What Are VA Disability Secondary Conditions?

VA disability secondary conditions

After making an initial Veterans Affairs disability claim, you may discover that you have developed a new disability or condition.

Let’s say the VA has granted service connection for your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At your annual checkup, the doctor informs you that your blood pressure has gradually increased over the last year and reached hypertensive levels.

Would you be surprised if the doctor said that PTSD caused a significant jump in your blood pressure?

In this instance, hypertension could be considered a secondary condition. It stems from a primary condition—PTSD—that is directly linked to your service.

Physical conditions can lead to other physical conditions but also can trigger mental illnesses. Secondary conditions may also arise as a result of the treatment plan for a primary disorder, such as from the side effects of medications or treatments.

In many instances, veterans begin experiencing unfamiliar conditions several months or even years after their initial diagnosis. When these new conditions are linked by medical evidence to a primary condition, a veteran may be able to show a secondary service-connected disability stemming from the primary service-connected disability and be awarded additional compensation benefits.

Which VA Disability Secondary Conditions Are Eligible?

Your service-connected disability can lead to both mental and physical secondary conditions for which you may be able to file VA disability claims. It is important to note that all disabilities or health issues can be secondary conditions IF you can prove that they are connected to another service-connected disability.

Here are some examples of secondary conditions. Remember that this list is not exhaustive, and they are just examples. Seek the advice of an attorney if you need help determining whether or not your health issue is a secondary condition. Any health issue can be a secondary condition if it is related to another service-connected disability.

Physical Secondary Conditions

It’s not uncommon for a primary injury to cause other physical conditions or exacerbate a pre-existing condition. In some cases, VA disability secondary conditions are side effects of medication used to treat a primary condition.

Orthopedic Conditions

Many veterans suffered musculoskeletal disabilities during their service. Such orthopedic conditions may cause the veteran to overcompensate to ease the pain they suffer. For example, a veteran with a knee disability may favor that knee and put more pressure on the other knee, which then in turn causes that knee to become disabled.

Chronic Headaches and Migraines

Many veterans grapple with chronic headaches and migraines several years after their service. This often stems from physical injuries such as traumatic brain injury or concussion. Psychological conditions such as PTSD are also known to cause headaches.

Hypertension Secondary to PTSD

Many studies have found a direct link between high blood pressure and post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans with PTSD often experience heightened fear or anxiety, leading to increased blood pressure over time.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is also known as chronic acid reflux. This painful condition is a common side effect of many medications typically prescribed to veterans. 

Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Veterans are especially prone to breathing disorders like sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous disorder that causes irregular or interrupted breathing during sleep. Science is starting to recognize that PTSD and other anxiety disorders can cause or aggravate sleep apnea.

Psychological and Mental Secondary Conditions

Psychological VA disability secondary conditions can stem from physical or mental primary conditions. 

Depression and Anxiety

Sometimes, depression is directly linked to a veteran’s military service. It’s considered a secondary disability when it’s due to another condition connected to your service or a side effect of medication.

For example, depression may stem from physical conditions such as erectile dysfunction. Parkinson’s disease and cancer are also linked to an increased risk of major depression. In fact, one may be hard pressed to find a disability that does not cause a veteran to be depressed to some degree.

Substance Use Disorder

It’s estimated that 20% of veterans struggle with addiction or substance abuse issues. These issues are often secondary to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many veterans self-medicate with substances such as nicotine and alcohol, while many become dependent on prescription painkillers.

While these examples are health issues that some veterans face, this is not a comprehensive list. Any ailment can be a secondary condition so long as it’s proven to be related to service.

Remember that it’s always best to seek the advice of an attorney. If you have questions or concerns about whether or not your health issue is a secondary condition, talk to a VA lawyer from Vetus Legal.

How to Make a VA Disability Secondary Conditions Claim or Appeal

If you could not prove a secondary service connection and your VA disability compensation was denied, trust Vetus Legal LLC to make a strong appeal on your behalf. We can walk you through the VA disability claim process and help you prove secondary service connections to your condition.

At Vetus Legal, we understand how complicated applying for VA disability or appealing your denial can be. We’re here to help you through every step of the process. Schedule a FREE case review with one of our VA-accredited attorneys today.

Author Bio


Todd M. Wesche is the Managing Member and founder of Vetus Legal, LLC. A veteran himself, Todd has used his experience as an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force to fuel his passion for helping veterans, their dependents, and survivors get the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits they deserve.

Todd received his Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Suffolk University Law School in Boston, MA, in 2002 and his Master of Laws in Litigation and Dispute Resolution from The George Washington University School of Law in Washington, DC, in 2004. He is accredited to practice before the VA, and he is admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

He has served in numerous leadership roles, including as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates (NOVA). He currently serves on the CAVC’s Committee on Admission and Practice.

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