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What is the difference between Direct Service Connected and Secondary Service Connected claims?

Not all disability benefit claims made to the VA are the same, and we’re here to help you sort through them all. If you’ve ever wondered, “what’s the difference between direct service connection claims and secondary service connected claims?” – you’re not alone. Veterans seeking disability benefits are eligible to receive support for both types of claims, but the process differs depending on each Veteran’s condition.

Keep reading as we break down the difference between these two common claim types for VA disability benefits.

What are Direct Service Connected claims?

Simply put, direct service connected claims pertain to any injury or illness that happened while a Veteran was serving. Whether during active duty, training, or another period of military service – Veterans can file a direct service connected claim to receive disability benefits from the VA.

According to the VA’s website, there are three main requirements to prove this type of claim:

  • A current disability

  • An event, injury, or disease in service

  • A link or nexus establishing that the current disability had its onset or inception in service, which may be established by evidence of 1) chronicity and continuity, or 2) continuous symptoms or a medical nexus opinion.

What are Secondary Service Connected claims?

Unlike direct service connected claims, secondary service connected claims pertain to conditions that are not directly caused by military service, but are made worse by a service connected disability. It reads a bit complicated – but basically, the secondary condition is a direct result of the primary service connected illness or injury.

Examples of secondary service connected conditions:

  • Depression or anxiety as a result of a service-connected physical injury

  • Migraine headaches secondary to TMJ or tinnitus

  • Back pain as a result of a service-connected knee injury

Receiving benefits for secondary service connected conditions can be a bit more of a process, but with the right documentation and proof, fully attainable. Veterans need to provide medical evidence and documentation to show the connection between the two conditions in order to receive benefits.

Become your own claims expert

We provide free educational tools to support and empower Veterans. Become your own claims expert with our free 60-minute educational webinar focused on how to simplify your VA disability claims. Once you’ve completed the webinar, our course "Master Service Connection: A Course To Maximize Your VA Disability Rating FAST!" is a great next step in your claims education.

Help is only a call or email away. To connect with one of our medical experts who can write a Nexus Letter for your claim, review our services page here or sign up for an expert chart review here.

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