Most veterans don’t realize that there are at least five distinct routes to connect a medical condition to their military service. One of the most overlooked yet advantageous ways to get a higher VA disability rating is through SECONDARY service connection.
If a veteran currently has a diagnosed service connected disability and believes they have other symptoms or conditions caused or aggravated by the service connected disability, then those conditions can be rated the same as if it had happened in military service. To be clear, secondary conditions don’t have to have happened while you while in the military! To be rated the condition only needs to be caused or aggravated by an already service connected condition even if that service connected condition is rated at 0%. For example, if you are serviced-connected for flat feet and it eventually wears on your ankles and causes ankle pain then you can claim ankle pain secondary to the flat feet. A causes B. Then, B causes C, so C is service-connected.
What The Law Says
For secondary service connection to be granted, generally there must be (1) medical evidence of a current disability; (2) evidence of a service-connected disability; and (3) medical nexus evidence establishing a connection between the service-connected disability and the current disability. Wallin v. West, 11 Vet. App. 509, 512 (1998). When service connection is thus established for a secondary condition, the secondary condition shall be considered a part of the original condition. 38 C.F.R. § 3.310 (2012); Harder v. Brown, 5 Vet. App. 183, 187 (1993). Additional disability resulting from the aggravation of a non service-connected condition by a service-connected condition is also compensable under 38 C.F.R. § 3.310(a). Allen v. Brown, 7 Vet. App. 439, 448 (1995).
Secondary conditions due to PTSD may include:
- Conditions of depression.
- Sleep Apnea.
- Headaches or migranes.
- Substance abuse.
- Irritable bowel syndrome, IBS.
Other common secondary connections include:
- Depression and memory loss
- Depression and insomnia
- Chronic Pain and depression
- Headaches secondary to depression.
- Chronic pain migraines, and PTSD
- Chronic pain and insomnia
- Chronic pain and anxiety
- Anxiety and hypertension
- Sleep apnea secondary to GERD, Asthma, Sinusitis, or Allergic rhinitis.
- Ankle, Knee, Shin splints, hip and lower back issues service connected secondary to flat feet or collapsed arches.
- Cervical Conditions(Neck Pain) and LT/RT Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
How To Claim Secondary Conditions
To be rated, the non-service connected condition must be specifically claimed as secondary. Don’t assume the VA will pick up on the connection for you. You must connect the dots for them.