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July 3, 2023

What are VA Secondary Conditions?

Last updated on February 22, 2024

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In the sea of information available on the internet regarding VA benefits, understanding what to focus on can be overwhelming. This is especially true when it comes to VA secondary conditions.

Many veterans are confused about secondary conditions, and many more are unaware they even exist.

This guide will review the basics of VA secondary conditions and how to differentiate them from primary conditions. We’ll also look at whether secondary conditions can raise your VA rating.

The bottom line: Your secondary conditions may qualify you for a higher VA disability rating!



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What is a VA Secondary Condition?

A secondary condition (SC) occurs when a service-connected disability has caused or has aggravated a new or pre-existing condition, illness, or injury.  

VA Secondary Condition Examples:

  • Your service-connected knee pain is causing your back pain
  • Your migraines are due to your service-connected tinnitus

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says you should consider whether the:

  • Non-service-connected (NSC) condition is the direct result of the SC condition, or
  • SC condition has worsened the NSC condition beyond normal progression, and, if so, what was the baseline level of disability prior to aggravation, and what is the current level

For example, if you develop headaches because of a traumatic brain injury (TBI) you experienced while serving, the headaches may qualify as a VA secondary condition. 

However, you must provide evidence directly linking the two to receive benefits for your secondary condition. (The more evidence, the better!)

Finally, you shouldn’t confuse VA secondary conditions with secondary service by aggravation, an illness or injury aggravated by your time in the service, and now its own issue. 

Pro tip: You can appeal a decision if denied benefits for a secondary condition you believe is linked to a service-connected illness or injury. If you file an appeal, ensure you have adequate information to prove your case. 

What is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Conditions?

A primary condition is an illness or injury that was caused by—or got worse because of—your active military service. For example, you can receive a VA disability for back pain if you prove you developed it while on duty. 

However, a secondary condition develops because of the primary condition. So, let’s say you developed depression because your back pain was intense; depression would be the secondary condition, while back pain is the primary condition. 

You can fit most disabilities in both categories, depending on when the condition developed. 

Here is a look at examples of primary and secondary conditions to help better understand the difference: 

Primary ConditionSecondary Condition
Fibromyalgia Sleep Apnea 
Sinusitis Laryngitis 
Lower Back Pain Shoulder Conditions 
Tinnitus Anxiety 

How Does the VA Rate a Secondary Condition?

The VA rates secondary conditions as they would rate primary conditions through the Veteran Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD). However, it’s essential to understand that not all secondary conditions receive a VA rating.

For example, if the VA determines your condition isn’t related to your service, you may receive a denied claim. Remember, you must first file a VA disability claim to determine eligibility. 

Examples of evidence to support your claim include:

  • VA medical records and hospital records
  • Private medical records and hospital records
  • Supporting statements from friends, family, clergy members, law enforcement, etc. 

Pro tip: We highly recommend you provide a medical nexus letter to help prove your VA secondary condition. 

Do Secondary Conditions Increase VA Rating?

Do secondary conditions raise your VA rating? Great question! Often, the answer is YES. You may receive an increased VA rating from secondary conditions if the VA determines that you are experiencing an additional illness or injury from your service-related disability. 

However, the VA isn’t going to add up your disability ratings, mainly because you can’t go over 100%, with ratings in 10% increments. Instead, the VA uses “VA Math” to determine your new VA rating based on a combined rating table that calculates multiple disabilities. 


Need More Assistance?

Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law. 

Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!

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