What is Secondary Service Connection?

VA laws and regulations provide Veterans the opportunity to receive VA disability compensation for injuries and/or disabilities that were caused directly by military service (e.g., traumatic brain injury due to an IED explosion, post traumatic stress disorder from combat, etc.).

However, let’s say you are receiving benefits for PTSD. What happens if your PTSD also leads to sleep apnea? If your sleep apnea conditions are caused by your service-connected PTSD, you are entitled to compensation for that as well. This is known as a secondary condition.

The same laws and regulations that allow a Veteran to receive disability payments for an injury they incurred in service also allow for service connection for subsidiary conditions caused by those primary service-connected disabilities. This is called secondary service connection.

How does Secondary Service Connection Work?

Regulations allow for secondary service connection if the primary disability causes or aggravates beyond the natural progression of a disease or injury. If you are attempting to get secondary service connection based on aggravation of a non-service-connected condition, you must show a “baseline severity” of that condition. What that means is that there must be medical evidence showing that aggravation of the secondary condition was at least “as likely as not” caused by the primary service-connected injury.

For example, some research indicates that PTSD may aggravate hypertension. If you are service-connected for PTSD and want to be service-connected for hypertension, you must show the VA that your PTSD directly caused your hypertension.

You can do this by showing you did not have hypertension prior to the onset of PTSD or that the PTSD aggravated your hypertension beyond its natural progression. For instance, you could show that your hypertension was well-controlled prior to the onset of PTSD, but now your medication is not controlling your hypertension like it previously was.

In essence, a Veteran must be able to provide evidence that their service-connected disability caused another disability.

Either method mentioned above may be used to establish a service connection on a secondary basis. Keep in mind that the Veteran must still show a current diagnosis of that secondary condition, and the primary condition must also be service connected.

Veterans Benefits Lawyers

At Berry Law, we are dedicated to helping Veterans in their fight for disability compensation because we are a team full of Veterans. Founded in 1965 by Vietnam Veteran John Stevens Berry, Berry Law features attorneys from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. We are committed to helping fellow Veterans receive the disability compensation they deserve.

If you have been denied disability compensation or received an unfavorable rating decision for a secondary service-connected disability, we can help. Contact an experienced VA disability attorney on our team to schedule a free case evaluation and begin your fight for secondary service connection.