: Encompasses cancer and thyroid diseases from exposure to radiation.

Psychological and Neurological Conditions

Military service can have significant impacts on mental health. This category acknowledges the mental and emotional toll of service, offering support for conditions that often emerge later.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Includes severe anxiety and flashbacks related to traumatic events.

  • Anxiety: Recognized for veterans who develop anxiety due to traumatic experiences during service.

  • Depression: Covers persistent sadness and loss of interest related to service experiences.

Conditions Related to Specific Service Contexts

Certain conditions are directly linked to the unique circumstances of a veteran's military service, such as being a prisoner of war or specific post-service developments.

  • Chronic Illnesses Post-Discharge: Conditions like arthritis and hypertension develop post-discharge.

  • Illnesses from POW Experiences: Includes PTSD and depression due to the trauma of captivity.

Respiratory Conditions

Exposure to certain environments or substances during military service can lead to chronic respiratory issues such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Physical demands and injuries during service can result in long-term musculoskeletal problems, acknowledged by the VA as service-related.

  • Degenerative Arthritis: Associated with injuries during service.

  • Back Injuries: Chronic conditions resulting from service-related physical activities.

Infectious Diseases

Service in certain geographical locations exposes veterans to infectious diseases, which are recognized as service-connected due to the high risk of exposure.

  • Malaria, Tuberculosis, and Other Tropical Diseases: Related to service in areas with these diseases.

  • Hepatitis C: Linked to risk factors such as blood transfusions during service.

Cardiovascular and Endocrine Conditions:

The stress and environmental factors of military service can lead to various heart and hormonal conditions, which are often recognized as service-related.

  • Hypertension: Often linked to high-stress environments.

  • Type 2 Diabetes: Associated with certain service environments and exposures.

Hearing and Vision Loss

The intense noise and visual demands in certain military roles can lead to hearing and vision impairments, which are recognized as connected to service.

  • Hearing Loss and Tinnitus: Due to exposure to loud noises and blasts.

  • Vision Impairment: Resulting from exposure to harmful light or physical trauma.

Skin Conditions

Exposure to harsh environments and chemicals can cause various skin conditions, which are recognized as related to military service.

  • Eczema and Dermatitis: Triggered by environmental and chemical exposures.

  • Psoriasis: Aggravated by stress and environmental factors during service.

How to Apply for VA Disability Benefits

Applying for VA disability benefits involves a structured process that requires attention to detail and thorough preparation. Here's an expanded look at each step in the process:

  1. Gather Documentation:

Collect all records of your military service, including your DD214 or other separation documents, which provide details about your service and discharge status. You should also compile medical records related to your condition, including doctor's reports, hospital records, and treatment histories. This evidence should establish a link between your service and the disability.

Personal or buddy statements are also helpful from yourself, family members, or fellow service members that provide insight into how the condition affects your daily life.

  1. File a Claim

You can file a claim online through the VA’s eBenefits portal or by mailing it to the relevant office. You can also visit the VA regional office in person and submit your application. 

If you require assistance, veterans’ service organizations can help you with preparing and submitting your claim. They can provide valuable guidance and ensure your claim is as strong as possible.

  1. Medical Evaluation

After filing, the VA may request that you attend a Compensation & Pension (C&P) exam. This exam is crucial as it helps the VA assess the severity of your condition.  In some cases, the VA might require additional tests or medical evaluations to fully understand your disability.

  1. VA Decision

The time it takes to receive a VA decision can vary. It depends on factors like the nature of your claim, the need for additional evidence, and the current workload of the VA. Once the authorities have decided, they will send you a written notification. This will include details about the approval or denial of your claim, the disability rating assigned, and the benefits you will receive.

Make sure to review the decision carefully. If your claim is approved, it will include information about your disability rating and the benefits you're entitled to.

If your claim is denied or you disagree with the rating, you have the right to appeal the decision. There are different avenues for appeal, and you may want to seek assistance from a veterans' service organization for this process.2

“The VA periodically updates the list of presumptive disabilities, reflecting new scientific evidence and studies on veterans' health.”

Concluding Thoughts on VA Presumptive Disabilities and Their Impact

The acknowledgment of VA presumptive disabilities by the Department of Veterans Affairs is a significant step towards recognizing and addressing the unique health challenges that veterans face due to their service. These presumptive disabilities encompass a range of conditions that are often a direct result of the sacrifices made during military duty. Veterans suffering from these conditions are strongly encouraged to seek the benefits they are entitled to, as these can be instrumental in managing their health issues and enhancing their quality of life. For assistance in navigating the complexities of VA benefits and understanding more about VA presumptive disabilities, reaching out to the VA or a veterans' service organization is highly recommended.

If you're a veteran dealing with bilateral knee conditions and seeking to understand your VA disability benefits, don't navigate this complex process alone. Take action today by getting insight from our comprehensive guide.

Michael Blair contributes his expertise to help veterans access government benefits and resources. Through his informative articles and guides, he plays a vital role in empowering veterans and improving their quality of life.
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