Most disabilities stemming from injuries or illnesses accrued or aggravated while in military service are compensable under the VA’s disability compensation benefits scheme. A notable exception is when the illness or injury stemmed from the service member’s willful misconduct.
What the Law Says
The United States Code states that “no compensation shall be paid if the disability is a result of the veteran’s own willful misconduct or abuse of alcohol or drugs.” The Code of Federal Regulations (hereinafter “the CFR”) state that “[b]asic entitlement for a veteran exists if the veteran is disabled as the result of a personal injury or disease (including aggravation of a condition existing prior to service) while in active service if the injury or the disease was incurred or aggravated in line of duty.” The CFR defines in line of duty as:
an injury or disease incurred or aggravated during a period of active military, naval, or air service unless such injury or disease was the result of the veteran’s own willful misconduct or, for claims filed after October 31, 1990, was a result of his or her abuse of alcohol or drugs…Requirements as to line of duty are not met if at the time the injury was suffered or disease contracted the veteran was: (1) Avoiding duty by desertion, or was absent without leave which materially interfered with the performance of military duty. (2) Confined under a sentence of court-martial involving an unremitted dishonorable discharge. (3) Confined under sentence of a civil court for a felony as determined under the laws of the jurisdiction where the person was convicted by such court.
The CFR defines willful misconduct as: