Some VA disabilities are more challenging than others to get. Even though appealing is often a viable option, filing a claim and losing can be a very defeating experience for Veterans.
People often ask us, what are the easiest VA claims to win? If you do a Google search, you will see statements like: The #1 Easiest VA Disability to Claim: Tinnitus.
Yes, there are misconceptions that disabilities such as Tinnitus or Acid Reflux (GERD) are the easiest claims to win. This is all speculation. Speaking from a great deal of experience helping Veterans, we can say that the easiest claim to win is always the claim that is best supported by properly-curated medical evidence. If a Veteran is indeed service-connected for Acid Reflux or Tinnitus, it is 100% due to submitting medical evidence supporting their claim.
Let’s talk about what the medical evidence must show to win a disability
The medical evidence must show that you currently suffer a disability–a chronic problem that impacts your life somehow. There has to be something that happened in service that caused your current condition or led to your current condition. It can be an event, injury, or illness that is related to your current disability diagnosis. And there has to be a medical link or nexus between your current diagnosis and something in service.
If you have a current service-connected disability and you’re filing a secondary claim, it means that the secondary injury/illness/disability is caused by a service-connected disability.
To give you an idea of how this process works, let’s talk about Jerry1, a Veteran that came to us for medical consulting a few years back.
Jerry had an ordeal with his knee, which all started back in active duty when he injured his knee playing basketball. He was given an ace wrap, was provided high doses of ibuprofen pain medicine, and was restricted from training for some time.
Jerry noticed that he started to have more pain in his knee. It became apparent that his knee wasn’t quite right. Frequently in the morning, he would wake up and his knee felt stiff, sore, and a bit painful—Jerry self-treated with ibuprofen, which did not really help.
Jerry also developed hypertension in the military and was given a prescribed medication.
When he separated from service, he was service-connected for hypertension at 0%, and that was it.
A year or two down the road, Jerry started having more and more problems with his knee. He eventually went to see a doctor. The doctor did some X-rays and diagnosed Jerry with arthritis, noting a degenerative joint disease of his knee. Knowing that he injured that knee in service playing basketball and that his knees had never been the same, he put a claim in with the VA.
At his Comp & Pen exam, the examiner stated that while the X-rays show arthritis in his knee, there is no record of the injury in his military record. Unfortunately, this is common because military records are not always complete and accurate. Service records don’t always show medical evidence of an injury. A lot of time had elapsed between separation and Jerry’s eventual diagnosis. And, because that examiner provided a negative opinion, Jerry got his claim denied. He persisted, sending more evidence. And every time he saw the doctor for his knee, he got put on pain medicine and had an MRI. He would send that evidence in, but nothing changed. Jerry kept getting denied by the VA.
By the time Jerry came to Vet Comp & Pen, he was more determined than ever to prove a service-connection for his knee injury. He was very frustrated, and he told us, “I really want to win my knee.” With the right medical evidence, VA disability benefits for knee pain is something we have successfully been able to help Veterans win, so we have had a lot of experience there.
When we looked into Jerry’s case, we did not see any evidence for service-connection for his knee.
However, we noticed that Jerry was service-connected for high blood pressure.
We asked him for his current medical records to review and saw a decrease in his kidney function. He had stage 1 kidney disease. When we asked him about it, he said, “Well, my doctor said something about keeping an eye on my kidney function because of my blood pressure.” Jerry was service-connected for hypertension at 0%. But stage 1 kidney disease, if it’s related to service, is worth 60%.
We assured Jerry that we would do everything we could to help him win his knee claim because we were convinced that he had indeed injured his knee in service. It was also evident that eventually, he developed traumatic arthritis in that knee. In order to develop evidence to show that the injury occurred, we suggested getting buddy statements to corroborate the injury taking place during his service. Jerry was able to get a buddy statement–his friend recalled that Jerry would frequently limp in the mornings, complaining of knee pain.
Finally, Jerry was then able to win his knee on appeal. But because he came to us and shared his medical history, we were quite confident in pursuing the kidney disease secondary to his hypertension right away because there’s enormous medical evidence to support the fact that hypertensive nephropathy can result from the condition of high blood pressure.
There was a great deal of evidence which we helped Jerry assemble to connect the current stage 1 kidney disease to the service-connected hypertension. Jerry won his claim–a 60% rating. After all this time struggling and fighting an uphill battle, he could not believe it.
This is a very clear example of why sometimes the easiest claim to win is something that the Veteran is not even aware of, which highlights one of the many benefits Veterans can gain from evidence-based medical consulting.
At the end of the day, there are no quick and easy shortcuts to disability compensation–there is a protocol to follow for a reason. Call Vet Comp & Pen today and let us help you get all of the disability benefits that you medically and ethically qualify for.
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* The Veteran’s name has been changed to protect his identity.