A common mistake veterans make when applying for disability benefits is failing to consider the implications of their secondary medical conditions. Listing a secondary medical condition on your application can increase your compensation significantly.
What Is a Secondary Condition?
A secondary condition develops as the result of another medical condition, as opposed to developing on its own. Secondary conditions can essentially be thought of as complications from another condition.
Consider the case of a man who suffers diabetes from Agent Orange exposure. The Agent Orange exposure makes diabetes his primary service-connected disability. If he develops complications from diabetes, such as diabetic kidney disease or diabetic eye disease, these illnesses can be classified as secondary conditions.
Mental health conditions are common secondary conditions when a veteran suffers a seriously disabling injury. Any condition that causes chronic pain, for example, increases the risk of depression.
In some cases, a secondary disability could develop as a result of treatment for the original service-connected condition. As an example, powerful prescription pain medications can cause kidney, liver, and stomach problems if they are taken for an extended period of time. If the medication is taken to deal with serious injuries resulting from military service, the problems related to medication use are a secondary disabling condition.
Several medical conditions can be either primary or secondary. For example, arthritis is a primary condition if it develops from overuse of a joint over an extended period of time. However, it becomes a secondary condition if it develops because extra pressure is applied to the hip joints after a spinal injury. In this case, the arthritis would likely not have occurred without the spinal injury. The arthritis would qualify for disability benefits because it was related to an injury suffered during military service.
How to Receive Disability Benefits for a Secondary Condition
To receive veterans disability benefits for a secondary condition, you must be able to prove two things:
- The original condition is a service-connected disability.
- Your secondary condition is the result of the service-connected disability and not attributable to some other cause.
To increase your chances of a successful application, you should provide as much medical evidence as possible to document your condition. This includes treatment records from The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and non-VA facilities, the results of any diagnostic tests, and opinions from relevant medical experts.
If your application is approved, your secondary condition will be rated with the VASRD (Veteran Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities) scale that is used to apply ratings to all disabilities based on the severity of symptoms.
What If I Had a Traumatic Brain Injury?
The Veterans Administration allows special presumptions for individuals who suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during service. There is a listing of medical conditions, including unprovoked seizures, dementia, depression, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and specific hormone deficiencies, that can be presumed to be related to the TBI.
If a presumption applies to your case, this makes it easier to be approved for benefits because you will not need to show evidence that your secondary condition was caused by a previous service-connected injury.
What Is Secondary Service Aggravation?
Secondary service aggravation means that a condition is aggravated by a disability incurred during military service. An example would be a veteran with a service-connected rating for flat feet. If he is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis many years later, this can be considered secondary service aggravation because the condition was aggravated by the abnormal gait caused by his flat feet. (Rheumatoid arthritis is genetic and can’t be a service-connected condition on its own.)
Are You A Veteran Who Needs Legal Help To Obtain The Disability Benefits You Deserve?
If you are a veteran and you need help receiving the benefits you deserve you should speak with an experienced veterans disability benefits lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.