From the Field Staff
By Hallie Smith
Expansion of the Decision Ready Claims Initiative
In the last issue of The Bulletin, I wrote an article regarding the Decision Ready Claims (DRC) initiative, a new way to file claims that guaranteed decisions within 30 days. At that time, DRC only applied to increases; now, however, the program has expanded and veterans can file many claims this way.
Veterans can now file for direct and secondary service connection, certain presumptive conditions, and pre-discharge claims. Before we dive into what each of these means, it is important to know that the following conditions cannot be claimed through the DRC process: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), conditions that are on appeal or proposed to be reduced, and conditions that have been denied before. Additionally, no matter what kind of claim a veteran is filing, he or she must have a current diagnosis for the condition.
Direct service connection means that a condition was caused by something that happened in active duty service. This kind of claim requires three things: an event, injury, or illness in service, a current diagnosis, and a nexus, or connection, between them. This nexus could be a continuity of symptoms or a statement from a doctor who believes they are linked.
Secondary service connection means that a condition was caused by a service connected condition. A good example of this is diabetic retinopathy—if a veteran is service connected for diabetes, they can get diabetic retinopathy service connected as a secondary condition, because it was caused by diabetes.
Presumptive conditions are considered to be incurred in or aggravated by military service, even if there is no evidence of them in service. There are some chronic diseases that are presumptive for anyone who served in the military; you can find these in 38 CFR 3.309(a), which you can look up online. There are also presumptive conditions for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, mostly during the Vietnam era, and for veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards in the Persian Gulf.
Active duty service members who are less than ninety days from discharge can also file for compensation through the DRC program now. Their claims must fall into the same categories as above, and they cannot be awaiting discharge while hospitalized in a VA or military treatment facility.
There are exclusions, or types of claims that cannot be filed through DRC, in many of these categories. For further information, or to see if your claim is eligible for DRC, you can view a longer article at www.bva.org/DRC.aspx or call the BVA Field Service Office at 844-250-5180.