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COMBAT-RELATED SPECIAL COMPENSATION DISABILITIES

Posted 8/4/2010 Printable Fact Sheet

Combat-Related Special Compensation disabilities explained
Department of Defense guidance defines a combat-related disability in one of the three following ways:
1. A Purple Heart disability, which is a disability with an assigned medical diagnosis code from the Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities, or VASRD, that was attributed to injuries for which the member was awarded a Purple Heart.
2. One with an assigned medical diagnosis code from the VASRD that was:
-- incurred as a direct result of armed conflict;
-- as a result of hazardous service;
-- in the performance of duty under conditions simulating war; or
-- through an instrumentality of war.
3. One with an assigned medical diagnosis code from the VASRD that was deemed presumptive or "presumed" by the VA to be incurred as a result of combat operations. The circumstances or situations that form the basis of a presumptive award are:
-- service in the Republic of Vietnam (exposure to Agent Orange);
-- exposure to an officially recognized nuclear event;
-- exposure to mustard gas;
-- held as a prisoner of war; and
-- service in the Persian Gulf War.

Note: Periodically, the VA will award a disability that meets the definition of presumptive; however, the VA will include wording in the VA Rating Decision that will specify the code is not combat-related. In these cases, presumptive codes will not be awarded CRSC.

Combat-related disabilities generally fall into one of four categories expanded below. They are armed conflict, hazardous service, instrumentality of war and simulated war. Presumptive disabilities are also discussed below.

The fact a member incurred the disability during a period of war or an area of armed conflict or while participating in combat operations is not sufficient by itself to support a combat-related determination. There must be clear evidence of a definite, documented, causal relationship between the armed conflict and the resulting disability. Armed conflict includes a war, expedition, occupation of an area or territory, battle, skirmish, raid, invasion, rebellion, insurrection, guerrilla action, riot or any other action in which service members are engaged with a hostile or belligerent nation, faction, force or terrorists. Armed conflict may also include such situations as: incidents involving a member while interned as a prisoner of war; while detained against his or her will in custody of a hostile or belligerent force; or while escaping or attempting to escape from such confinement, prisoner of war or detained status.

Hazardous service includes those activities such as flight, diving and parachuting duty and are those where the disability was incurred during performance of duties that present a higher degree of danger to service personnel due to the level of exposure to actual or simulated armed conflict. The fact a member incurred the disability during a period of hazardous service is not sufficient by itself to support a combat-related determination. There must be clear evidence of a definite, documented, causal relationship between the hazardous service and the resulting disability. Such service includes, but is not limited to aerial flight, parachute duty, demolition duty, experimental stress duty, diving duty and rescue missions.

An instrumentality of war is a vehicle, vessel or device designed primarily for military service and intended for use in such service at the time of the occurrence or injury. Incurrence during an actual period of war is not required; however, there must be a direct, documented, causal relationship between the instrumentality of war and the resulting disability. The disability must be incurred incident to a hazard or risk of service and be caused by the device itself. Instrumentalities not designed primarily for military service are included if use of, or occurrence involving, such instrumentality subjects the individual to a hazard peculiar to military service. Such use or occurrence differs from the use or occurrence under similar circumstances in civilian pursuits. An example of this would be injuries sustained while engaging in pugil stick training using a broomstick, where the broomstick replaces the weapon and causes the injury. A determination that a disability is the result of an instrumentality of war may be made if clear evidence exists to confirm the disability was incurred in any period of service as a result of such diverse causes as: wounds caused by a military weapon; accidents involving a military combat vehicle; injury or sickness caused by fumes, gases or explosion; or military ordnance, vehicles or material. For example, if a member is on a field exercise and is engaged in a sporting activity and falls and strikes an armored vehicle, the injury will not be considered to result from the instrumentality of war (armored vehicle) because it was the sporting activity that caused the injury, not the vehicle. On the other hand, if the individual was engaged in the same sporting activity and the armored vehicle struck the member, the injury would be considered the result of an instrumentality of war.

The fact a member incurred the disability during a period of simulating war or in an area of simulated armed conflict or while participating in simulated combat operations is not sufficient by itself to support a combat-related determination. There must be clear evidence of a definite, documented, causal relationship between the simulated armed conflict and the resulting disability. In general, this covers disabilities resulting from simulated combat activity during military training, such as war games, practice alerts, tactical exercises, airborne operations, grenade and live fire weapons practice, bayonet training, hand-to-hand combat training, rappelling and negotiating a combat confidence and obstacle course. Physical training activities such as calisthenics and jogging or formation running and supervised sports activities are not included.

Some disabilities are presumed to be incurred as a result of combat operations. These disabilities are referred to as "presumptive disabilities." Presumptive disabilities are a classification of disabilities determined by law. These conditions are divided into five main categories:
-- service in the Republic of Vietnam;
-- exposure to an officially recognized nuclear event;
-- exposure to mustard gas;
-- held as a Prisoner of War; and
-- service in the Persian Gulf.

Presumptive disabilities do not validate an applicant's eligibility for CRSC. They serve as a classification of certain disabilities known to have a direct connection to combat operations. On occasion, a veteran will be awarded a VA code that meets the definition of "presumptive;" however, the VA will include wording in the VA Rating Decision that will indicate this code is not combat-related. In these cases, presumptive codes will not be awarded CRSC. Examples of presumptive conditions are:
-- lung cancer or diabetes mellitus from exposure to Agent Orange;
-- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome developed after service in the Persian Gulf War; and
-- heart disease or traumatic arthritis developed after being held as a POW for more than 30 days.







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