How the VA Presumptive Disability List Works

VA presumptive disability

Generally, in order to receive Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits, you must be able to prove that your disability was caused by your time serving in the military. But the VA also has a list of presumptive disabilities, meaning you don’t have to prove that your disability was caused by military service.  And while the list does not cover everything that some veterans feel it should, rest assured that you can still apply for disability benefits, even if your disability isn’t included in the list.

Some of the disabilities have conditions for service length. For example, you must have served for 90 consecutive days of active service before receiving disability for ALS. But for others, there are no conditions. Regardless of whether or not you meet the conditions, getting diagnosed with any of the following diseases helps prove that your disability is service related, making you eligible for benefits.


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VA Presumptive Disability List of Included Diseases and Conditions

#1: Prisoners of War May Automatically Qualify for VA Presumptive Disability

Regardless of how long you were imprisoned, the following disabilities are presumed to be service connected if they become 10% disabling any time following military service. They include:

  • Psychosis
  • Any state of anxiety
  • Dysthymic disorder
  • Post-traumatic osteoarthritis
  • Organic residuals of frostbite
  • Hypertensive vascular disease
  • Atherosclerotic heart disease
  • Stroke as well as its related health complications, if applicable
  • Osteoporosis (if the veteran has PTSD)

Those who were imprisoned for at least 30 days have an even longer list of presumed disabilities. Most involve nutritional deficiencies that may have occurred during imprisonment. They include:

  • Avitaminosis
  • Beriberi
  • Malnutrition (as well as optic atrophy)
  • Chronic dysentery
  • Helminthiasis
  • Pellagra
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Osteoporosis

#2: Certain Chronic Diseases May Qualify for VA Presumptive Disability

Veterans with multiple sclerosis, diabetes mellitus and arthritis may be presumed to be service-related if the disease becomes at least 10% disabling within the applicable time limit following service. For further details of these diseases, see 38 CFR 3.309. Additionally, the applicable time limits can be found at 38 CFR 3.307.

#3: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

No matter how long ago you served in the military, if you develop ALS, then you qualify for compensation. However, you must have served for at least 90 consecutive days of active service. ALS is also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

#4: Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides

Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange as well as other herbicides may qualify for VA presumptive disability benefits. Agent Orange is an herbicide the US military sprayed in the jungles of Vietnam in order to remove trees and dense tropical foliage that offered cover to the enemy. Veterans that experienced Agent Orange exposure may develop any of the following diseases. In those cases, their conditions fall under the VA’s presumed disability category:

  • AL amyloidosis
  • Chloracne (or other acneform diseases similar to chloracne)
  • Chronic B-cell leukemias
  • Diabetes mellitus (Type 2)
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy, early-onset
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Prostate cancer
  • Respiratory cancers (i.e., lung, bronchus, larynx, trachea)
  • Soft-tissue sarcoma (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)

#5: Gulf War Veterans with Chronic Disabilities

Gulf War veterans may experience chronic disabilities from undiagnosed illnesses. If your illness lasts for at least 6 months, the VA considers it “chronic” by definition. In addition, the VA has a list of eligibility requirements here. Undiagnosed illness examples may include (but are not limited to):

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological signs or symptoms
  • Abnormal weight loss

The following infectious diseases may be covered under the presumptive service connection as long as you meet all other eligibility requirements:

  • Brucellosis
  • Coxiella burnettii (i.e., Q fever)
  • Malaria
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Nontyphoid Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • West Nile Virus

#6: Conditions for Veterans Exposed to Radiation

Radiation affects many veterans, particularly those who participated in radiation risk activities. The VA considers how much radiation exposure each veteran receives as well as duration, gender and family history, age, and other risk factors. The VA presumptive disability list shows these diseases may count as service-connected:

  • All forms of leukemia
  • Cancer of the thyroid, breast, pharynx, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, bile ducts, small intestine, gall bladder, brain, lung, bone, colon, ovary
  • Bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma
  • Lymphomas
  • Primary liver cancer

#7: Contaminant Exposure at Camp Lejeune

Veterans who either served on active duty or resided at Camp Lejeune for 30 days or more between August 1, 1952 and December 31, 1987 may suffer from contaminant exposure in the water supply. As a result, all veterans posted there automatically qualify for free VA health care. The following diseases qualify for benefits, according to the VA presumptive disability list:

  • Esophageal, breast, kidney, lung, or bladder cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Female infertility/miscarriage
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS)
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Hepatic steatosis

You May Qualify for Legal Assistance

Still have questions about how the VA presumptive disability list applies to your own claim? We have experienced VA-accredited attorneys and advocates available to answer your questions.

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