Disability benefits provided by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are paid as a tax-free benefit to veterans who experience a disease, disability, condition, or an illness that occurred or aggravated during military service. Additionally, veterans may suffer from a complication resulting from that service-connected injury or illness. This is called a secondary condition and may also qualify for compensation.
For example, if a veteran experienced a service-connected limb amputation and following the surgery, she presented signs and symptoms of depression, she could pursue depression as a secondary condition.
The depression wasn't directly service-connected, but it was a result of an initial service-connected disability.
Because submitting claims for disability benefits can be complicated, it’s important to enlist the help of a skilled VA disability lawyer who can ensure the best possible outcome for a secondary condition claim.
Two Types of Claims
It’s important to remember there are two types of claims the VA will grant a secondary service connection:
- Disabilities that are “proximately due to” or caused by the service-connected disease or injury. For example, a veteran who was exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam war may develop diabetes. As a result of that diabetes, she may develop peripheral neuropathy in her legs and feet.
- Disabilities that are aggravated by the service-connected disease or injury. For example, consider a veteran who's diagnosed with a service-connected ankle injury that leaves her with a limp. She may be diagnosed years later with severe arthritis in that ankle that forces her to use a walking assistance device. While the arthritis can’t be service-connected, it can be aggravated by her inability to walk with a normal gait due to the ankle injury she suffered during service.
It’s important to understand that not all secondary conditions will receive a rating from the VA or awarded benefits as a secondary connection. Thus, it’s critical to include a nexus letter with your application. This letter from your doctor can help convince the VA that your initial service-connected disability caused your second medical condition.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’re a veteran and believe you have a secondary condition, contact Cuddigan Law for help with your VA benefits application. Our attorneys have years of experience assisting veterans file applications and appeal denied claims, and they can determine if you have a secondary condition and how to best apply for disability.