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Veterans Benefits for Service-Connected Illness and Injury

Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia are among the service-connected conditions for which veterans can receive benefits.

See Also: Pension Benefits for Veterans and Their Surviving Spouses

Veterans who suffer from service-connected injuries or illnesses might be eligible for Veterans Administration benefits covering numerous conditions that may become more profound as the veteran grows older.

For example, the VA has long acknowledged that type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease are conditions presumed to have been caused by exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange while on duty in Vietnam and Korea during America’s military engagements in those countries.

Also, the VA is encountering an increasing number of claims by Gulf War veterans for benefits resulting from traumatic brain injuries suffered during their deployment. The increased awareness of the conditions that can be caused by such injuries has encouraged veterans from previous conflicts to come forward as well.

The ratings for neurological conditions contained in 38 C.F.R. § 4.124a document separate ratings for conditions secondary to traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and TBI residuals. Diagnostic Code (DC) 8045 lists (a) the conditions that the VA considers to be secondary to TBI and (b) the process for documenting whether they are service-connected.

The DC contains recent amendments to 38 C.F.R. § 3.310(d), which includes dementia among its list of conditions that, in the absence of “clear evidence to the contrary,” are considered to be the secondary result of a moderate or severe TBI, as long as the condition manifests itself within 15 years following the injury.

The presumption means that, as long as the veteran can document that (a) he or she suffered at least a moderate TBI, and (b) the condition presented itself within the required timeframe, he or she does not need to obtain a medical opinion that the dementia was caused by the injury. While it is not necessary to have received the diagnosis within the 15-year window, it would be important for the physician’s notes to contain references to symptoms during the required time period.

Moreover, once the veteran has received a ratings decision for dementia that is secondary to the TBI, he or she is also entitled to Special Monthly Compensation that can at least partially offset the cost of the required Aid and Attendance.

As with other VA Aid and Attendance benefits, the assistance need not be provided by a healthcare professional and can even be given by a member of the veteran’s family.

Marsha Goodman focuses her practice on Life Care Planning for seniors and their families. She has been recognized as a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation and is accredited by the Veterans Administration.