Existed Prior to Service (EPTS)
EPTS Conditions That Are Service-Aggravated
Genetic or Hereditary Conditions

Existed Prior to Service (EPTS)

Injuries sustained in childhood are considered EPTS since they existed prior to service.

“Existed Prior To Service” (EPTS) refers to medical conditions that were diagnosed or sustained before the service member joined the military. These conditions can include injuries from childhood, conditions diagnosed before service, and genetic or hereditary conditions.  

Both the DoD and the VA will not give Military Disability Benefits for a previously existing condition unless it is service-aggravated or the service member was on active duty for 8 years or more (DoD only). To deny benefits, however, they must be able to absolutely prove that a condition is EPTS.

All conditions should be clearly recorded when the service member enters active duty in order for them to be considered EPTS, unless they are genetic or hereditary. If no conditions are recorded when the service member enters active duty, the military will assume that they were in perfect physical and mental condition at that time.

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EPTS Conditions That Are Service-Aggravated

Military Disability Rating is only given to an EPTS condition if it worsened during the veteran’s time in the military beyond what would be medically assumed as the normal progression of the condition. This is referred to as “service-aggravated.” Basically, the condition became worse and/or occurred earlier in the military than it would have in a civilian profession.

For example, if Mary broke her arm when she was six, she will only be compensated for that arm condition if she re-injures it or otherwise seriously aggravates it while in the military. As long as medical records clearly demonstrate that the condition worsened because of the military, the VA will rate the condition. The DoD will also rate Mary’s condition, but only if it worsens enough to make her Unfit for Duty.  

See our discussion on service-aggravation for more details on how these conditions are handled for Military Disability.

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Genetic or Hereditary Conditions

Genetic and hereditary conditions are technically present from birth, but often go undetected until they start developing symptoms, which may not be until later in life. Even if they first start showing symptoms while in the military, they are still considered to have existed prior to service since they would have developed regardless of civilian or military factors.

The great news is that genetic and hereditary conditions are automatically assumed to be service-aggravated, and thus ratable, unless it can be proven that they would have developed at the same time and to the same degree under any circumstances. So, if a service member develops a condition and it can be proven that it would have developed at the same time and to the same degree no matter what, then that condition is not ratable. Otherwise, it is service-aggravated.

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What is Existed Prior to Service (EPTS)?

Medical conditions are labeled EPTS if they existed prior to service, i.e. existed before the service member officially joined the military. These include any conditions that were officially diagnosed before service as well as conditions not yet diagnosed, like genetic and hereditary conditions, that clearly existed prior to service.

Do conditions that Existed Prior To Service qualify for military disability?

Military disability is given only for medical conditions that are the result of military service. Conditions that existed prior to service were not directly caused by military service and so do not qualify UNLESS it can be proven that military service worsened (aggravated) the condition. Service-aggravated conditions qualify for disability based on how much they were aggravated by military service.

My EPTS condition was aggravated by my service. How do I prove it?

This is tricky. You need to provide evidence to support two things: 1.) That your medical condition in a civilian environment would have progressed to ________ severity by __________ time, and 2.) That your condition actually progressed to (much worse) severity by the same time due to military factors. For the first, things like medical research or publications can provide evidence on the average progression of a condition. For the second, medical records showing the progressed condition and evidence of exposures or other circumstances that triggered the fast progression can support aggravation.

Is my genetic condition considered to have existed prior to service?

Yes. All genetic and hereditary conditions existed prior to service since they exist completely outside of the military environment and would have developed regardless of military service.

What if the condition wasn't recorded on my intake exam?

It will not be considered to have existed prior to service unless there is clear evidence of record that it did.

What benefits can I get for my condition that existed prior to service?

Once you prove service-aggravation, your condition will be rated based on the amount of aggravation. The DoD then provides Disability Separation benefits for ratings up to 20% and Disability Retirement benefits for ratings 30% and up. The VA provides healthcare for each qualified condition along with a monthly payment.

What if I can't prove service-aggravation?

If you cannot prove that your military service aggravated your condition, then for all intents and purposes, it didn't. Your conditions will not qualify for disability.

I served for more than 8 years on active duty. Are my conditions that existed prior to service service-connected?

Yes, but only for the DoD. The DoD has an exception to the service-aggravation rule for service members who serve 8 or more years of consecutive active duty. These members automatically have all of their diagnosed conditions service-connected. This rule does not apply to the VA.

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