Of all the conditions veterans face when returning home from service, diabetes is one of the most common. This service-connected illness can cause a variety of secondary conditions, including vascular disease, stroke, blindness, amputations, and kidney failure. But this blood sugar disease can also be the cause of depression—an illness that some veterans can claim as a secondary service-connected disability.

depressed_soldier_and_doctorAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about eight percent of people in the U.S. have diabetes, and approximately 25 percent of all veterans who receive care from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) suffer from this disease.

Researchers believe that diabetes affects veterans disproportionately for the following reasons:

  • Veterans have a higher rate of obesity and greater likelihood of being overweight than the rest of the population. Over 70 percent of VA patients are overweight or struggle with obesity.
  • Patients receiving care from the VA are often older, are from lower income families, and don't have easy access to food that's healthy and of high quality.
  • VA patients may have been exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

All of these can increase the risk of developing diabetes—and this disease can increase your risk of developing depression.

If you suffer from service-connected diabetes, it’s also possible there’s a link between your disease and secondary depression. Because the VA recognizes depression as a ratable medical condition, you may be eligible for disability benefits for depression as a secondary condition. But it’s important to hire an experienced VA disability attorney to help with your claim.

The VA Rating System for Secondary Condition Depression

It’s possible to apply for VA compensation for depression as a secondary service connection to diabetes if you have a diagnosis of diabetes from your doctor, as well as a diagnosis of depression.

You also need to provide medical evidence that shows a connection between your depression and your diabetes. The VA rates your depression using a 0 percent–100 percent rating scale that evaluates your symptoms and their effects on your occupational and social functioning. To receive a 100 percent rating, you must show total social and occupational impairment caused by hallucinations, disorientation, and potential self-harm.

Call Cuddigan Law

If you’re a veteran suffering from depression due to service-connected diabetes, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can help you better understand if your condition meets the requirements under which depression claims are evaluated and approved.  Give us a call at 402-933-5405 or email us at [email protected] for a free evaluation of your case. We’ll work with you to help ensure your best possible chance for getting an approved claim for depression as a secondary condition.


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska