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How Secondary Medical Conditions Affect Your Veterans' Disability Benefits

Last updated: November 19, 2023

When veterans apply for disability benefits, one of the common mistakes they make is not considering the implications of their secondary health conditions. Providing a VA disability list of secondary conditions on your application can increase your compensation significantly. 

What Is A Secondary Condition?

Instead of developing on its own, a secondary condition results from another medical condition. This means that secondary conditions result from other medical conditions.

As an example, let's look at the case of a man with diabetes caused by exposure to Agent Orange. The exposure to Agent Orange caused his primary service-connected disability. The development of complications related to diabetes, such as diabetic kidney disease or diabetic eye disease, can be considered secondary conditions.

A veteran suffering a seriously disabling injury is likely to suffer from mental health conditions as a secondary condition. Chronic pain, for example, is associated with increased depression risk.

Some service-connected conditions can lead to secondary disabilities as a result of treatment. If powerful prescription pain medications are taken for an extended time, they can cause kidney, liver, and stomach problems. In cases of military service-related serious injury, the side effects of the medication are a secondary disability.

Primary or secondary medical conditions can occur in various conditions. An example would be arthritis, which occurs when a joint has been overused over an extended time. If, however, the hip joints are put under extra pressure after a spinal injury, it becomes a secondary condition. A spinal injury most likely would not have caused arthritis in this case. As a result of an injury suffered while serving in the military, arthritis would qualify for disability benefits.

How To Receive Disability Benefits For A Secondary Condition

A veteran with a secondary condition who wishes to receive disability benefits must demonstrate the following:

  • A service-connected disability is an original condition.
  • You have a secondary condition caused by your service-connected disability and not from some other cause.

Providing as much medical documentation of your condition as possible increases your chances of a successful application. A patient's treatment records from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other medical facilities, diagnostic test results, and opinions from medical experts are included in this tool.

The Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD) scale will be used to determine the rating of your secondary condition if it is approved. VASRD uses severity ratings to assess all disabilities.

What If I Had A Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered during military service is given special consideration by the Veterans Administration. Medical conditions such as unprovoked seizures, dementia, depression, Parkinson's disease symptoms, and hormonal deficiencies can be associated with a traumatic brain injury.

A presumption of injury may apply to your case, making it easier to be approved for disability benefits since you don't need to show evidence that your secondary condition resulted from a prior injury.

What Is Secondary Service Aggravation?

A secondary service aggravation occurs when a disability acquired in military service makes an existing condition worse. For example, veterans with flat feet would be eligible for service-connected benefits. In this case, the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis could be characterized as secondary service aggravation since the feet's abnormal alignment aggravated the condition. (Rheumatoid arthritis is a genetic condition and cannot be caused by service-connected events).

An experienced veterans' disability benefits lawyer can assist you in receiving the benefits you deserve if you are a veteran. Applying for Social Security benefits can be an overwhelming process. If you are interested in seeking SSDI benefits, check out our article on how you can win disability benefits for Fibromyalgia. To learn more, visit DisabilityHelp.org today!

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Chloe Powers
Chloe works with policymakers on behalf of Disability Help to support their work at a strategic level, ensuring the conditions are in place for creative individuals and organizations to grow, reach their potential and effect relevant, sustainable change.
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