What are common secondary service-connected conditions? To begin, it helps to define terms. The Department of Veterans Affairs breaks down medical claims into specific categories including secondary service-connected claims. The entire list is as follows:
- Original claims–the very first VA claim you make
- Increased claims–filed by veterans who feel they are due more compensation than originally awarded
- New claims–these are submitted later to request added benefits or related action on an existing claim
- Secondary service-connected disability claim–filing a claim for a new disability linked to a condition already claimed
- Special claims–for special needs related to an existing disability
- Supplemental claims–providing new evidence for a claim that was denied
This article focuses on secondary service-connected disability claims, which the VA official site explains, allows you to request more benefits “for a new disability that’s linked to a service-connected disability you already have.”
Justification For The New Claim
What circumstances qualify for such claims? That will depend on the medical condition, but common examples used include cases where a service member has a service-connected joint injury (knee or elbow) that develops arthritis later as a result. That arthritis is a secondary condition that should be reviewed by the VA and compensated where appropriate.
Another example–if you were diagnosed with high blood pressure while on active duty and you later develop complications from high blood pressure, you may be entitled to further review and/or compensation based on the new medical issues created by your high blood pressure.
If You Think You Need To File A Claim For A Service-Connected Condition
In short, any condition already rated by the VA that is now showing new issues may be compensable. It will be up to the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine whether or not such additional compensation is warranted and by how much. Reviews of your condition do not happen automatically and you will need to initiate the claim in order to have your case looked at by the VA.
Common Secondary Service-Connected Conditions
There are some common secondary issues you will learn about while researching filing this type of VA claim and investigating your own medical issues. Some of these secondary issues may be more “universal” as in they may be found as secondary problems associated with more than one medical condition.
For example, erectile dysfunction may involve a physical problem or it may involve a psychological one depending on circumstances.
The list below includes some condition-specific references such as hypertension related to PTSD, and more non-specific conditions such as neuritis which may have a variety of causes. Common secondary service-connected conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Secondary conditions related to traumatic brain injuries
- Sciatic nerve damage
- Erectile dysfunction
- Median nerve damage (paralysis)
- External popliteal nerve damage
- Arteriosclerotic heart disease
- Arterial sclerosis obliterans
- Hypertensive vascular disease
- Hypertension Secondary to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Renal involvement in systemic diseases
- Sciatic nerve (neuritis)
- Degenerative arthritis of the spine
- Peripheral Neuropathy Secondary to Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
- Radiculopathy Secondary to Back Disabilities
- Depression Secondary to Parkinson’s Disease or Cancer
The danger in describing how any of these conditions listed above are caused by other medical issues lies in that so many of them may be associated with more than one other condition. Some will read a paragraph describing just one circumstance where a secondary condition comes into play and assume they don’t qualify because their issues are associated with a different primary disability.
A good example: neuritis, also known as sciatica, is not exclusive to one type of injury or condition and may have more than one single cause. You should not rule out a secondary condition just because you don’t have information (yet) directly linking that with your existing medical issues.
Making Your Claim
Filing a claim for any one of these common conditions (or those not found on the list above a) is a lot like developing your original VA claim–you will need to gather and submit evidence including documentation from civilian medical providers, buddy letters explaining how your condition has affected your quality of life, and you will need to make sure you know about any additional forms or paperwork required to submit this type of claim to the VA.
The important thing to remember about all of these common conditions is that when filing a secondary claim, you are NOT trying to establish that the secondary condition (which can include anything on the list above and much more) occurred while serving in the military.
The entire point of the secondary service-connected conditions designation is that these medical issues happened as the result of a VA-rated disability you are already recognized as having that are now creating more issues.
You Don’t Have To Explore Your Options Alone
Some veterans turn to law offices specializing in VA claims to get assistance with creating a “bulletproof” VA claim. This is a decision only the veteran can make, but it’s a good idea to review your claim package with SOMEONE whether it is a Veteran Service Officer or organization, etc.
It’s a very good idea in these cases to enlist the help of a Veteran Service Organization (USO, VFA, DAV, and many, many others) who can work with the VA on your behalf if you feel overwhelmed by the process or aren’t sure where to start. You can Google Veteran Service Organizations or VSOs to find one closest to you. You can also call the VA to get advice and help navigate this process if you prefer to deal with them directly.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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