Veterans' Disability Compensation: When can lay evidence prove that I have a medical condition?

One key element of the analysis of "service connection" is the diagnosis of a current condition or disease.  Without a current condition or disease, there is nothing to "service-connect".

A veteran does not always need a doctor or a medical professional to provide competent evidence of a diagnosis of a current condition or disease.  

 

 The Board of Veterans Appeals considers three scenarios where lay evidence of a medical condition will be sufficient:

Lay evidence can be competent and sufficient to establish a diagnosis of a condition when:

"(1) a lay person is competent to identify the medical condition (noting that sometimes the lay person will be competent to identify the condition where the condition is simple, for example a broken leg, and sometimes not, for example, a form of cancer:

(2) the lay person is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or

(3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional. See Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372 (Fed. Cir. 2007)"

A Veteran can attest to factual matters of which he has first-hand knowledge, such as experiencing pain in service, reporting to sick call, being placed on limited duty, and undergoing physical therapy.  Washington v. Nicholson, 19 Vet. App. 362, 368 (2005).

This is not necessary lay testimony to establish a diagnosis of a current condition, but lay testimony as to "continuity of symptomatology", an important element of the direct service-connection test.

As always, though, the BVA is certain to weigh lay testimony and to make a credibility determination as to whether the evidence supports a finding of service connection and continuity of symptomatologySee Barr v. Nicholson, 21. Vet. App. 303 (2007).

 


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