Military service is dangerous. Even non-combatant specialties can face dangers such as the risk of concussions, hearing loss, mental distress, and other physical and mental issues. In the vast majority of cases, these are simply a natural consequence of military service. For instance, despite the use of hearing protection when using firearms or explosives, military service presents real risks to a military service member’s hearing.
However, not all service-related injuries are outside the veteran’s direct control. Veterans who cause their own injuries that impact them following separation from the military service may find it difficult to obtain VA disability benefits, even if the injury is one that might be expected to result from military service.
Willful Misconduct and VA Benefits
There may be several reasons why a veteran would choose to injure themselves. Whatever the motivation, though, veterans who do so cannot typically later qualify for VA disability benefits. For example, a veteran who purposefully amputated a digit or limb, or who shot themselves and suffered a spinal injury as a result, cannot leave the service and file a claim for disability benefits.
This is due to the prohibition against individuals who cause their own injuries through willful misconduct from recovering VA disability benefits. “Willful misconduct” implies something greater than mere carelessness or negligence. Instead, a veteran acts with willful misconduct when it is their objective to commit a wrongful act knowing the likely outcome of that act.
This rule means that a service member who purposefully amputates a digit as a means of securing a discharge from service cannot later file for disability benefits through the VA. However, a veteran who was careless around power tools and who loses a digit or limb in the process would still be eligible to receive VA disability benefits, assuming they met all other qualifications.
The VA Bears the Burden of Proving Willful Misconduct
Sometimes the line between willful misconduct and extreme negligence may not be so clear. Luckily for veterans, the VA bears the responsibility of proving you acted with willful misconduct if it denies your claim for benefits on this ground. Absent such evidence, the VA would need to approve your claim if you met all other requirements.
Let Ohio-Based Veterans Law Attorneys Help You with Your Disability Claim
Have you applied for VA disability benefits but been denied? If the VA is claiming your injuries are due to willful misconduct, or if there are other factual errors it made in denying your claim, you have the right to appeal your case. Veterans Law Attorneys can help you do this.
It is critical that you take prompt action as your right to appeal is limited. Our firm assists veterans throughout Ohio and the rest of the country in appealing erroneous denials and decisions by the VA.
Contact us by calling 833-753-5168.or by going online and requesting a consultation with our team. We will review your case with you and help you decide on what your best course of action is to secure your VA disability benefits.