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The Four Types of Claims

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) identifies four basic types of claims: Original, Reopened, New and Secondary claims.

Active duty service members, veterans and survivors of deceased veterans can file an original (first) claim for disability compensation from VA any time after discharge from the military. By law, the claim must be filed using the official VA form.

The reopened claim for benefits is a claim that was filed as an original but the VA did not grant a service connection, and the decision has become final. In other words, you received your notification of the VA's decision more than a year ago, and you did not file an appeal.

In order to reopen these claims, the veteran must submit evidence that is both new (something the VA has never seen or considered) and material (something relevant that has direct bearing on the issue being decided). A new claim may or may not have been submitted in the past. Decisions on new claims are decided totally independently of any previously submitted claims, and based on entirely new evidence and may include claims for:

• Increased disability evaluation

• Special monthly compensation

• Individual unemployability (veteran can't work because of disabilities; requires a certain combined rating amount)

When disabilities develop as a result of or worsen due to another service-connected condition, you can file a secondary claim. In such cases, it is recognized that an original service-connected disability may cause a second disability, which may not otherwise be considered service-connected.

For example, a veteran could file a secondary claim when a service-connected knee injury that causes the veteran to walk with a limp eventually causes the veteran to develop arthritis in the hip. Although this arthritic condition was not incurred or aggravated by service, the VA may establish service connection if the arthritis is deemed a result of the knee condition.

Ken Cruickshank, the Veterans Services Officer for Tulare County, is a retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer. Contact him at the Veterans Services Office at 3350 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at


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