Military service members are at a higher risk for serious injuries and illnesses due to the nature of their work conditions, which can include exposure to hazardous chemicals, involvement in combat, operating heavy machinery, and traveling to dangerous locations. Unfortunately, after leaving the service, many veterans contend with ongoing and even worsening health issues that prevent them from working, caring for themselves, and maintaining financial stability.
In some cases, their original service-related injury yields a secondary disability that imposes further financial, mental, and physical burdens. Not only can veterans file a disability claim for their original injury or illness, but they can also potentially file a secondary claim if they develop an additional disability stemming from their service-related disability. Our VA-accredited lawyers can review your case, explain the qualifications needed, and answer your questions about the veterans disability claims process in a free consultation. We encourage you to give us a call at (866) 481-5347 or fill out our online contact form today.
Service Related Illnesses and Injuries Can Cause Additional Health Issues for Veterans
Veterans who sustain disabling injuries or develop severe illnesses as a result of their military service may experience further health complications resulting from their original disabilities, which can be described as secondary conditions. The secondary condition may develop as a result of damage inflicted by the original disability or the consequences of treatment for the primary illness or injury.
In a secondary veterans disability claim, a veteran can receive support for both mental and physical injuries or illnesses. The most commonly cited secondary medical issues are often, but not always, related to health conditions on the VA’s list of presumptive conditions. Given their work conditions, veterans are often at a higher risk of cancer, respiratory issues, traumatic brain injuries, amputations, and other chronic issues with significant complications. Common secondary conditions and complications may include:
- Heart disease
- Organ damage
- Sleep apnea
- Partial or complete paralysis
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Oftentimes, a secondary claim pertains to a mental injury caused by a catastrophic physical injury. For example, a veteran who is diagnosed with chronic pain due to a service-related injury may develop depression from their lower quality of life. Just like physical injuries, mental injuries can negatively impact a veterans work performance, harm their personal relationships, and prevent them from carrying out everyday tasks. In combination with their original service-related disability, a secondary condition can be overwhelming.
Making a Case for Benefits for a Secondary Condition in a Veterans Disability Claim
Proving that your secondary condition is deserving of compensation from the VA is a multi-step process. You should be prepared to secure detailed medical records, obtain statements from co-workers, friends, and family, and offer other types of documentation to demonstrate the severity of your secondary condition as well as its connection to your service-related disability. Successful secondary veterans benefit claims are able to establish the following:
- You have been diagnosed with a service-related illness or injury, or you had a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by your military service
- Your service-related health condition was deemed to merit disability compensation by the VA
- Your secondary condition or complication is linked to your existing service-related disability and is not better explained by another cause
- Your secondary condition is serious enough to warrant additional compensation
To file a secondary claim for disability benefits, the additional injury or illness does not have to be service-related itself, but it must be derived from an illness or injury that was certified as a service-related disability.
Secondary Disabilities May Make Veterans Eligible for Additional Benefits
The VA uses disability ratings to assess what level of compensation a veteran can receive. With a secondary injury or illness, a veteran may be able to obtain additional benefits if their combined disability rating meets the threshold. For example, consider a veteran who developed metastatic lung cancer from toxic burn pit exposure, earning them a disability rating of 65% from the VA. The chemotherapy medication they were taking to treat the lung cancer, Platinol-AQ, caused hearing loss.
Based on the impact of hearing loss as a secondary disability and the impairments caused by the original service-related lung cancer, the VA could increase the veteran’s combined disability rating to 100%. With a 100% disability rating, they could seek out further benefits, such as Special Monthly Compensation. Veterans with lower disability ratings can take advantage of other benefits, such as Total Disability due to Individual Unemployability (TDIU), if the combination of their primary and secondary disabilities substantially interferes with their ability to serve in the workforce but has not rendered them completely incapable of functioning independently.
Contact Our VA-Accredited Lawyers for Help With Your Veterans Disability Claim
Veterans who have already been through the disability claims process to collect benefits for a service-related injury or illness may understandably be hesitant to revisit the experience. Veterans disability claims often entail extensive legwork, with no guarantee that the disability in question will be rated fairly or that the claim will not be denied by the VA. As veterans ourselves, our team understands this frustration with the process, and we will remain committed to securing the full extent of the benefits available to you.
Sick and injured veterans count on our unparalleled service to guide them through the veterans disability claims process. Our team of VA-accredited attorneys specializes in these types of claims, which gives us the advantage in navigating the bureaucracy of the VA, reviewing dense medical records, and gathering evidence to verify your claim’s legitimacy. We are vocal advocates for disabled veterans and belong to multiple groups supporting this effort, such as SWAN and NOVA.
You can reach out to our dedicated and highly qualified team of veterans disability attorneys by phone at (866) 481-5347 or fill out our online contact form today to discuss the specifics of your claim and learn more about the legal services that we offer our clients. While you focus on healing from your service-related injuries and adapting to civilian life, our team will dedicate our time and attention to building a solid case for benefits for your veterans disability claim.