When the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) assigns a rating to a disability, they do so by assigning a percentage that reflects the severity of the condition and its impact on the veteran’s ability to function in daily life and work. The ratings range from 0% to 100%, in increments of 10%, with higher percentages indicating more severe disabilities. A primary condition is an illness or injury that was caused by or worsened because of your active military service. A secondary condition develops because of the primary condition. In this blog we will be going over what secondary conditions are and how their ratings are calculated.

disabled veteran

What Are Secondary Conditions?

Secondary VA ratings recognize that a service-connected disability can lead to additional health issues. These secondary conditions are recognized by the VA as being linked to the initial disability and can significantly impact a veteran’s health and quality of life. 

Examples of Common Secondary Conditions: 

Mental Health Disorders

  • Primary Condition: Chronic pain from a service-connected injury.
  • Secondary Condition: Depression or anxiety resulting from the chronic pain.

Cardiovascular Conditions

  • Primary Condition: Diabetes mellitus (service-connected).
  • Secondary Condition: Heart disease or hypertension related to the diabetes.

 Neurological Issues

  • Primary Condition: Traumatic brain injury (TBI).
  • Secondary Condition: Migraines or seizures resulting from the TBI.

Respiratory Conditions

  • Primary Condition: Agent Orange exposure.
  • Secondary Condition: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma related to the exposure.

Musculoskeletal Problems

  • Primary Condition: Amputation of a limb.
  • Secondary Condition: Phantom limb pain or arthritis in other joints from overcompensation.

Eligibility Criteria for Secondary VA Ratings

To qualify for secondary VA ratings, a veteran must demonstrate that their secondary condition is a direct result of a primary service-connected disability. The VA has specific criteria set to ensure that the secondary condition is legitimately connected to the primary service-related injury or illness. 

The veteran must have an official diagnosis of a primary service-connected disability that has been recognized and rated by the VA. Documentation must prove that the primary disability is linked to the veteran’s service. This usually includes service medical records, VA medical records, or other relevant documentation that supports the initial service connection.

The secondary condition must be medically diagnosed by a healthcare professional. There must be clear medical evidence showing a relationship between the primary service-connected disability and the secondary condition. This could include medical records, doctors’ opinions, or clinical studies that demonstrate how the primary condition has led to the secondary condition. A detailed letter from a medical professional explaining the link between the primary and secondary conditions is often necessary.

How Secondary VA Ratings Are Calculated

Secondary ratings are expressed as percentages and are calculated based on the severity of the condition, just like primary conditions. When a veteran has multiple disabilities, the VA doesn’t simply add the percentages together. Instead, they use the Combined Ratings Table to account for the combined impact of multiple disabilities. The table combines ratings in a way that considers the diminishing effect of each additional disability. For example, if a veteran has a 50% disability and another 30% disability, the combined rating is not 80%, but rather calculated using the VA’s formula, resulting in a combined rating of 65%.

READ MORE: How Hard is it to Get a 100 Percent Disability Rating?     

Get Help Reviewing Your Claim from Veterans Law Attorneys

Veterans in the Cincinnati area or elsewhere in Ohio who filed a primary or secondary VA claim and received a low disability rating, should visit with us at Veterans Law Attorneys. Call (866) 894-9773 or contact us online and set up a consultation with us.

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