Obesity is a significant problem in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs now recognizes obesity as an intermediate step toward disability. This article will discuss the pros and cons of service-connecting obesity. In addition, we will examine how obesity and VA claims can be a stepping stone toward an overall 100% disability rating.
Obesity And VA Claims: Legitimate Medical Condition?
Obesity is a legitimate medical condition and can aggravate other medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and depression. The VA grants service connection for these associated medical issues through obesity.
Too many veterans refuse to believe that obesity can be caused by something other than laziness. In short, laziness, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor lifestyle decisions can certainly contribute to obesity. However, today we are examining obesity and VA claims and using them as a medical “stepping stone” to a service connection.
Obesity And VA Claims: Not A 100% Rating By Itself
Obesity, by itself, will not receive a rating from the VA. As a result, it is important to understand how secondary conditions work.
Besides direct rating conditions, the VA also assigns a VA disability rating for conditions as a secondary condition. A secondary condition is an injury or illness that is caused/aggravated by a service connected condition. For example, a veteran with a service-connected knee issue may experience obesity because of the knee issue.
The knee prevents normal activity, and that causes the obesity. As a result,the obesity can cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a compensated condition. Obesity and VA claims that are high value are a stepping stone to a compensated condition.
Editorial note: certain case law is pending that may allow for obesity as a standalone rating
My Obesity Didn’t Start Until After Active Duty!
A direct service-connected claim requires: in service incident or stressor, a current diagnosis with symptoms, and a nexus (link between the two). A secondary condition does not have these requirements. In addition, the secondary condition did not have to start on active duty.
In fact, you only need to prove that a service-connected condition caused or aggravated the secondary condition. As a result, you can link a secondary condition to a secondary condition. Remember, obesity and VA claims can start years after your service ends.
Obesity and Secondary Conditions Are The Secret to 100%
A small percentage of our BOOT CAMP members will receive 100% through one disability. However, many veterans need to use secondary conditions to accomplish an overall 100% rating. In fact, my overall rating would be 40% lower without secondary conditions.
The Road Map To Using Obesity As A Stepping Stone
The first step is to ensure you have a service-connected condition. For example, a knee issue is a good start. In fact, that rating can be a 0%. We only need it to start the link with obesity and VA claims.
You also need a destination. Hypertension, depression, anxiety, back pain, diabetes, and GERD are good examples. However, explore more possible secondary conditions. You need to ensure that you have a current diagnosis for the secondary condition.
Obesity And VA Claims: The Nexus Link
The last step is to tie everything together. In short, a “nexus letter” is the most direct way to do this. This is something you would expect to pay for. However, a rating for a secondary condition would more than make that expense worth it.
A nexus letter is a medical opinion letter. A medical professional writes them, and they are extremely important to connecting your obesity and VA claims that are secondary conditions. In addition, a nexus letter becomes more important the longer you have been off of active duty.
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