How to Prove Your Disability to VA

You have a disability that you know came from your military service, so you file for VA disability benefits.  After waiting quite a while, you receive a denial from VA saying that you have not demonstrated that you have a “disability”

How do you correct this problem that many veterans face? Much of it comes down to providing the proper documentation for your injury.  Also, you need to provide the evidence in the manner that VA requires.

I am writing this article to provide veterans with several tips to help avoid this problem or to try to correct it on appeal.  I hope you find it helpful.

Man with neck injury and woman reading letter Make sure you have evidence of your disability

First off, you must have evidence of a disability.  From VA’s standpoint, you either have a disability or you do not.  It is a simple yes or no type question.  There is no “in between”.

You will need medical evidence of that disability to present to VA to show that you have a disability.  Be sure and get a medical diagnosis.  Because you need a medical diagnosis, you will want to get a medical professional to give that medical diagnosis.

That medical professional is usually a doctor.  They can be an M.D. or a D.O.  With certain types of disabilities, other medical professionals may also qualify to provide that medical diagnosis for you.  These could include a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse practitioner or maybe even a chiropractor.

Demonstrate that your disability is current

Secondly, you must show that you have a current disability. If you had an injury that caused a disability years ago but you no longer have any problems currently as a result of that disability, you do not have a current disability.

Again, you can only receive disability compensation benefits when you are still disabled. Usually you are applying now so you need to have the disability now.

You can’t say, “Well, I had a disability 10 years ago. I no longer have it, but I want to be paid for that prior period.” It doesn’t work that way in almost every case. Again, your disability must be current. It must be ongoing now.

Injury does not equal disability

The third point I wanted to raise to you is that an injury is not a disability.  Sometimes this is a point of confusion for many veterans.

Getting back to the basics of a VA disability claim and what you have to prove, you need to show:

  1. An in-service event, which is the injury or disease,
  2. A current disability, and
  3. Nexus, or that link between the in-service event and the current disability.

As you can see, your injury and disability are two different things.  But, many veterans get confused on this point.

Examples of when injuries are not necessarily disabilities Light duty job 2

An example that I often see is a veteran who contacts me to file for Agent Orange exposure.  Well, you cannot file a claim for agent orange by itself.

You can file a claim for disabilities that Agent Orange caused, but the exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides is not a disability in and of itself.  That exposure to those chemicals was the injury or the actual in-service event.

Now, you may have disabilities that are related to that VA presumes are related to Agent Orange exposure.  These disability could include heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and a host of others.  But, you need to prove those disabilities through medical evidence or VA will likely deny your claim.

If you do not have one of those disabilities or another that you can prove through medical evidence, then you don’t have a current disability. You have an in-service event.  Again, you need both the in-service event and current disability to qualify for benefits.

Let’s talk about another example.  Assume that you sprained your ankle in service.  You had an injury, but that does not mean you get to claim VA disability benefits now.  You do not get paid benefits just because something happened in service. You still have to suffer from the effects of that in-service event now.


Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

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