Do I Get a Special VA Presumption for Combat?

People not familiar with VA disability claims may find it strange that combat veterans sometimes lose their VA disability claims while non-combat veterans may win their claims for the same disabilities.  The reason for this is a difference in what evidence may be in the claims file of those two different types of veterans.

The good news is that these denials can often be appealed and won by forcing VA to apply what is known as the combat presumption.  This presumption can be key to proving the second element for service connection of a disability: an in service occurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury.  If the other elements of the claim are present, this presumption may be the difference between winning and losing your claim for service connection.

Gulf war 1 Why have a combat presumption?

The purpose of the presumption is not to give a special preference to those who fought over those who did not.  Instead, it is really intended to level the playing field.

To understand what the combat presumption is, it is important to understand why it exists.  Any veteran who was engaged in combat knows that military record keeping during combat periods is usually deficient compared to non-combat periods.

Combat records often do not get created in the first place.  Other times, the records are incomplete, lost, or destroyed.  If an entire brigade’s records can go missing, then it goes without saying that yours can too.

When it comes to establishing that a particular event or injury occurred in combat, that can be especially problematic since only the more serious or noteworthy events are put in writing.  What may have seemed not that important at the time may be extremely important in your claim later on.

This makes it difficult for you, the combat veteran, to provide any military records to support your version of what happened that led to your injury or disease.  Fortunately, the law recognizes this difficulty and intends to give special treatment under VA law if you are claiming service connection for a combat related condition.

How does the combat presumption work?

The combat presumption lowers the burden on the veteran to show that what he says happened in service actually happened in service.  In deciding this particular element of the claim, the VA “shall accept as sufficient proof…satisfactory lay or other evidence of service incurrence or aggravation of such injury or disease, if consistent with the circumstances, condition, or hardship of such service, notwithstanding the fact that there is no official record of such incurrence or aggravation in service, and, to that end, shall resolve every reasonable doubt in favor of the veteran.”  38 U.S.C. § 1154(b).

Furthermore, even if the medical records that may exist do not document the alleged disease or injury, the absence of a specific mention of the alleged incident cannot be used against the veteran to conclude the in service event did not occur.

Does The Combat Presumption Mean Automatic Service Connection?

No.  The combat presumption only addresses one element of your VA claim for service connection of a particular disability: the in service occurrence or aggravation of a disease of injury.  To win your claim, you must still prove a current disability and a nexus between the combat-related event and that disability.

After all, the lack of combat medical records has no bearing on proving your current condition or a medical nexus between the event and disability.  The combat presumption is only in place to level the playing field for combat veterans lacking the usual service treatment records of their injuries.

While the combat presumption does not automatically win your VA disability claim for you, it pushes you much closer to that goal line.  If you are a combat veteran who has been denied service connection for combat-related injuries, you may want to talk to one of our VA-accredited attorneys to see if the VA applied this presumption.    If not, we can help appeal to make VA apply this presumption and get you the VA benefits you deserve.

We would be happy to schedule a free consultation with you to answer questions that you might have.  To set one up, just complete and submit the form on this page or call us at (770) 214-8885.

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.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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