A secondary condition is an additional disability or health issue connected to a primary disability for which you receive benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is caused by or aggravated by your primary disability. When you are applying for VA disability benefits, it is important to list any secondary conditions you may have in order to ensure that all of your disabilities are taken into account when assessing your claim.
Veterans who are applying for VA disability benefits for PTSD often suffer from additional disabilities related to their condition. Working with an experienced VA disability benefits attorney is the best way to ensure that your secondary conditions are fully documented and that you receive the maximum possible compensation.
How PTSD Is Rated
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic event. Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating, extreme anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness. Treatment may include medication, therapy, and support groups.
PTSD can make it difficult for a Veteran to maintain employment and engage in everyday activities, which is why the condition qualifies for VA disability benefits. The condition is rated using the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders under 38 CFR § 4.130.
VA disability ratings for PTSD are typically as follows
- 0%. Your PTSD is related to your military service but isn't severe enough to affect your day-to-day functioning.
- 30%. You have mild symptoms that come and go depending on your stress level, but medication and therapy are effective.
- 50%. PTSD causes pronounced problems at work and in your daily life.
- 70%. Your symptoms cause significant and frequent difficulties in your daily life that make it hard to work and maintain healthy relationships with others.
- 100%. A 100% rating for PTSD is rare but can be given when a Veteran is socially isolated and not able to function at all due to the severity of their condition.
5 Common Secondary Conditions for Veterans With PTSD
PTSD affects Veterans in many different ways. The most common secondary disabilities for PTSD are outlined here, but you should discuss your medical history with your lawyer to determine if you have any other conditions that should be included in your application for VA disability benefits.
1. Erectile Dysfunction
Studies have shown that erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common side effect of PTSD experienced by Veterans. This can be due to the fact that PTSD can cause physical and psychological responses, such as anxiety and fear, which interfere with arousal and the ability to gain or maintain an erection. Additionally, ED may be a result of other underlying issues associated with PTSD such as depression, substance abuse, or chronic pain.
The physical symptoms of stress and anxiety associated with PTSD can lead to an increase in acid production in the stomach, causing GERD symptoms such as heartburn and acid reflux. Increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline also contribute to a decrease in stomach acid production, leading to further GERD symptoms.
Veterans suffering from PTSD are more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure). This is due to the emotional and physical strain associated with PTSD, which can lead to changes in the cardiovascular system, such as increased heart rate and heightened blood pressure levels. Furthermore, other conditions often linked with PTSD, such as depression and substance abuse, may also contribute to elevated blood pressure levels.
Studies have shown that Veterans suffering from PTSD are more likely to experience chronic migraines than members of the general population. This can be attributed to the heightened levels of stress and anxiety associated with PTSD, which can lead to tension in the neck or head area and cause migraines. Other conditions often linked with PTSD, such as depression and substance abuse, may also contribute to migraine development.
5. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is often linked to PTSD in Veterans because the two conditions share many of the same symptoms. These can include difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and other issues that can interfere with healthy functioning. Sleep apnea can also be exacerbated by stress, a common symptom of PTSD, leading to more severe symptoms that can further impair daily life for a Veteran suffering from both issues.
Receiving Benefits for Multiple Mental Health Conditions
Veterans with PTSD offer suffer from additional mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. However, a Veteran can't receive compensation for the same symptoms twice. The VA refers to this practice as pyramiding and requires Veterans to receive one rating that covers all mental health disorders unless there are separate non-overlapping symptoms involved.
Alcoholism and substance use disorders are considered mental health conditions linked to PTSD. While you can't receive separate compensation for alcoholism or a substance use disorder if you are already receiving compensation for PTSD due to the rules against pyramiding, you can receive separate compensation if you experience liver disease or other complications related to your alcohol or drug abuse.
How Secondary Conditions Affect Your VA Disability Rating
Secondary conditions can have a significant impact on your VA disability rating. This is because any additional health issues or disabilities you may have can increase the potential severity of your overall disability. This can lead to a rating that qualifies you for higher compensation.
Veterans often mistakenly assume that ratings for their individual disabilities are simply added together to obtain a total disability rating. The VA uses what's often referred to as "VA math" to determine an individual's disability rating. Because a person can never be more than 100% disabled and ratings are awarded in 10% increments, the calculations for secondary disabilities are based on a series of tables, called schedules, that calculate impairment after the primary disability is taken into consideration.
Can a VA Disability Attorney Help You Get the Benefits You Deserve?
The office of Sean Kendall, Attorney-at-Law, has helped countless Veterans obtain the disability benefits they've earned in service of their county. We would be honored to do the same for you. Call (877) 629-1712 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.