The Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that it will start the process of amending its regulations to establish presumptions of service connection for certain conditions resulting from exposure to contaminated drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
What does this mean? From a Congressional Research Service reference report entitled Veterans Affairs: Presumptive Service Connection & Disability Claims, presumptive status is best explained in the following excerpt:
“The burden of proving service connection can be a challenge. In such circumstances, Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have relied on presumptions. In the context of VA claims adjudication, a presumption could be seen as a procedure to relieve veterans of the burden to prove that a disability or illness was caused by a specific exposure that occurred during service in the Armed Forces. When a disease is designated as presumptively service-connected, the individual veteran does not need to prove that the disease was incurred during service.”
Establishing presumptive status for various illnesses related to contamination will ease the burden of proof for service members and streamline the process. This is a positive step for the issue and welcome news. More to come.
Link to the full online media release: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2720