Abraham Lincoln best described our duty to our veterans: “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.” As part of its charter, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) compensates veterans and their dependents for illnesses or injuries sustained or aggravated during active military service. Veterans, including reservists, who served active duty and were discharged under any condition other than dishonorable are eligible to file for disability compensation. (The VA also awards non-service-connected compensation for veterans who are disabled but the disability is not related to service; this separate program will not be discussed here.) Service-connected disability benefits are predicated on the event, illness, or injury incurred or aggravated during active duty. Importantly, the injury or illness need not have been caused by military service. The relationship is temporal, not causal—the incident just needs to have happened while the veteran was on active duty (38 C.F.R. 3.303(a)).
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