Many Veterans are aware that they can file for direct service-connected conditions. What they don’t know is that they can file for a secondary condition. These conditions are service-connecting claims that can be filed for a condition worsening due to an already existing condition on file.
For example, a Veteran files a claim due to a service-connected hip injury. That Veteran receives a rating based on said injury, then, over time develops knee problems as a result of a change in the way they walk. The Veteran can claim the new knee issue as a secondary condition. Of course, there must be medical evidence that can link the two issues together. However, there is no need to prove that the new knee issue occurred during service. This is because doctors can link worsening conditions to already claimed conditions through medical testing.
On the other hand, Veterans often take prescription medication for certain conditions. Often, these medications have major side-effects. A good example is the effect of Nonsteroidal anti–inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen is one example and Veterans take Ibuprofen for pain relief. However, it is the primary cause of problems such as GERD. In some cases, after prolonged use of these pills, Veterans can file GERD as a secondary claim.
In many cases, Veterans who experience painful service-connected physical conditions often experience depression. Pain, injuries, and mental conditions can have lasting effects and these can cause Veterans to deal with depression over time.
Other body parts, such as: hips, knees, and feet, commonly cause orthopedic secondary conditions. As time goes on, these body parts allow for problems for the Veteran to overcorrect. By causing changes with gait and posture, eventually affects other body parts.
What do you Need to Win Your Secondary Claim
The way to successfully win a secondary claim is to have convincing evidence that supports your claim. This can be done through medical records and physician notes or findings. One of the requirements when filing a secondary claim is that the secondary conditions must have a diagnosis. A Veteran cannot submit symptoms alone. In the previous example, the Veteran cannot simply say their knee hurts. The doctor can potentially tie a knee problem to a service-connected hip condition only if the knee problem has a diagnosis. Note, the diagnosis can come from any medical professional.
You should support a direct service-connected condition and a secondary condition with medical documentation. A nexus letter can help tie the two conditions together.
Veterans will simply overlook additional problems that come about due to their initial injuries. Secondary conditions can increase an overall VA Rating with proper documentation. If you feel you may have, or may be developing a secondary condition, contact Veterans Guardian.