Smoking After Military Discharge Could Qualify You for Award of Secondary Service-Connected Disability Benefits

In a recent decision issued by the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA), one of our clients was awarded service connection for COPD as secondary to his service-connected disability of PTSD. The favorable rating decision was based on a General Counsel Opinion which interpreted the relationship between a veteran’s use of tobacco products during and after service and the award of service connection for a particular disability.

General Counsel Opinion 6-2003 recognizes that service connection for any condition that is attributable to a veteran’s use of tobacco during service is prohibited. However, it also states that secondary service connection can be awarded for a disability related to a veteran’s use of tobacco products after service, where the disability is proximately due to a service-connected disability that is not deemed service-connected on the basis of being attributable to the veteran’s use of tobacco products during service.

The BVA recognized that the veteran began smoking during his military service and continued thereafter to help cope with his service-connected PTSD. Relying on the General Counsel Opinion, the BVA determined:

  1. the service-connected disability (PTSD) caused the veteran to use tobacco products after service;
  2. the use of tobacco products, as a result of PTSD, was a substantial factor in causing the secondary disability of COPD; and
  3. the veteran’s COPD would not have occurred but for the use of tobacco products caused by the veteran’s PTSD.

If you or a veteran you know used tobacco products after military service, let us know if we can assist with a claim or appeal involving tobacco use and its affect on a particular disability.


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