Board Commits Legal Error in Denying Service Connection for Psychiatric Condition
The Veteran served in the United States Navy from December 1969 to October 1977. In service, he was arrested for crimes he did not commit, and developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result. The Veteran filed a claim for service connection for PTSD in 2003 and was subsequently denied by the Regional Office. He appealed the decision and received a Statement of the Case, which he did not appeal. In April 2008, he filed a claim to reopen his claim for service connection for PTSD. In October of 2008, the Regional Office denied his claim to reopen. He filed another claim to reopen in June 2009, which the Regional Office again denied stating that he did not submit new and material evidence to reopen his claim.
The Veteran appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and the Board granted the reopening of his claim as well as service connection for PTSD. However, in its decision, the Board noted that the Veteran was previously diagnosed with paranoid delusional and depressive disorder and although the Veteran was issued a decision on that condition by the Regional Office, the Board did not adjudicate the claim.
Board Erred By Not Adjudicating Reasonably Raised Claim
The Board failed to adjudicate the veteran’s reasonably raised claim for service connection for a psychiatric condition other than PTSD. In a 2014 examination, the VA medical examiner noted that the Veteran was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder other than PTSD.
Following the examination, the Regional Office noted that the Veteran’s claim for PTSD was expanded to include a claim for service connection for any psychiatric disorder. However, in 2016 VA issued a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) denying the Veteran entitlement to service connection for paranoid delusional disorder with depressive disorder.
In its decision, the Board failed to adjudicate the Veteran’s claim for a psychiatric disorder other than PTSD, and only adjudicated his claim to reopen, and his claim for service connection for PTSD in addition to his claim for an increased rating for a left ankle disability.
CCK Argued on Behalf of Veteran
CCK appealed the Board decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), arguing that the Board should have adjudicated the Veteran’s reasonably raised claim for service connection for delusional disorder with depressive disorder.
In Clemons v. Shinseki, the Court ruled that although a veteran’s claim states they are seeking service connection for PTSD, “it cannot be a claim limited only to that diagnosis, but must rather be considered a claim for any mental disability that may reasonably be encompassed by several factors.” In this case, it was identified that the Veteran had a diagnosis for a psychiatric condition other than PTSD, but the Board “narrowed the scope of the appellant’s claim to service connection for PTSD” and the issue of service connection for a psychiatric condition other than PTSD was not adjudicated by the Board, in violation of the Court’s holding in Clemons.
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