Yes, you can. Here’s what you need to know:
You can apply for VA disability benefits at any time
To start, it’s important to understand that as a former active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training member of the armed forces, you can apply for VA disability benefits at any time. There is no time limitation on filing a claim. The only thing that matters is that your condition is disabling and was caused by, or made worse by, your military service.
In other words, you can apply for VA disability benefits no matter when you found out about your condition, even if it appeared for the first time years after you served.
You have a postservice disability claim
The VA refers to a claim for benefits related to a condition that appeared after you were discharged as a “postservice disability claim”. It can help to use this terminology when seeking assistance from the VA or from a VA disability benefits attorney. This distinguishes your claim from those relating to conditions veterans had before they served (known as “preservice claims”) and conditions that appeared while they were serving (“inservice claims”).
Some postservice conditions are presumptive disabilities
Applying for and securing VA disability benefits involves proving that the disabling condition you suffer from is related to your military service, either because your service caused that condition or your service made it worse.
For some conditions that appear after your discharge, however, the VA will simply presume a connection between the condition and your service, which means you do not have to go to the effort of proving it. Those conditions, which the VA calls “presumptive disabilities”, include:
- Chronic (long-lasting) illnesses and tropical illnesses that arise within a limited time (one year in most cases) after your discharge
- Certain illnesses related to contact with toxic or other hazardous materials
- Certain illnesses covered by the time you spent as a POW
It is important to understand that you can have a postservice disability claim for any condition related to your military service, even if it is not a presumptive disability. Having a presumptive disability just relieves you of the requirement of proving a connection between the condition and your service.
An attorney can help you with any postservice disability claim
No matter what disability condition you suffer from, if it arose after your discharge and is connected to your military service, then you deserve VA disability benefits. An attorney who represents veterans in disability claims can help you prepare a thorough, well-documented application that proves the necessary connection and gets you the compensation you deserve.