Mental Health Issues Can Cause Physical Injuries

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Veterans who develop physical injuries from service-related mental health conditions may be entitled to VA disability benefits.


  • Veterans may be eligible for VA disability benefits for physical injuries caused by service-related mental health conditions.
  • Service-connected psychological conditions may have accompanying physical symptoms that inflict harm on the veteran’s health.
  • Veterans may experience psychosomatic symptoms, where physical symptoms manifest from a mental health condition without a clear medical reason. 
  • Service-related mental health issues can lead veterans to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as abusing drugs and alcohol, which can cause further physical harm.
  • Veterans can seek VA disability benefits for secondary physical conditions resulting from service-related mental health issues but may require legal assistance to navigate the claims process effectively.

The ongoing stress, separation from family and friends, and exposure to violence can often trigger or aggravate mental health conditions in military personnel. It is not uncommon for service-related mental health issues to have physical consequences. 

There are several ways this can occur. However, it can be difficult to establish a clear connection between mental illness and physical injuries without the proper resources and knowledge of the VA appeals process. 

Our team at VetLaw is regarded for our ability to help veterans secure VA disability benefits in complicated cases. Reach out to our skilled team of veterans disability claims lawyers to learn more about our services. You can give us a call at (855) 651-1522 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.

Psychological Conditions May Produce Physical Outcomes Characteristic of the Underlying Mental Illness

Many vets suffer from mental health conditions that also have defining physical symptoms. Essentially, there is an established medical basis for the outward symptoms of the psychological issue.

The patient’s physical complications often help a provider make the diagnosis, rather than simply be accepted as associated but inexplicable symptoms. For instance, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia are prime examples of mental illnesses with obvious and direct ramifications for the individual’s physical health.

Veterans who experience ordeals like Military Sexual Trauma are often more prone to eating disorders. If a veteran has service-related anorexia, they may feel compelled to restrict their eating. Ultimately, this deprives their body of key nutrients.

Anorexia can compromise bone density, increasing their risk of severe fractures. Additionally, these unhealthy eating habits may strain the heart muscle. Consequently, the veteran may suffer permanent cardiovascular damage or even a heart attack.

Veterans With Mental Health Conditions May Suffer Psychosomatic Symptoms

In other cases, a veteran’s physical injuries may have a more tenuous connection to their service-related mental health condition. When a physical symptom has psychological origins, it may be considered psychosomatic. Veterans can experience real physical harm with no medical cause as a reaction to mental stress. 

For example, anxiety in veterans has been linked to migraines, stomach problems, chronic pain, high blood pressure, and other physical symptoms. The veteran may be unable to attribute their service-related chronic pain, for instance, to a medical issue such as a spinal cord injury.

Yet, that doesn’t stop the chronic pain from interfering with their job performance and reducing their quality of life. While psychosomatic injuries are less understood than typical mental or physical conditions, both the medical community and the VA recognize that they can be debilitating.

You’ll likely need an experienced VA disability benefits attorney to successfully resolve your case.

How a Veteran’s Mental Health Issues Can Cause Physical Injuries Related to Their Behavior

More indirectly, service-connected mental health issues can cause veterans to act in reckless or self-destructive ways that lead to physical injuries. For example, a veteran struggling with depression related to their military service may develop substance abuse issues. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can irreparably harm organs, particularly the brain and liver. This can lead to cognitive impairment and organ failure, respectively. If a veteran abuses drugs to cope with a mental condition, that can expose them to infections and bloodborne illnesses like HIV or Hepatitis C. Additionally, they are at risk of overdosing. 

Even if they stop using opioids, the threat of physical injury is not always over. Beyond the long-term effects of drug use on the body, treatments like Suboxone can cause tooth decay or inflict other devastating physical costs. Unfortunately, mental health issues like depression can also cause a vet to intentionally harm themselves or attempt suicide.

Veterans Can Seek VA Disability Benefits for Secondary Physical Conditions

Too often, veterans are embarrassed by the physical consequences of their mental condition or fail to attribute their physical injuries to poor mental health. However, this is a well-documented dynamic in medicine. The VA also recognizes the relationship between mental health issues and physical conditions.

If you have a service-related mental health condition that has caused or exacerbated a physical injury, you may be entitled to benefits for your Secondary Condition. Expect the VA to schedule a C&P exam to verify your physical condition is related to a service-connected disability and document the severity of your injury.

Depending on how disruptive your symptoms are, you may feel that the VA is offering insufficient benefits based on a low disability rating. Our VA disability claims attorneys are equipped to argue for an increased disability rating so you can receive fair benefits. 

Contact Our VA-Accredited Veterans Disability Claims Lawyers at Vet Law

If you are trying to manage a service-related mental condition that also resulted in physical injuries, you have enough to contend with. VetLaw is a trusted name in veterans disability law.

You can let us take charge of your VA disability appeal and feel confident that we will make every effort to maximize your disability benefits.

Contact our team of veterans disability appeals lawyers at (855) 651-1522 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation. We’ll ensure that you comprehend your options and advise you on the most suitable route to appeal your VA disability claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can physical injuries cause mental health conditions?

Yes, it is well-established that sustaining a physical injury can have a negative impact on mental health. For example, veterans battling a chronic physical illness or adapting to a new lifestyle after a traumatic injury often exhibit symptoms of mental conditions like depression. 

Usually, this is attributed to the physical pain of recovery or treatment, the limitations on mobility, and the strain a serious injury can put on relationships. In other cases, a physical injury may directly cause psychological harm. 

For example, researchers are finding that gastrointestinal health and mental health are related. Gut problems may impact neurotransmitter levels that are responsible for keeping the brain healthy.

Can I claim more than one physical Secondary Condition to receive VA disability benefits?

Yes, you can potentially have multiple Secondary Conditions. Remember that each of your Secondary Conditions still needs to be connected to a service-related disability.

Which common service-related mental health issues are likely to cause physical injuries?

Military service can cause a pre-existing mental health condition to become worse. It can also act as a catalyst for a new psychological issue.

Vets with mental health conditions may be at a greater risk for physical injuries if their disability significantly interferes with their ability to care for themselves, renders them emotionally volatile, or puts excessive strain on their bodies.

Here are a few of the mental health conditions that may fit this description: