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Compton: Benefits available for secondary conditions

By George Compton
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Q. I am rated 20 percent for my diabetes. I now have neuropathy that my VA doctor said is caused by my diabetes. Can my new condition be rated by the VA?

A. Your doctor is correct, diabetic neuropathy is secondary to your diabetes. Secondary conditions are medical conditions caused by a service-connected condition. Those conditions are therefore service-connected.

We will assist you in reopening your claim. You do not need any paperwork from your VA doctor. The rating officer at the VA has access to your doctors diagnosis. If you have any other treatment outside the VA we will need that information.

Q. You discussed medical benefits and having an honorable discharge. Are there any benefits if a veteran has a general discharge? Will the VA change a discharge?

A. To be able to receive most benefits from the VA, the veteran must have a discharge under honorable conditions, which usually includes a general discharge. The major exception is education benefits, which require an honorable discharge.

With a discharge under conditions other than honorable, the veteran may be treated by the VA for service-connected disabilities. Other medical conditions are usually not treated. The VA can not provide compensation for service-connected disabilities for a veteran with a discharge under conditions other than honorable.

The VA does not issue discharges nor can it change one. The Department of Defense has two types of review boards for discharges. Each branch of the armed forces has a discharge review board. An application must be submitted to these boards within 15 years of discharge. If a veteran applies after 15 years the application goes to the Board of Correction of Military Records.

It is difficult to have a discharge changed, and the process is lengthy. Many factors must be considered in applying for an upgrade.

The nature of the offense that caused the discharge is the first consideration. Next is the age and rank of the service member.

Finally, what the veteran has done since the discharge is important. I have never had a veteran have an Other Than Honorable Discharge changed if that discharge was issued in lieu of a court martial.

George Compton, a retired Army colonel, is the veterans service officer for the County of Ventura, Human Services Agency. Send your questions to Veterans Service Office, 1701 Pacific Ave., Suite 110, Oxnard, CA 93033; phone number 385-6366; fax 385-6371; or e-mail George.Compton@ventura.org.

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