When Your VA Claim Is Denied for Not Being Service-Connected: What to Do?

VA denies more claims each year than you may think, and one of the prime reasons behind that is a lack of evidence of service connection. To understand it in more detail, you need to know the point of VA compensations and what service connection means.

Remember that many veterans file claims to the VA for disability compensation while they are often unable to sustain a proper financial status. Moreover, these benefits are rights to them for the health conditions they sacrificed for their service.

Today’s article touches upon the matter of the VA’s denial of the veteran’s condition not being service-connected and what to do if it happens.

What Is Service-Connection and Why Is It Important

VA provides monthly disability payments and other benefits to veterans with disabilities. However, the point is that the veterans deserve them for what their service did to their health. As such, one of the primary criteria for getting VA benefits is your disability to be service-related.

Service connection means a veteran’s disability, whether physical or mental, happened due to any event, exposure, injury, or other things during their service, directly or indirectly. Here, indirectly means secondary service-connection when a primary service-related condition causes or aggravates another.

As such, when the VA fails to find any relation between your service and your disability, they may deny your compensation claim. It can happen because of two reasons-

  • You failed to provide a valid and up-to-date medical report from a doctor with a Nexus letter. We will explain the letter later. You can also use an eligibility review from VA Disability Coach as part of your evidence.
  • You failed to provide documents related to your service, including your military treatment record, military records, or reports of any injury or exposure you had during the service. Usually, it is VA’s duty to collect them, but they may not be able to gather everything. So, you should take the initiative if possible.

While not mandatory, one or more written buddy letters from fellow veterans can help strengthen your claim by being a valuable proof of service connection.

What Is a Nexus Letter and Why Is It Necessary

A nexus letter is a critical piece of evidence in establishing a service connection for your disability. In simpler words, it is a letter from your doctor who checked and reported your medical condition. The letter describes how any particular event during your service could’ve caused that disability.

So, when your doctor says that it is possible for any event during your service to cause your condition, the VA takes that as a service connection. You must provide your doctor with the relevant details about your service for them to write the letter.

It can be any injury or exposure records or your military treatment report. Your physician may also ask you for specific details, which you should provide accordingly.

The Importance of Providing the Necessary Evidence When Filing Your Claim

When you file a claim and a Veteran Service Representative (VSR) starts reviewing it, they will begin by checking all the evidence you provided with it. Later, if they need any specific proof or can’t find any service connection, they will halt the process for the time being to gather more evidence.

While the VA’s responsibility falls within helping the veteran collect these documents, they often don’t do a good job. Hence, you should know and gather them yourself. Of course, you can hire a VA-accredited attorney to help you in the process.

Once you provide the newly collected documents, the VSR will begin reviewing them again. If they find any lack of evidence, they may halt the process again and request more. This process may continue several times. Repeated failure as such may result in a denial of your claim.

Moreover, each time the VSR halts the process, it often takes a couple of months for them to begin re-evaluating your claim. As a result, it may take a long time for your claim to be granted and for you to start receiving your compensation.

But if you know and provide all the essential evidence from the get-go, the VSR and the VA may approve your claim right away without needing further information. It lessens your waiting time and increases the chance of an accepted claim.

What to Do If the VA Denies Your Claim for Not Being Service-Connected

While it can be frustrating, VA denying your claim is not the end of the story. You can take some steps to have the chance to get the compensation you deserve. Sadly, many veterans don’t know the necessary course of action here. But worry not, as you can try the following options-

  • Going for a Supplemental Claim: A supplemental claim is one to reevaluate and open a previous claim that the VA denied. You either need to have new relevant evidence supporting your statement, or the law must have changed in your favor.

While submitting a supplemental claim, provide ample information regarding your service’s connection to your disability.

  • Go for a Court Appeal: You can pursue an appeal within a year of the VA sending you the denial letter. During the appeal, you may need a VSO or VA-accredited lawyer. The court hearing will involve the Veteran’s Judge reviewing your case from a non-biased and precise angle.

If you have submitted a written Notice of Disagreement (NOD) to the VA, they may send a Statement of Case (SOC) explaining their decision. If you still disagree, you can file a court appeal within 60 days of receiving the SOC.

You can use various information supporting your appeal, including if you were mistreated during your C&P exam or were not allowed to speak properly during a questionnaire. Your lawyer can assist in delivering the proper documents to the court.

Final Note

The VA processes so many claims yearly. They deny a claim for benefits if the disability has nothing to do with the veteran’s service. If there is any service connection, even a little, the veteran may be entitled to some benefits.

So, try to collect all the must-need pieces of documents to hand over to the VA while filing your claim. You can go for a supplemental claim or court appeal if your claim is rejected.