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The Four Basic Types of Claims

The four basic categories that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) uses to identify the types of claims submitted are as follows: Original, Reopened, New and Secondary claims.

An Original claim is the first claim you file for disability compensation from the VA and can be submitted at any time after your discharge from the military. This claim for benefits may be filed by a servicemember (active duty), veteran or the survivors of deceased veterans. By law, when this claim is filed, it must be on the official form designated by the VA.

The Reopened claim for benefits is a claim that was filed as an original, but for some reason it was not granted a service connection by the VA, and that decision has become final. This means that you received your decision from the VA, and more than a year has elapsed since you were notified of that decision – and during the one-year period you did not appeal the decision.

The VA cannot reopen these claims unless the veteran submits new and relevant evidence. “New evidence” means evidence that the VA has never seen or considered in connection to the specific benefit being claimed. “Relevant evidence” is evidence that is relevant to and has direct bearing on the issue to be decided. For the VA to be able to reopen a claim, both the new and relevant aspects must be met.

A New claim is for benefits that may or may not have been submitted in the past. A new claim differs from a reopened claim because the decision on the claim is totally independent of any previously submitted claim. Usually, these claims are decided entirely on new evidence and may include claims for:

• an increased disability evaluation.

• a claim for special monthly compensation.

• a claim for individual unemployability (a veteran is unable to work because of disabilities; requires a certain combined rating amount).

A Secondary claim is a claim for disabilities that have developed as a result of or have been worsened by another service-connected condition. In such cases, it is recognized that an original service-connected disability may cause a second disability. The second disability may not otherwise be considered service-connected.

An example of this type of disability would be as follows:

A veteran has a service-connected disability for a knee injury that causes her or him to walk with a limp. Through time, the veteran subsequently develops 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 3348 W. Mineral King Ave., Visalia; by phone at (559) 713-2880; or by email at


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