Generally, a veteran who has developed a condition needs a medical opinion stating that the condition resulted from service in order to receive service-connected benefits. However, a new regulation went into place on March 14, 2017 which allows veterans with service at Camp Lejeune during a specific period to receive service-connected benefits on a presumptive basis if they developed one of the recognized conditions. This regulation means that no medical opinion is required for certain conditions, so long as the veteran served at least 30-days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987.
The VA may grant service-connected benefits without a medical opinion if a veteran with the required service develops one of the following conditions:
You can file a claim for service-connected benefits (for one of the conditions listed above) by completing and submitting VA Form 21-526EZ. State the approximate dates served at Camp Lejeune and attach copies of medical records showing your diagnosis. If you have service records showing you were stationed at Camp Lejeune, it is helpful to include them. If not, simply let the VA know the approximate dates of service and ask them to request copies of your personnel/service records.
There is still a possibility of being granted service-connected benefits. The veteran can file a claim and submit records showing a currently diagnosed condition; evidence of exposure to the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune; and a medical opinion from a doctor who concluded that the currently diagnosed condition developed because of the exposure at Camp Lejeune.
You will need to send in a completed VA Form 21-526EZ, and you’ll want to send in the evidence discussed above. Gather medical records showing your diagnosis, records showing that you were stationed at Camp Lejeune and/or exposed to contaminated water, and a medical opinion from a doctor who concluded that you developed your condition because of your in-service exposure to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune.
Keep in mind that certain facts or details about your service may be helpful to highlight to the VA. For example, if you can show that you had a lot of exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune (say, you had to shower three times a day, or your job required you to be in or around the water all day), submit a statement explaining how much contact you had with the water. If your doctor believes the exposure you had was sufficient/high risk enough to cause you to develop your condition, make sure the doctor includes in the opinion a statement explaining to the VA that you didn’t need to be there for 30-days to be at risk for developing your condition.
Though this regulation is highly favorable to veterans seeking service-connected benefits, veterans who do not fall within the new guidelines are still just as eligible for benefits as before. Whether you are thinking about filing a claim, or have received a denial from the VA, give us a call for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.
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