VA Benefits: How to Establish Service-Connection by Secondary Connection.By Chris Attig | Permalink
January 3rd in VA Benefits.
This is the fifth post in a series: “Five Ways to Establish Service-Connection” for a disease, injury or other medical condition that is used as the basis of a veteran’s claim for VA benefits. You can read the first entry by clicking here. You can read the second entry by clicking here. You can read the third entry by clicking here. You can read the fourth entry by clicking here.
This post will discuss the fourth way to establish service-connection: “Service Connection by Secondary Connection.” This type of service connection occurs when any disability or injury you have is the result of another service-connected disability or injury. It can occur when a service-connected condition causes a new disability or merely makes a pre-existing or non-service connected disability worse. Your compensation will only be to the increase in the second disability by the original service-connected disability.
You will not succeed in this type of claim without sufficient medical evidence. The standard is to produce sufficient medical evidence to show that it is as likely as not that the second condition was caused or aggravated by the first condition. To establish this to the satisfaction of the VA, you will most certainly need at least one medical expert opinion.
As anyone who has dealt with doctors knows, opinions can vary from doctor to doctor. That is why it is a good tactic to not really on the expert opinion of the VA Physician. It is highly recommended that you consult with a private medical expert to establish the required proof.
Here are some examples of secondary connection:
Scenario 1: As a result of a combat injury, you are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or any other mental health condition. Is this a secondary connection?
Answer: Probably. You will need a psychiatrist to provide a written expert opinion to the VA that connects the PTSD to the service-connected injury. Read more about PTSD claims in our VA Benefits blog by clicking here.
Scenario 2: (This general scenario appears in the Veterans’ Benefits Manual, page 132.) A veteran has a 30% rating for a service-connected knee injury. As a result of that injury, the veteran now complains of chronic back-pain and walks with a limp. Is the low-back pain and limp a secondary connection?
Answer: It depends. If you have an opinion from a private medical expert, you may be able to establish that the second injury, the low back pain, is connected to the original knee problem. This is a tougher claim, because there are many causes for low back-pain.
You need not provide clear and convincing evidence that the secondary condition is connected to the prior service-connected disability or that the prior service-connected disability is the sole cause for the second condition. The VA is supposed to give the Veteran the benefit of the doubt. This is why it is extremely helpful to have a private medical expert opinion before the VA examination.
If your claim for VA benefits will be based on service-connection by secondary connection, or if you are not sure whether your second injury can be service-connected, or if your claim for an increase in benefits due to a secondary condition is denied, a Veteran Service Organization or a VA Benefits lawyer should be able to help you determine if the legal presumptions apply to your situation.
The Attig Law Firm represents U.S. Veterans who have been denied disability benefits for injuries that resulted from their military service. The Firm currently represents peace-time and war-time veterans of all branches of the military, at all levels of the claim process (VA Regional Office, Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims). Contact the Attig Law Firm if you would like to discuss your claim for disability benefits before the VA.
No post on this website is meant to be legal advice and the posts on this website do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the Veteran, some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Veterans. The information presented on this website is a general description of law and processes; each case is different, and there may be approaches listed here that are not accurate or applicable to your case. Likewise, their may be information that is applicable to your case that is not provided on this Veterans Disability Compensation Blog.
It is very important that we note that each and every Veteran’s claim is different. Just because we were able to secure substantial past-due benefits for one Veteran does not mean or imply that we will be able to do so for you. In some cases, we may not be able to secure you any financial compensation due to the facts of your particular case.
It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with VA Disability claims and benefits or a Veterans Service Organization to examine your particular case. If you would like to discuss your VA claim with a lawyer who handles VA Benefits and Disability Appeals, contact the Attig Law Firm, PLLC, for a free consultation with a VA Benefits attorney.