Many veterans are taking medications to treat their service connected PTSD
or manage the pain for their back, ankle, and knee conditions. VA doctors
will prescribe medications and discuss with veterans their side effects,
but most veterans are unaware that they may be entitled to compensation
for these side effects. 38 CFR 3.310(b) provides that veterans can receive
compensation for non-service connected illnesses and injuries that are
“proximately the result of service connected disease or injury”.
These are called secondary service connection claims, claims that did
not develop in service but are related to a service connected condition.
Secondary service connection claims include the side effects of medications,
either over the counter or prescription that veterans take for their service
Jones v. Shinseki, 26 Vet.App. 56 (2012).
Veterans who take medications often just “live with” the side
effects without taking advantage of the benefits they are entitled to.
Embarrassment about the side effects involved with many of the medications
used to treat PTSD and joint pain keep veterans from seeking benefits
for common conditions. Erectile dysfunction, gastrointestinal conditions,
and headaches are the most common of these side effects that can be secondarily
Erectile Dysfunction (ED): This condition is a very common side effect to psychotropic medications
(those used to treat mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and
anxiety). Medications for these conditions tend to decrease sex drive
which, in turn, leads to ED. It is also prevalent in veterans who take
opioids or pain medications for lower back pain. Service connection for
ED is usually evaluated at 0%. However, special monthly compensation for
loss of use of a creative organ is usually awarded which adds up to around
$1,200 a year. Veterans can miss out on this if they fail to discuss this
frequent side effect with their doctor and file an ED claim with the VA.
Gastrointestinal Conditions (GERD, IBS, and Acid Reflux): It is common for veterans taking pain medications to experience gastrointestinal
issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and heart burn. It doesn’t
matter whether the pain medications are prescription opioids such as hydrocodone
or acetaminophen (Tylenol) given over the counter. These medications are
usually taken daily to cope with back, knee, shoulder, ankle, and other
joint pain. Veterans should speak with their doctors to determine whether
the stomach condition is going to be a permanent issue and, if so, then
they should consider filing a claim with the VA.
Headaches/Dizziness: These conditions often occur both in opioid usage as well as a side effect
with some medications used to treat PTSD. The VA can be hesitant to connect
headaches and dizziness, particularly if there is a different medication
that can prevent this side effect. It is important to consult with your
doctor (prior to filing) to explore options, but if none are present it
might be time to consider filing with the VA.
Nobody wants to be a “sick call ranger”, but when veterans
experience side effects from the medications they are taking to treat
their service connected conditions, they are missing out on benefits they
are entitled. For all of these claims, it is important to speak with a
doctor regarding other options of treatment and to get medical evidence
on record of a diagnosis of the secondary condition. Lay statements from
veterans documenting the daily severity and duration of symptoms, can
be useful in showing a pattern and severity of the condition. So, the
next time a pharmacist offers to discuss the side effects of medication,
it might worth a veteran’s time to listen and see what benefits
they might be missing out on.
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stomach condition, headaches, dizziness, medication, side effects