There are a number of benefit programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but the most well known is the program that pays veterans for disabilities incurred in service. This benefit is commonly referred to as service connected compensation. In order to prove entitlement to this benefit, a veteran must demonstrate:
1) an in-service event, injury or exposure;
2) a current disability; and
3) a link between the in-service event and the current disability.
To apply for service connection for the first time one must complete VA Form 21-526 and submit it to VA. VA will obtain your service treatment records and ask you to identify current medical records. If there is evidence of the claimed condition in your service treatment records and evidence of a current disability, VA will schedule an examination to obtain a medical opinion as to whether the in-service event or injury is related to the current disability. The outcome of this examination will likely determine the outcome of the claim. A veteran may seek his or her own medical opinion to prove that a link exists between service and the current disability. This medical opinion must be worded in a specific way or VA will disregard it. VA will almost invariably decide the claim based on the results of the VA examination.
If you disagree with the outcome of your claim you have one year to file an appeal or a request for reconsideration. If you fail to appeal or request reconsideration within one year you may still reopen your claim at a later date, but you will need to present new and relevant evidence (evidence relevant to some unproven aspect of your claim) in order to do so.