The Three Elements of Service Connection

Service connection means that a veteran’s disability or death was incurred during or aggravated by their military service. In order to establish a direct service connection, veterans must show evidence of:

  1. A current diagnosed disability;
  2. An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
  3. A medical nexus between the current disability and the in-service event, injury, or illness.

Element 1: Current, Diagnosed Disability

For the purposes of the VA, a disability is any disease or injury incurred in service that causes a decrease in earning capacity. The VA does not consider all diseases eligible for service connection, such as congenital or hereditary diseases and conditions caused by a veteran’s own willful misconduct.

The easiest way to show proof of a disability is through a current diagnosis reported in medical records. However, veterans may be eligible for service connection even without a current diagnosis; for example, veterans with chronic pain which prevents them from working may be eligible for service connection if medical evidence supports it.

Diagnoses must be current in order to qualify for VA disability compensation. Disabilities caused by service that have healed and no longer impair a veteran’s earning capacity are not eligible for VA compensation.

Element 2: In-Service Event, Injury, or Illness

The second element of service connection is an in-service event, injury, or illness that occurred while on active duty. The event does not have to be from a combat situation; any illness, injury, or event that arose during active duty military service can be eligible for a disability rating.

Any disability that arose due to a veteran’s own willful misconduct does not qualify for VA benefits. Willful misconduct is “an act involving conscious wrongdoing or known prohibited action.”

How to prove it?

The best forms of evidence are service treatment records and service records. Service treatment records will have documentation of any injury or illness for which someone was treated while on active duty.

If these records are not available lay statements from the veteran couples with buddy statements from those who served with them and witnesses the event can be particularly helpful.

Element 3: Medical Nexus

A medical nexus is a link between a veteran’s current disability and the event, injury, or illness during service. The best way to establish this is through medical evidence. A statement from a veteran’s doctor stating that their condition was “at least as likely as not” caused by military service can be a very strong piece of evidence.

As a part of the VA’s duty to assist, the VA will schedule a medical examination to assess the severity and origin of the veteran’s condition. The findings of this exam may help establish a medical nexus. A veteran can also bring the report to another medical professional for a second opinion.

Veterans Help Group have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you or a loved one served, and suffer from a service-connected disability, we are here to help. Call Veterans Help Group at 855-855-8992 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.

More Articles

The Importance of Documentation: Gathering Evidence for a PTSD VA Disability Claim

The Importance of Documentation: Gathering Evidence for a PTSD VA Disability Claim Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most common reasons veterans receive VA disability benefits. In 2022, 1,343,669 veterans were receiving benefits for service-connected PTSD....

How to Win Your PTSD Claim

How to Win Your PTSD Claim - Donnel Beckles, Managing VA Advocate, Veterans Help Group Donnel Beckles is a top Veterans Advocate, and a member of the National Organization for Veterans Advocates. Donnel is accredited to practice...

PTSD and Veterans: Understanding the 100% Disability Rating Requirements

PTSD and Veterans: Understanding the 100% Disability Rating Requirements Post-traumatic stress disorder is common among veterans, and many veterans receive veterans disability benefits for the condition. However, most are rated less than 100% disabled. The standard...

What Causes PTSD to be Triggered in Veterans?

In the past 15 years, the estimated number of veterans who have been diagnosed with PTSD currently numbers more than 500,000. As many as 60,000 of these veterans are Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Estimates show more than 20% to 30% of veterans...


"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.