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What is a Secondary Condition | VetLaw

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  • Veterans with service-connected disabilities frequently develop secondary conditions, costing them in medical bills, as well as their ability to work and enjoy life.
  • Proving that there is a connection between the primary disability and Secondary Condition requires compelling medical evidence and a VA disability claims attorney’s legal expertise.
  • Examples of Secondary Conditions may include mental health issues like depression and PTSD, as well as physical conditions like sleep apnea, migraines, and heart problems.

Millions of veterans are living with life-altering illnesses and injuries acquired as a result of serving in the military. Over time, those health conditions can lead to other issues that considerably impact a veteran’s finances, quality of life, and overall health beyond the effects of the original injury.

Under these circumstances, a veteran may be eligible for benefits for a Secondary Condition. Establishing a connection between a service-related disability and an additional medical issue can be a challenge.

To ensure that you have the best chance of obtaining the benefits you deserve, you should involve an experienced, VA-accredited lawyer. They will help you collect evidence of your Secondary Condition and offer proof of a link to your original disability.

The veterans disability claim attorneys of VetLaw are familiar with the most effective and efficient approaches to filing a claim with the VA. We have proudly represented veterans for nearly a decade, and we are ready to do the same for you. Schedule a free consultation with our team by calling (855) 434-2492 or completing our online contact form.  

Veterans May Receive Benefits for a Secondary Condition Related to a Prior Disability

Most veterans are aware that to be eligible for disability benefits with the VA, they must show that the illness or injury they are basing their claim on resulted from their military service. The disability may also be a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by performing their duties. 

Many veterans find that their service-connected disability entails other consequences in the form of another health problem, also known as a Secondary Condition. The VA defines a Secondary Condition as: 

  • A new health condition derived from a service-connected injury or illness, or 
  • A pre-existing condition that became notably worse due to a service-related injury or illness

For instance, let’s say you were exposed to toxic burn pits while serving overseas. Then, you developed a chronic and progressive condition known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Due to your COPD, you develop heart disease. Your cardiac issues would likely qualify as a Secondary Condition, as your military service created the circumstances for the COPD that caused your heart disease

Common Examples of Secondary Conditions

A Secondary Condition can be a mental or physical health problem. The primary service-related disability can also be mental or physical in nature.

For example, veterans with cervical spinal cord injuries are prone to developing severe respiratory issues. Due to their SCI, the muscles that help them breathe are compromised. The respiratory problems would constitute a Secondary Condition. 

Or, consider a case where a veteran is diagnosed with PTSD after being sexually assaulted while deployed. If they develop an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, as a way to cope with their PTSD, it would likely meet the criteria of a Secondary Condition.

Some of the most common Secondary Conditions cited in VA disability claims include:

Traumatic injuries or debilitating illnesses often produce additional issues requiring treatment. This can create further financial strain and stress for disabled veterans and their families.

How to Qualify for VA Disability Benefits for a Secondary Condition

To Secondary Condition claim, you first need to have evidence of a service-connected disability. From there, you need to present medical evidence that your service-connected disability led to your Secondary Condition. Or, you need to show or that a health issue you had prior to entering the service got worse after you sustained your original service-related disability.

Certain Secondary Conditions are considered presumptive conditions by the VA, which makes the disability benefits claims process a little smoother. Essentially, the VA recognizes that service-connected disabilities have common complications. For example, developing arthritis after sustaining severe joint damage to your wrist.

In either case, you may still need to undergo a C&P exam to evaluate the existence and circumstances of your Secondary condition. Then, the VA will use the evidence you have offered and the results of the C&P exam to determine if they should adjust your disability rating

If the VA increases your disability rating, you may become eligible for additional VA benefits, such as Total Disability for Individual Unemployability (TDIU). Veterans who are interested in pursuing a higher disability rating due to a Secondary Condition should involve a veterans disability claim attorney. A Lawyer can help to ensure that their benefits and disability rating reflect their situation.

The VA-Accredited Attorneys of VetLaw Are Ready to Help You Pursue a Secondary Condition Claim

Our team at VetLaw finds purpose in advocating for veterans to receive the disability benefits their service entitles them to. We are here to make your experience easier. Take advantage of our cultivated skill set, years’ worth of knowledge, and understanding of the VA’s system. We encourage you to check out our client reviews for a preview of what to expect from our team. 

Whether you’re filing a veterans disability claim for the first time, submitting a Secondary service-connected claim, or trying to overturn a claim denied by the VA, VetLaw is the go-to legal team for dealing with the VA. For more information about what we can do for you, reach out to us at (855) 434-2492 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have to be receiving disability benefits from the VA before I can make a claim based on a Secondary Condition?

No. You can file a disability benefits claim with the VA for a Secondary Condition even if you haven’t made a prior claim for your service-connected disability. That being said, you will still have to show that you sustained a service-related injury or illness for any claim based on a Secondary Condition to be considered valid.

Can I file an appeal if the VA denies my disability benefits claim for my Secondary Condition?

Yes, you can appeal a VA decision denying your claim for benefits based on a Secondary Condition. By their nature, Secondary Conditions are further removed from the veteran’s military service. That may complicate your effort to secure benefits. 

The best way to deal with a denied VA claim is to hire a veterans disability appeals lawyer to convince the VA that your Secondary Condition is a consequence of your service-related disability and that it is deserving of additional benefits.

Do I need a medical nexus letter for my Secondary Condition?

Although you don’t explicitly need a medical nexus letter to prove your Secondary Condition, it is a good idea to submit one. The more clear, reliable medical evidence you have connecting your Secondary Condition to your service-connected disability, the stronger your case looks to the VA, and the better the chance you have of your claim getting approved.