Secondary Disability VA Rating

Want a higher VA disability rating?  Many veterans service-connected disabilities cause them additional physical problems.  Those veterans should often receive a higher disability rating from VA.

Unfortunately, many veterans overlook the ways that some of their conditions are service-connected.  You need to know the basics of this way to service-connect a disability so you won’t be one of those veterans who is not receiving the full benefits you deserve.

Man holding his back in pain What is a Secondary Disability?

Many veterans do not apply for benefits for secondary conditions because they do not realize they are eligible. They only think in terms of direct service-connection, which is when there is a nexus between a current disability and an in-service event, injury, or disease.  In other words, A causes B.

A secondary condition, also known as a secondary disability, is a disability that is the result of another service-connected condition. In this scenario, A causes B.  Then, B causes C, so C is service-connected.

If you develop a medical condition because of a service-connected condition, then the medical condition that you develop is probably service-connected as well. But, you have to file for it.

What are some of the ways a secondary condition can develop?

There are several common ways that secondary conditions develop. I have listed a few of them below:

Pill bottles with pills on the table

As a result of medical treatment for a service-connected condition

The treatment that is necessary for a medical condition can often cause another medical condition to develop.  One example is pain medication which could cause liver problems, kidney problems and stomach problems.

Another example is surgery.  Even if done carefully, surgery has risks and could cause other medical conditions to develop.

Other times, the progression of the disease leads to other complications that can become disabling as well.  A frequent example we see is Vietnam veterans who develop diabetes as a result of Agent Orange exposure.  As a result of their diabetes, they then develop peripheral neuropathy in their feet and legs.

Whether it is the result of medical treatment or a known complication of the underlying service-connected disability, it is important to remember you must file for benefits for the secondary condition if you want to receive VA disability compensation.

As a result of everyday life

Certain injuries and disabilities put additional stress on other parts of the body.  A serious injury to your right arm might cause you to overuse your left arm.  An ankle or knee injury may cause you to walk in such a way that you put stress on other parts of your body.  If a service-connected condition puts stress on another part of your body that causes another condition to develop, then that other condition should be a secondary condition

A doctor looking at x-ray results As a result of presumptions from VA

VA has some regulations that provide presumptions for the development of certain secondary conditions.  One example is traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).  Veterans with a service-connected traumatic brain injury that develop certain medical conditions (unprovoked seizures, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, depression, and certain hormone deficiencies) may receive a presumption that these medical conditions are secondary to the traumatic brain injury.

Whether the presumption will apply depends on how severe the TBI was and the time between the TBI and the development of the secondary condition.  The benefit of the presumption is that the veteran does not have to demonstrate nexus between the service-connected condition and the secondary condition.

Aggravation of a preexisting condition can also count as a Secondary Disability

So far in this post, I have talked in terms of the underlying service connected condition causing the secondary disability.  However, you can still service-connect a secondary condition you already had.  You can do this if your your service-connected conditions aggravated or worsened that condition.

For example, a veteran with non-service-connected low back problems may also have a service-connected knee problem.  If that knee problem causes a limp that makes the back condition worse than it otherwise would have been, VA should service-connect the low back aggravation on a secondary basis.

Filing Is Easy, But Winning May Be Harder

VA Form 21-526b is a one page application for secondary service-connection.  While this should be simple to complete, the VA may not determine your condition to be service-connected on the initial application.  Many times, claims examiners are only looking for direct-service connection.  If that happens and you don’t have an event, injury, or disease in service that led to this disability, VA may deny your claim.

What VA examiners should do instead is look for a medical nexus between your other service-connected disabilities and the one for which you are now seeking benefits.  It may not always be obvious.

In fact, it may requires some specific opinions from medical professionals to succeed.  This is where a veterans disability attorney can help.

Travis Studdard is an attorney who focuses on representing veterans in VA disability compensation claims.  He regularly writes about issues that are important to veterans and their families.

You can subscribe to his Veterans Disability channel on YouTube.

Rita BarnesRita Barnes
00:03 20 Jan 22
This is a great group of people who really care about your well being. They all treated me as though I was family and helped me with my work comp case in more ways than the average would have.Thank you Jason and Thank you Tina! For doing an awesome job.
Cortex ButlerCortex Butler
18:09 29 Dec 21
I am a Veteran of United States Air Force and was awarded my first 30% in 1996 and have been fighting for my rating for 26 years I came to Perkins and Studdard in 2019 while my mom was in a terrible incident and was given to much anesthesia and through GODS Grace she was spared her life, She is disabled since 2018 and I have been struggling with my life and issues and yet I didn’t call the law firm every 10 minutes or call being rude anytime, I mentioned this as I got to know Jessica more than just a phone call and Mr Studdard was always available when not working on other cases or in court, They always called back and Never had to do a call back, My Review is Simple in Life there peaks and valleys and it doesn’t stop because you have issues, Perkins & Studdard took my case in 2019 in 2021 I received my 100% from VA, I Was Never Rude, I was Never Promised Success, I Was Never Lied too and I was Always Treated with Respect, Friendliness, and Kindness the Real Stuff not a (Money Thing) If You want a firm that Cares about the Client and will work on your case even through a pandemic, Will not lie, will not promise anything will communicate your case and will Give you their Best ALWAYS THIS IS THE Best Law Firm for VETS HANDS DOWN Perkins and Studdard THERE IS NO OTHER 100% we had 5 calls Total Case That’s Taking Care Of Business
annetteMomma nokesannetteMomma nokes
14:29 12 Sep 16
Jason and his paralegal Lisa were on point and on top of their game when it came to handling my worker's comp. injury case. I tried going it alone and the insurance carrier pushed me around. They denied extra physical therapy. They denied injections the doctor recommended to ease my pain. When I turned my case over to Jason things turned around, QUICK. They were at all times attentive and on top of my case. I cannot recommend Jason and his staff enough. If you are hurt at work, this is the firm you want on YOUR side.
Sheila KirklinSheila Kirklin
23:11 12 May 16
Jason Perkins, was my lawyer in a workers comp. case, my case has settled now, and I am very happy for all Jason and his office hard work on my case, he was always there to help me out with any questions that I had or help I needed. Jason is a excellent lawyer and if I ever need another one I would only go to Perkins,Because I believe they would be able to help me in any situation I am in need of..
Anna PabonAnna Pabon
23:16 13 Sep 15
I recommend Perkins Law Firm. Everyone I came in contact with there was very nice. Kim was very helpful and any time I had a question she made sure I got an answer. Ann Margaret really took the time to explain things to me.

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