If you are a Vietnam Era Veteran, you probably already know about the special VA rules that presume certain conditions are caused by Agent Orange exposure.  One of these conditions is Type 2 Diabetes.  What you may not be aware of is that you may be entitled to additional compensation for secondary conditions caused by your service-connected diabetes.

What is Secondary Service-Connection? 

Service-connected disability compensation is available for almost any disability that is the result of another service-connected condition.  This legal theory is called secondary service connection.  Secondary service connection can be established both where a service-connected condition contributes to the creation of a new disability and where a service-connected disability aggravates (worsens) a non-service-connected condition.  It does not matter how long after service a secondary disability manifests itself, as long as there is sufficient medical evidence to establish that it is a result of a service connected condition.

What Do I Need to Show to Establish Secondary Service Connection?

Medical opinions are crucial in claims for secondary service connection and veterans should seriously consider obtaining a medical opinion from a private doctor.  The medical opinion should state whether it is as likely as not (50% probability), or more likely than not (probable) that the claimed disability was caused or aggravated by the service-connected condition.  The doctor’s statement should refer to a recognized medical text and supported with a medical rationale.

Veterans should not give up on a claim for secondary service connection that is denied based solely on an opinion from a VA physician.  Because the VA must follow the doctrine of the benefit of the doubt, if the medical opinion of the expert supporting the veteran is at least of equal merit with the negative opinion of the VA physician, and the other evidence is evenly balanced, the veteran has a good chance of being granted compensation benefits.  The more expert opinions, the better the chances.  Any VA decision that does not thoroughly analyze the credibility and probative value of medical evidence supporting secondary service connection should be appealed.

What are some examples of Secondary Condition from Diabetes?

Two common complications of type 2 diabetes are arteriosclerosis and cataracts.  Hypertension is another common complication of type 2 diabetes.  If the onset of hypertension occurred after the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, the VA should consider the hypertension to be secondary to the diabetes.  If hypertension was diagnosed before type 2 diabetes, and there is no change in the treatment of hypertension or no increase in blood pressure readings after the diabetes diagnosis, the VA will deny service connection for hypertension.

Scientific evidence shows that many other conditions may result from type 2 diabetes:

General Conditions That Can Result from Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Diabetic nephropathy is a disease of the kidneys. Nephropathy can progress to kidney failure and diabetes is the leading cause of chronic kidney failure.
  • Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves which can cause numbness and pain in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. When combined with poor circulation, neuropathy can result in diabetic foot ulcers and leg infections that may require amputation.
  • Autonomic neuropathy is a disorder that affects certain nerves. It may cause problems with digestion, diarrhea, erectile dysfunction, a rapid heartbeat, and low blood pressure.

Eye Conditions That Can Result from Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Cataracts is a clouding of the eye’s lens.
  • Retinopathy is a disorder of the retina of the eye.
  • Glaucoma is a disease caused by nerve damage in the eye.

Heart and Circulation Complications That Can Result from Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Atherosclerosis is a hardening or narrowing of the arteries.
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes

Skin Conditions That Can Result from Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Bacterial infections, including sties, boils, and carbuncles, usually caused by Staphylococcus bacteria.
  • Fungal infections such as jock itch, yeast infections, ringworm, and athlete’s foot.
  • Diabetic dermopathy which is caused by changes in small blood vessels, it is evidenced by scaly brown patches, usually on the legs, that do not open, hurt, or itch.
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticicorum is caused by changes in blood vessels and evidenced by dull red raised spots on the skin.
  • Disseminated granuloma annulare is evidenced by ring-shaped or arc-shaped rashes.
  • Acanthosis nigricans is evidence by raised tan or brown patches.

Mental Conditions That Can Result from Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Diabetics have greater risk of depression than non-diabetics.  Depression can be a result of a loss of quality of life, chronic pain, and chronic health problems.

Edward M. Farmer is a U.S. Army veteran and attorney. A majority of his career has been dedicated to assisting veterans.  More information regarding Edward and his law firm can be found at www.vetlawoffice.com

The material and information contained on these pages and on any pages linked from these pages are intended to provide general information only and not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction before relying upon any of the information presented here.