Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental illness that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event. Many veterans experience and are service-connected for PTSD because of traumatic events that occur during service. PTSD can also lead to the development of other conditions. Those conditions can also be service connected.
If you are interested in learning how your VA disability benefits could be increased or if you require assistance regarding your VA claim or appeal, contact the experienced Veterans disability lawyers at Berry Law. Our team of Veterans serving Veterans aggressively fights for you and your rights to ensure that you’re compensated fairly for your service-connected condition.
This article will cover:
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition developed in response to a shocking, terrifying, or traumatic event. PTSD symptoms commonly affect Veterans and service members, who may experience a wide range of negative effects as a result of prolonged trauma, stress, and other risk factors. Symptoms of PTSD include:
If you believe you are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, or related mental health disorders, contact your medical provider or your local VA medical center, who can help connect you to mental health services and the assistance you require. If you believe you are in crisis, please dial 911 or call the Veteran’s mental health line by
As with all primary service-connected disabilities, to get service connected for PTSD, you have to prove three things:
It is slightly more difficult to confirm your PTSD was caused by an in-service event because the VA is prohibited from relying solely on your testimony to determine if your in-service stressor occurred. But, the VA still has a duty to assist you in confirming your stressful event.
Showing the connection between PTSD and military service may depend on the Veteran’s military history. For example, someone who was involved in frontline combat may be able to connect their PTSD diagnosis with their service more easily than a Veteran who was not deployed or did not experience hostile fighting firsthand.
The best way to provide information to the VA about your stressor is to fill out a VA Form 21-0781 or a VA Form 21-0781a if your stressor was a personal assault. Fill out as much information on those forms as you can. You can also get a “buddy statement” from someone who can speak to the experience and confirm your stressful event. Any evidence that you had that the event occurred should be included.
If you have been diagnosed with PTSD, make sure you send any medical records to the VA. If you are seen at a VA facility for your treatment, the VA should already have those records. If you are seen outside the VA for your mental health treatment, make sure you fill out VA Form 21-4142 and VA Form 21-4142a. You can also request your medical records from your personal medical provider and send them directly to the VA.
Finally, you need to show a nexus between the stressful event and your PTSD diagnosis. A nexus can be obtained from your treating provider, an outside expert, or an examination requested by the VA. If you have provided proof that you have a diagnosis, an in-service event, and evidence showing that your in-service event might have caused or aggravated your PTSD, the VA must provide you with an examination.
A substantial amount of scientific literature and research confirms the link between post-traumatic stress disorder and an increased disposition toward poor physical health. Studies suggest that this relationship may be partly psychological and biological, meaning that, at times, it is difficult to trace exactly how PTSD may lead to another condition. Additionally, whether someone eventually develops additional health problems due to PTSD may be influenced by a variety of other factors, such as diet, lifestyle, exercise, overall health status, and substance abuse.
In general, it has been shown that Veterans with PTSD symptoms are more likely to experience high blood pressure, problems affecting the cardiovascular system, and an increased risk of certain illnesses.
Conditions can be service connected if they are directly related to military service. They can also be service connected if they are caused or aggravated by a service-connected disability. Because of the nature of PTSD and its overall effect on the body, there are several conditions that can be caused or aggravated by PTSD. If your condition is caused or aggravated by PTSD, you may be entitled to a service connection for that condition.
There are many conditions secondary to PTSD; these include both mental disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and conditions that affect one’s physical health. Keep in mind that all of these cases are fact-specific. Just because your condition is listed below, or just because a fellow veteran has been service-connected for that condition secondary to their PTSD, that does not mean your physical symptoms will be service connected. If you have questions about your specific case or if your specific condition can be service connected as secondary to PTSD, contact Berry Law.
Common conditions that are secondary to PTSD are:
This list is not exhaustive. This list also depends on each veteran’s specific scenario. If you file for one of these conditions secondary to PTSD, you may still be denied based on your individual medical history and your individual condition. It is important that when you file for service connection as secondary to PTSD, you include additional evidence to show that your condition is secondary to your PTSD.
To get service connected for any condition, you first have to show that you have a diagnosis. You can get a diagnosis from your medical provider or through a VA examination.
To get a VA examination, you have to be able to show that you have symptoms of the condition. If you do not have a diagnosis or symptoms of a condition, you cannot be service connected for that condition.
The best way to establish you have a condition is to talk to your primary medical care provider about your symptoms and ask them to provide a diagnosis, then submit that evidence to the VA. You can also submit a statement to the VA that details your symptoms. This statement can be from you or people in your life that witnessed your symptoms.
Next, you have to establish that your conditions are caused or aggravated by your service-connected PTSD. You can establish this if you can find medical research linking your condition to PTSD. If you can find reputable research studies linking your condition to PTSD, submit those to the VA. You can also talk to your primary care physician about your conditions and what aggravates them. For example, if your blood pressure spikes when you have panic attacks associated with your PTSD, ask your primary care physician to note that in your medical records.
You may also get an outside medical professional to give you an opinion about if your condition is caused or aggravated by your PTSD. These can sometimes be persuasive to the VA, but sometimes they are not. Talk to your representative or a dedicated VA benefits lawyer at Berry Law if you are considering an outside opinion.
If you submit an outside opinion, an opinion from your doctor, a mental health professional, or medical research articles linking your condition to your PTSD, the VA may still require you to go to a VA examination. Sometimes a VA examiner will provide a positive nexus opinion about how your PTSD impacts your other condition.
PTSD is also known to cause weight gain. If your PTSD makes it difficult for you to exercise or eat right and your condition is caused by your weight gain, that may be a path to service connection. Furthermore, as a result of weight gain, you could be more likely to develop another condition, such as chronic pain or sleep apnea, secondary to PTSD. The Court of Appeals of Veteran Claims has held that obesity may be an intermediate step to service connection. If your PTSD causes your obesity and your obesity causes you to develop another condition, then that condition should be secondary service-connection related.
You do not need to prove that your PTSD causes your condition for it to be a secondary service-connected condition, only that your PTSD aggravates it.
Berry Law is a law firm composed of experienced Veterans and Attorneys that can help you get your PTSD or secondary condition service-connected. Beyond that, we can ensure that your conditions are rated correctly with the correct benefit effective date. Contact Berry Law today for more information about getting service connected for your secondary conditions.
Our monthly newsletter features about important and up-to-date veterans' law news, keeping you informed about the changes that matter.