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VA Secondary Conditions to Back Pain & How To Appeal

VA Secondary Conditions to Back Pain & How To Appeal

In the course of a Veteran’s service in the military, they run into many situations and events that can cause an injury.

Some injuries are small and do not have any long-lasting effects. Others can have life-altering effects that debilitate a Veteran.

Some of the most common injuries affect a Veteran’s back. Because many Veterans suffer from back conditions, they are entitled to receive benefits from the VA.

Veterans suffer from back conditions, but back pain can also lead to secondary conditions.

Sometimes the VA does not always give the best disability rating to a Veteran, or they will deny their claim overall. Here is how you can appeal a VA decision.

Key Takeaways:

  • Back pain can cause not only secondary physical conditions but psychological ones as well
  • Veterans can appeal any decision that the VA makes
  • Filing a claim for secondary conditions can increase your overall disability rating

What Are Some Common Secondary Conditions to Back Pain?

When Veterans suffer from an injury or an event, they may suffer from more than just one condition.

Certain conditions, such as back pain, can affect other areas of the body, causing more pain and discomfort.

Veterans should receive benefits for their disabilities, including secondary conditions. Veterans who have more than one condition also often need more benefits than they can get for just one.

The Veteran must provide ample medical evidence establishing a nexus to receive benefits for a primary disability and secondary conditions. If they do not or cannot, the VA will not grant the claim since they cannot prove whether or not the primary disability is the main stressor for the secondary conditions.

Here are some common  physical secondary conditions to back pain:

  • Paralysis
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sciatic nerve damage
  • Neuritis
  • Hypertensive vascular disease
  • External popliteal nerve damage

Here are some common psychological secondary conditions:

  • Depression
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Anxiety

Dramatic changes can result in numerous secondary conditions. Dealing with back pain every day can be excruciating for a Veteran. Back pain can result in secondary physical conditions, as well as psychological ones.

Veterans who suffer from back pain may have a challenging time adjusting back to normal life after discharge from service. This sudden change, coupled with back pain, can make them feel alone, isolated, or not understood.

Overall, disabilities can negatively affect a Veteran’s personal and work life. Having secondary conditions on top of the initial disability can make things even more difficult.

When dealing with treatment for other conditions related to service-connected disabilities, it can be challenging to cover the costs with just one disability rating.

Veterans who suffer from secondary conditions to back pain should seek benefits for their back condition and secondary conditions.

What Is a Secondary Condition According to the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has guidelines by which they define and understand secondary conditions.

The first category of secondary conditions is the most common. In this category, secondary conditions are caused or aggravated by an already existing service-connected disability. 

This is essentially a secondary condition that is affected by a primary service-connected disability. If the Veteran had not had the service-connected disability, they would never have had the secondary condition. This is the logic behind the first VA category of secondary conditions.

The second category of secondary conditions is a bit different. This category consists of a secondary condition that is aggravated by a service-connected disability.

Even if the non-service-connected secondary condition exists before the service-connected disability, the VA will still recognize that it is aggravated by the service-connected condition, given medical evidence that proves it. However, the VA can establish the secondary conditions baseline prior to aggravation, which allows the VA to only compensate to the extent the service connected condition aggravated the secondary condition beyond its baseline.

Veterans should seek a medical professional who can properly diagnose an aggravated secondary condition. If the VA does not receive evidence that proves the Veteran’s service-connected disability aggravates the secondary condition, they will not be able to receive benefits for it.

Why Do Secondary Conditions Matter?

The VA is prone to making mistakes when going over claims. When reviewing claims, the VA may look over any secondary conditions that a Veteran may suffer from and give them a lower disability rating than they deserve.

A lower disability rating will result in fewer benefits for a Veteran. Suppose a Veteran has secondary conditions and provides the proper evidence for it, yet the VA only focuses on the service-connected disability. In that case, that is a serious mistake that keeps a Veteran from receiving more benefits.

Does Treatment Such as Medication Cause Secondary Conditions?

Treatments can come in many different forms depending on who the Veteran is and what works best for them. Doctors often prescribe painkillers to Veterans to alleviate excruciating pain for back pain.

A good doctor will go over the side effects of prescribed medication with the Veteran before they go and take it. Yet many Veterans are unaware that they may be able to receive compensation for the side effects related to medication.

There are usually three side effects to medication that a Veteran can make a secondary service connection with:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Headaches

If a Veteran begins to feel the side effects listed above, they should see their doctor and try another form of treatment. 

Veterans should also seek ways to receive benefits for the side effects of prescribed medication. If they do not, they may be missing out on the benefits they are entitled to.

Making a Claim for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common forms of claims that the VA will see. However, it can also come across as unfair and confusing.

This is largely because the VA disability rating for back pain differs from other disabilities. When a Veteran successfully makes a service connection for back pain, they are often automatically given the lowest disability rating, 10%.

However, if they want to receive more than just 10%, they will have to show that they do not have a full range of motion, no matter how severe the pain is.

Even if this pain is life-altering for the Veteran, they have to show a decrease in their range of motion before they can be considered for a higher disability rating due to back pain.

How To Appeal a Decision About Back Pain

Another way a Veteran can receive more benefits and a higher rating is by appealing the VA’s initial decision.

Veterans who suffer from back pain also suffer from secondary conditions, which they can receive benefits from as well. This is one way for Veterans to increase their disability rating without getting the primary service-connected disability increased.

Working with an attorney who is experienced with the VA can help you get the most out of the appeal process. The VA has complicated rules and regulations (as shown with back pain claims) that can stress a Veteran going through it alone.

Many Veterans are unaware of how the VA makes its decisions. Because of this, they are more prone to make errors, which increases the risk that they might not get any benefits.

An attorney will make sure the Veteran has all of the necessary factors to make a good appeal. Usually, this will involve gathering relevant information that proves the Veteran’s secondary condition is related to or aggravated by their service-connected disability.

Evidence can consist of medical records, in-service records, or even buddy statements. 

Conclusion

Veterans are often prone to suffering from back pain and other secondary conditions.

Secondary conditions can be hard to understand, but as long as the Veteran can prove that it is somehow related to their service-connected disability, they may be able to receive more compensation than they initially did.

Veterans can appeal a VA decision if they are not granted a higher disability rating for their secondary conditions. Veterans need all the help they can get, so it is crucial that the VA realizes their mistake and gives the Veteran what they deserve.

If you have questions or want more information regarding VA benefits, please visit our website.

Sources:

10 Common Secondary Disabilities | Benefits

What is Secondary Service Connection for VA Disability Compensation? | Veterans Aid Benefit

VA Disability Ratings for Back Pain Explained (The Definitive Guide) | VA Claims Insider

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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