Skip to main content
For Immediate Help: 800-544-9144
Court Wins

Board Errs in Denial of Service Connection for Cause of Death

Jenna Zellmer

September 11, 2017

Updated: November 20, 2023

multiple sclerosis


The Veteran served in the United States Air Force from 1957 to 1983.  During service, he was diagnosed and treated for a duodenal ulcer, or an ulcer in his small intestine.  He was later granted service connection for his ulcer.  In March of 2007, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and the disease progressed rapidly.  Sadly the Veteran passed away in March of 2008.  The Veteran’s wife filed a claim for service connection for her husband’s cause of death in April of 2008 and March of 2009, and was denied both times.  The Veteran’s wife then appealed her case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Board continues to deny cause of death

In February of 2012, the VA provided a medical opinion that stated the Veteran’s duodenal ulcer was not related to his gastric cancer and, as a result, did not contribute to his cause of death.   In its decision from May of 2014, the Board requested that additional development be completed.  The Board requested a new medical opinion to determine if the Veteran’s service-connected ulcer contributed materially to his death.  In July of 2014, a new examiner concluded that the Veteran’s ulcer did not contribute substantially to his death.  Later in February of 2015, the original VA examiner provided a similar opinion.  Subsequently, the Board issued a decision in June of 2016.  The decision denied the Veteran’s wife entitlement to service connection for her husband’s cause of death.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) the Board decision that denied service connection for the cause of the Veteran’s death.  He was treated throughout service for a duodenal ulcer and other disabilities for which VA awarded service-connected compensation.   In its decision, the Board stated that the evidence of record showed that there was no link between the Veteran’s in-service treatment for his duodenal ulcer and his fatal gastric cancer.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments for Cause of Death

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred in multiple ways. Specifically, the Board relied on inadequately reasoned VA medical opinions, ignored other medical evidence, and found, contrary to the record, that there was no evidence linking the Veteran’s duodenal cancer to the Veteran’s fatal cancer.  Thus, the Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the case back to the Board for further development.

To read the Court’s decision, click here. 

About the Author

Bio photo of Jenna Zellmer

Jenna joined CCK in January of 2014 as an appellate attorney, was named Managing Attorney in September of 2019, and now serves as a Partner at the firm. Her law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Jenna