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Why veterans might get a service-connected disability years later

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | VA Benefits

For many veterans, the effects of their service extend far beyond their time in the military. Years after completing their tours of duty, some veterans may have disabilities directly linked to their time in service.

These disabilities may necessitate benefits to support veterans’ well-being and livelihood.

Delayed onset of symptoms

Conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and exposure to environmental hazards may not immediately present noticeable symptoms. Alternatively, they may have very mild symptoms that change over time. These issues can surface later in life, sometimes decades after the veteran’s military service. With TBIs, for example, epilepsy can start occurring years after the injury.

Some service-connected disabilities arise from degenerative conditions. Musculoskeletal injuries, hearing loss and certain respiratory illnesses may not fully manifest until years after a veteran’s military service. These conditions can result from repetitive tasks, exposure to loud noises or prolonged periods of physical exertion during military operations.

Cumulative effects of military service

Military service often exposes individuals to physical, emotional and psychological stressors. This occurs over prolonged periods. Continuous exposure to combat, hazardous environments or repetitive physical strain can take a toll on a veteran’s health. It can lead to the development of disabilities long after active duty ends.

Lack of access to timely health care

After leaving the military, veterans may struggle to access timely health care services. Factors such as limited availability of specialized care, geographical barriers or financial constraints can hinder veterans from seeking treatment for emerging health issues. Conditions may worsen over time, leading to the need for disability benefits.

Service-connected disabilities can be complex and show up years later. Veterans deserve access to comprehensive health care services and benefits to address their unique needs.