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Court Wins

Board Relied on Insufficient Exam in Heart Condition Denial

Jenna Zellmer

August 1, 2017

Updated: November 20, 2023



The Veteran served on active duty in the United States Army from 1983 to 1998.  He also served in the National Guard before being released from duty in 2004.  During his period of active duty, he reported chest pain during physical training exercises, with multiple in-service treatment records documenting his symptoms.  In 2005, the Veteran was diagnosed with a heart condition.  In May of 2006, he filed a claim for compensation for his heart condition.  He was initially denied service connection in 2007, and filed an appeal in response.  The VA continued the denial and the Veteran appealed to the Board, seeking service connection for his heart condition.

Board denies service connection for a heart condition

After a VA examination was completed in 2012 at the Board’s instruction, the Veteran was denied service connection once again.  The VA examiner found that the Veteran’s heart condition was not diagnosed in service and used this fact as justification for opining that his heart condition was less likely than not due to service.  Based on this examination, the VA continued the denial of service connection.  The appeal was sent back to the Board, and in 2016, a decision was issued stating there was insufficient evidence to link the Veteran’s heart condition to his military service.   He then appealed his case to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the denial of service connection for the Veteran’s heart condition.  In its decision, the Board relied on the VA examination that stated the Veteran’s conditions were not related to service because he was not diagnosed with a heart condition in service and there was insufficient evidence in the Veteran’s records to connect his current condition to service.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s argument

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it relied on this examination.  The Court noted that the absence of a diagnosis in service was not an adequate basis for the examiner’s opinion.  The Court also highlighted the fact that the exam failed to consider in service treatment notes pertaining to chest pain and tightness.  The examiner and the Board should have considered whether such symptoms were related to the Veteran’s current conditions.  The Court determined that the Board erred in relying on this examination, and remanded the case back to the Board.  The Board must obtain a new medical opinion that is supported by the evidence in the Veteran’s military and medical records.

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