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Court Wins

Board Must Consider Combined Effects of Disabilities on Employability

Maura Black

May 20, 2017

Updated: November 20, 2023

Court Win - TDIU

Summary of the Case

The Veteran served in the United States Marine Corps from February 1966 to January 1968, including service in Vietnam. The Veteran was service connected for multiple disabilities, including major depressive disorder and coronary artery disease. In March 2011, the veteran filed for entitlement to Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU), claiming that he was unable to work due to his service-connected disabilities.

In January 2016, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied the veteran entitlement to TDIU, stating that the Veteran’s “prior work skills provide him with the skills needed for employment.”

Board Decision Denies Veteran Entitlement to TDIU without Considering Combined Effects of Disabilities

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC) a Board decision that denied the Veteran entitlement to TDIU. The Board noted the Veteran was service connected for seven disabilities, but failed to consider the combined effects of these disabilities on employability. The Board also incorporated the cursory medical conclusions of three VA examiners rather than thoroughly addressing the medical issues raised in these and other medical reports. In its decision, the Board simply concluded that the Veteran’s prior work skills provided him with the skills needed for employment.

Court Agrees with CCK’s Argument that the Board Erred by Failing to Consider Combined Effects and Medical Evidence

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it failed to consider the combined effects of the Veteran’s disabilities on employability, and when it neglected several significant issues raised by the medical evidence of record. The Court found that the Board failed to address the effects of medications on the veteran’s ability to work, and also failed to address portions of the VA examinations that were contradictory. Finally, the Court agreed that the Board failed to explain why the Veteran’s prior work as a logger and heavy machine operator would allow him to work, despite the fact that his physical limitations would affect his ability to resume physically demanding work. The Court also rejected the Board’s claim that the veteran has the skills for employment. The Veteran previously held jobs that were physically demanding and had stated that physical work tires him. Additionally, the Veteran did not have formal education beyond a GED, and there was no indication that he would be able to perform sedentary work.

The Court set aside the Board’s decision denying TDIU and remanded the case back to the Board for further proceedings.

Read the Court’s decision.

About the Author

Bio photo of Maura Black

Maura is a managing attorney at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD in Providence, Rhode Island, where she specializes in representing disabled veterans and their families before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Throughout her career, she has represented hundreds of veterans and their dependents in their pursuit of VA benefits. She has presented and organized numerous continuing legal education events that have focused on service-connected VA benefits and appeals, VA’s appeals reform legislation, and petitions for writs of mandamus at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. In the spring of 2022, Maura served as a panelist during an Appeals Modernization Act presentation at the Fifteenth Judicial Conference of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Maura