A variety of the benefits sought by disabled veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) require the veteran to establish a connection between the veteran’s present disability and an event that occurred during the veteran’s active duty service. This is called establishing “service-connection.” Following is a list of the types of VA claims that require the veteran/applicant to establish service-connection:

(1) Direct Service Connection – In order to receive service-connected compensation benefits from the VA, a veteran must establish the following: (1) a current disability which has been diagnosed by a medical professional; (2) evidence in the veteran’s military service records of some precipitating disease, injury, or event in service; and, (3) a nexus, or link, or relationship, between the current disability and the in-service disease, injury or event.

(2) Secondary Service Connection – When a veteran previously established that his/her disability was connected to active duty service, and then later develops another medical condition as a result of the service-connected condition, the second condition will also qualify as service-connected, eligible for compensation. A veteran must prove the following to establish a secondary service-connection claim: (1) an existing service-connected condition; (2) a current, second disabling condition; and, (3) a medical opinion that the second condition was caused or aggravated by the direct service-connected condition.

(3) Claims for Increased Ratings for Service-Connected Conditions – The requirements for an increased-rating (“IR”) claim are (1) a currently service-connected condition; and, (2) the veteran’s good faith belief that the condition has become more severe, or more disabling. An IR claim should be submitted whenever a veteran believes that his/her service-connected impairment has become more disabling.

(4) Claims for Total Disability Based On Individual Unemployability – Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (“TDIU” or “IU”) refers to veterans who receive compensation benefits at the 100% disability rating level because their service-connected disability completely prevents them from securing gainful employment even though their medical condition itself does not warrant a 100% disability rating under the VA’s rating schedule. The VA considers two issues when determining a veteran’s entitlement to TDIU benefits: (1) whether the veteran’s service-connected disabilities meets the rating requirements set forth in 38 C.F.R. § 4.16(a); and, (2) whether the veteran is prevented from securing or following a “substantially gainful occupation” because of the service-connected disabilities.

(5) Reopened Claims with New and Material Evidence – A veteran may re-open his/her claim for service-connected disability benefits with “new and material evidence” when the veteran was previously denied service-connection for a claimed medical condition, and the time to appeal that denial has expired. The legal requirements to reopen a claim follow: the applicant must meet all the requirements for a service-connected claim, PLUS the veteran must provide “new and material evidence” which was not previously considered. “New” evidence is evidence that has never been submitted previously in connection with the reopened claim; and, “Material” evidence is evidence that, by itself or when considered with previous evidence of record, must relate to a previously unestablished fact. See 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(a).

(6) Requests for Revision Based upon Clear and Unmistakable Error – Claims for a revision of a previous final VA decision are referred to as claims based on clear and unmistakable error (CUE). A claim for revision based on CUE must be made with specificity. A decision that reverses or revises a prior final adverse decision because of CUE has the same effect as if the decision had been made on the date of the prior decision, meaning that a veteran is entitled to an earlier effective date if he/she is successful. There is no time limit or statute of limitations preventing a final decision from being reviewed for CUE