One problem many veterans run into is that a problem they currently have may have had some presence, in one form or another, before they were in the military.  There is some analogy to the medical insurance bar to insurance coverage for a preexisting condition.  Many veterans’ may believe that a condition may not be service connected if the problem preexisted their military service.  Fortunately, one of the more favorable presumptions in veterans’ law is the twin concepts of the presumption of soundness and aggravation.  Unless the condition is noted and examined at one’s entrance exam to the military the presumption is that they entered the military sound.  Many times, these entrance exams aren’t even carried out, and if they are, they aren’t likely to uncover or examine many types of conditions.  In most cases, just based on this fact, a condition that may have existed at some point prior to service, but was never documented, the veteran will have been considered “sound”, and importantly eligible for disability compensation.  Even if the condition is noted by way of history, without any other contemporaneous evidence, this would likely not be considered to have been noted since it must be “clear and unmistakable” evidence. 

Though the presumption of soundness will often apply if the problem was never noted at entrance the presumption can also be rebutted if “clear and unmistakable” evidence exists that the condition in fact existed.  Additionally, if such evidence exists then there must also be evidence that the disability was not exacerbated in service for the presumption of soundness to not apply.  The clear and unmistakable standard is a relatively hard burden for the VA to overcome.  Based on the entire file, the evidence should be undebatable, where it’s absolutely clear that the impairment preexisted service.  Many types of evidence could be used to rebut the presumption of soundness though the evidence should be equivocal, or that it would be lopsided in favor of a showing that the condition preexisted service.  Additionally, congenital problems such as personality disorder or autism will generally not be considered compensable since they would typically not be caused by military service.  Still, the burden upon the VA to rebut the presumption has been called a “formidable” one.  Often the VA may run into records that report medical problems by way of history but unless they are accompanied by contemporaneous or evidence supporting the problem from the preservice period, any documentation solely indicated by way of history would be insufficient. 

All in all, the presumption of soundness is a very powerful one in veteran’s favor that should be fully pursued if the VA makes the claim that a problem preexisted military service. 

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