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Secondary VA Claims: What You Need to Know

Last updated: January 31, 2024

Secondary VA claims are for conditions caused by a primary service-connected disability, not directly by military service.

Proper documentation and medical evidence linking the secondary condition to the primary disability are crucial for a successful claim.

Navigating the VA's process can be challenging; seeking assistance from VA-accredited representatives or veterans service organizations is advisable.

It can be difficult to navigate the complexity of the Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits system, particularly when trying to comprehend secondary claims. Veterans need to understand secondary VA claims since they can have a big influence on their compensation and general well-being. The purpose of this in-depth tutorial is to clarify secondary claims—what they are, how they operate, and why veterans need them.

What are Secondary VA Claims?

Conditions or disabilities that are a consequence of a primary handicap related to military service but not directly caused by military service are referred to as secondary VA claims. These claims recognize that a main handicap may result in additional health problems that could not have arisen in the absence of the accident or illness associated with the service.

For instance, if a veteran has a knee injury during service and that injury results in arthritis in the same knee, the arthritis may qualify for a subsequent claim. It acknowledges the domino effect the veteran's service-connected impairment has on their overall health.

Fast Facts

Secondary claims can lead to a higher disability rating, increasing benefits and support for veterans.

The Importance of Secondary Claims

Because they guarantee veterans receive compensation that fairly represents the whole scope of their impairments, secondary claims are essential. These statements acknowledge the interdependence of health and the way that injuries sustained while serving a country can cause subsequent health problems. Veterans can obtain more benefits and support by submitting secondary claims, which might result in a higher disability rating.

How to File a Secondary Claim

There are various phases involved in filing a secondary claim, so it's important to handle the process methodically and carefully. This is a broad summary:

  • Determine Possible Contextual Factors: Examine your medical history and health records to find any conditions that might have arisen from your primary service-connected impairment.

  • Assemble Medical Documentation: Gather all pertinent medical documentation that connects your secondary ailment to the initial service-connected impairment, including doctor's notes and medical records.

  • Fill out the Required VA Forms: Complete VA Application Form 21-526EZ, "Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits." Make sure all of the material is true and comprehensive.

  • Send in Your Claim: Your claim can be filed in person at a VA office, by mail, or online. Make sure you maintain copies of every record for

  • Attend Required Medical Exams: In order to determine the severity of your secondary ailment and how it relates to your initial disability, the VA may mandate that you go through required medical examinations.

  • Await the Resolution: Your claim will be reviewed by the VA; this process may take many months. They might ask for more details during this period.

Fast Facts

The VA requires detailed medical records and possibly expert opinions to establish the connection between primary and secondary conditions.

Challenges in Filing Secondary Claims

Even though it might appear simple, veterans frequently run into difficulties while submitting follow-up claims. Creating a distinct and convincing connection between the primary and secondary circumstances is one of the main challenges. Detailed medical documentation and occasionally professional judgment are needed for this.

Navigating the VA's bureaucratic process, which can be difficult and time-consuming, is another problem. It's important to be persistent and patient, and you should think about asking a veterans service group or a VA-accredited person for help.

Tips for a Successful Secondary Claim

Think about the following advice to improve your chances of a secondary claim succeeding:

  • Take Care When Documenting: Your argument will be stronger the more proof you can offer. This includes any paperwork that demonstrates the connection between your problems, such as medical records and doctor's remarks.

  • Seek Advice from Experts: A medical expert's declaration can occasionally greatly support your claim, particularly in complicated circumstances when the connection between diseases isn't immediately obvious.

  • Remain Prepared: All of your submissions, correspondence with the VA, and any other pertinent documents should be meticulously documented.

  • Communicate Proactively: Maintain constant contact with the VA and give fast attention to any requests for more details.

  • Think About Expert Assistance: Never be afraid to ask veterans service groups or VA-accredited officials for assistance.  

Fast Facts

The process of filing a secondary claim involves identifying potential conditions, gathering evidence, completing VA forms, submitting the claim, attending medical exams, and awaiting a decision.


Secondary VA claims are essential to guarantee that veterans receive all of the benefits they are entitled to. Comprehending these claims, the filing procedure, and the obstacles involved is essential for any veteran requesting benefits for disabilities related to their military service. Being proactive, organized, and aware can help veterans navigate the VA system more successfully and receive benefits that correctly acknowledge the entire impact of their service on their health and well-being.

Learn how secondary medical conditions affect your veterans’ disability benefits from our resources at Disability Help.

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Zoey Appleton
Zoey has worked with Cheri for years and has been creating the best articles not only for Disability Help but for our readers. Her job hits close to home for she has a brother with special needs. She hopes to see science and technology pave the way for a better life, with Disability Help to cover it and share it with those that need it.
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