Common Secondary Service-Connected Conditions

Veterans often wonder if they are entitled to benefits for conditions that arise as a result of their service-connected disability. For example, Veterans who are suffering from PTSD often wonder if they are entitled to benefits for sleep apnea because the PTSD caused it. The simple answer is yes. The department of Veterans Affairs refers to this type of disability as secondary service connection.

Secondary service connection does not require an injury or a disease that happened while in active service. Once you are service connected for an injury or disease, some other problems may flow from that disability.  For example, if you are service-connected for lumbar strain and you now have nerve pain running down your leg (a neuropathy), you may get neuropathy service-connected secondary to the lumbar strain.

Common Secondary Service-Connected Conditions

Although the secondary service-connected condition relies on the primary disability, there are some common conditions we see secondary connection for.

  • Depression can be secondary to Parkinson’s Disease, cancer, painful orthopedic injuries, or any number of conditions and diseases that are service connected.
  • PTSD can have secondary claims such as Migraines, hypertension, sleep apnea, erectile dysfunction, coronary heart disease, chronic pain, stomach disorders such as GERD, or IBS. Some of these conditions may be caused by the medication the Veteran takes for PTSD.
  • Diabetes can cause many secondary conditions such as neuropathy, erectile dysfunction, hypertension, skin conditions, arteriosclerosis, cataracts, kidney disease, diabetic ulcers, leg and feet infection, digestion, diarrhea, retinopathy, glaucoma, heart problems, strokes, and depression to name a few.
  • Musculoskeletal injuries may cause further injuries. Back problems may lead to pain and numbness in the nerves going down to your legs, cause incontinence of stool and urine, induce problems with other joints if you have an altered gait, create painful scars if you required surgery, and the pain may lead to headaches.
  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) may give rise to migraines, visual problems, loss of a visual field, aid and attendance, individual unemployability, seizures, parkinsonism, hormone deficiency from pituitary changes, depression, and dementia.
  • Tinnitus can lead to insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, and headaches.

Relating Primary and Secondary Conditions

Parts of the body do not work in isolation; an abnormality in one area of the body may lead to more abnormalities elsewhere.  Once you establish a secondary service connection for an injury caused by the primary service-connected condition, it becomes a separate condition and is rated separately from the primary condition. If it is shown to have become more debilitating, you may ask for an increase in rating for the secondary condition. It is important to note that scientific evidence is needed to prove that one condition causes the other.

Secondary Service Connection and Pyramiding

You should also note that the VA prohibits pyramiding. Pyramiding is the evaluation of the same disability under various diagnoses.  For example, you may not claim PTSD separately from depression and anxiety, this would be pyramiding.  However, if you have PTSD and develop sleep apnea (or migraines, stomach problems, etc.) these conditions may be considered secondary to PTSD.

How We can Help

At Berry Law, we understand the difficulty Veterans have getting their VA claims approved. We have helped thousands of Veterans in their fight for disability benefits. If you have been denied disability benefits for secondary service connection, we can help. Contact Berry Law today to schedule a free case evaluation.