Pre-existing conditions

Before a veteran is medically discharged from service he or she will generally undergo an examination by a Medical Board. The Board will issue a report that determines whether the medical conditions for which the veteran is being discharged existed before the veteran entered service and, if so, whether they were aggravated by service. If the Medical Board determines that your medical conditions pre-existed service and were not aggravated by military service don’t get discouraged, you may still be entitled to service connected benefits.

The VA Regional Office constantly makes mistakes with claims involving “pre-existing” conditions. This is because there are strict evidentiary burdens that the VA must meet to determine that your condition was in-fact pre-existing.

Unless your condition was noted on your entrance exam and supported by medical records that existed before you enlisted, you are presumed to be in sound physical and mental condition upon being accepted into the service. This means that even if a Medical Board report determined that your condition was pre-existing, legally it did not and you still qualify for service connected benefits. Even if you sign a statement acknowledging that you were treated for the condition before service, that statement is not enough. In fact, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims has held that such statements by themselves do not show that a condition pre-existed service.

For example, a veteran was accepted into the Marines in 1978. His entrance exam stated “good health” and did not note any pre-existing conditions. One month into boot camp the veteran went to sick bay due to bilateral knee pain and was diagnosed with a bilateral knee condition. A military orthopedist determined that the veteran’s condition pre-existed service and he was sent to the Medical Board. One month later the veteran was medically discharged and the Medical Board concluded the condition was pre-existing and not aggravated by active duty service. The veteran himself even stated that he had experienced similar knee pain for two years prior to entering the service. The veteran also signed a written statement acknowledging that he was enlisted in error because he had a pre-existing condition that disqualified him from service.

The veteran continued to experience debilitating knee pain and filed a claim for service connected benefits. The Regional Office determined he had a pre-existing condition and denied his claim. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals however, determined that the VA did not meet its burden to overcome the presumption of soundness and held that the veteran did not meet the legal requirements for a pre-existing condition. The Regional Office did not show any pre-existing medical records or treatments and the entrance exam did not reveal any medical conditions.

The result: No pre-existing conditions, which means that the bilateral knee condition for which the veteran was medically discharged was incurred in service.

If the VA used your pre-existing condition as a reason to deny disability benefits, contact us for a free consultation. We will provide a straightforward analysis and explanation of your case and tell you how representation can help.

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