Since Congress first established it in 1930, the Department of Veterans Affairs has administered a federal program that provides various benefits to U.S. military veterans. The relevant statute, regulating disability benefits, provides that “the United States will pay [compensation] to any veteran” who is “disabled” as a result of (1) “personal injury suffered or disease contracted in line of duty,” or (2) “aggravation of a preexisting injury suffered or disease contracted in line of duty.” Disabilities that qualify for these benefits are called “service connected” because they are “causally related to an injury sustained in the service.”

George v. McDonough, which will be argued on Tuesday, concerns veteran Kevin George, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in June 1975, at the age of 17. George’s medical entrance examination indicated no mental health disorders. One week into his service, George suffered a mental health episode that required hospitalization and was initially diagnosed as an “acute situational reaction.” In September 1975, after treatment with psychotherapy and anti-psychotic drugs and a subsequent diagnosis of “paranoid schizophrenia,” George was medically discharged from the Marine Corps. Three months later, George filed a disability-benefits claim with the VA, asserting that his schizophrenia was service-connected because it was contracted in or aggravated by his military service. (Continuer reading here…)

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