Most Veterans know they are eligible for VA Disability Compensation for disabilities or conditions that are caused during military service. However, many Veterans do not realize they are eligible for additional benefits for conditions that are caused or aggravated by service-connected conditions. Secondary Service Connection is an important concept of Veterans Law that should not be overlooked by anyone filing VA Claims.
What is Secondary Service Connection?
Secondary Service Connection is authorized by 38 C.F.R.§ 3.310. This section states “disability which is proximately due to or the result of a service-connected disease or injury shall be service connected. When service connection is thus established for a secondary condition, the secondary condition shall be considered part of the original condition.”
Secondary service connection applies whenever a service-connected condition causes a new condition to arise, or whenever a service-connected condition aggravates a non-service connected condition. If you have a service connected condition, and it makes another condition worse, you should be eligible for service connected benefits for that secondary condition.
What Conditions Can Be Claimed Using Secondary Service Connection?
ANY condition that is made worse or caused by a service-connected condition can be claimed under secondary service connection. You can claim secondary service connection for a mental health claim, a joint claim, a headache claim, or a claim caused by medications for service-connected condition.
Secondary Service Connection can be applied to a new condition whenever the new condition arises. It does not matter whether the new condition is directly caused by military service, or whether it arose forty years after military service.
When claiming secondary service connection, it is not improper to claim multiple theories of entitlement – that is, you can claim that a condition was either directly caused by military service, or the condition was caused by another service connected condition. The law does not presume you are able to diagnose your own conditions, and a doctor will need to consider each theory you raise when VA decides your claim.
How Can Secondary Service Connection Be Used to Increase My Overall Rating?
Secondary service connection claims are important to Veterans seeking to maximize their VA benefits. Claiming secondary conditions can be helpful to Veterans seeking to increase their overall ratings.
Veterans that suffer from service-connected musculoskeletal injuries that cause them to limp often overlook secondary conditions when applying for VA benefits. The classic scenario is a Veteran hurts a knee while serving. Over the years, the knee causes the Veteran to develop a limp, which causes back, hip, and ankle problems. Although the Veteran did not actually hurt the back, hip, or ankle in service, these conditions can now become service connected through secondary service connection. Other frequently seen examples of secondary service connection include:
- Service-connected diabetes that causes peripheral neuropathy
- Depression that arises as a result of suffering from physical service-connected conditions
- Hypertension or erectile dysfunction that arise as a result of medicines prescribed for service-connected conditions
There is no limit to the conditions that can be claimed under secondary service connection. However, you will need a medical opinion corroborating your theory in order for VA to grant your benefits. This opinion can come from a VA doctor, or from an outside physician.
How Can I File A Claim for Secondary Service Connection?
Filing a claim for secondary service connection is no different than filing any other claim for service connection. However, it is important to clearly explain your theories of service connection for the record when submitting your claim. If the theory is not clearly raised by the record, your chances of VA missing the theory when processing your claim rise dramatically.
Do you have any other questions about secondary service connection? Ask us about them in the comments below. Do you need help with a claim for secondary service connection? Contact our Veterans Law Attorney and we will give you a free consultation to discuss your issue. You do not have to fight the VA alone – Veteran Esquire Legal Solutions can help you find assistance with your VA benefits appeals and claims.