CCK Aids Widow of Vietnam Veteran After Long Fought Battle for Special Monthly Compensation
Summary of the Case
The Veteran served in the United States’ Army from 1968 to 1970, with service in Vietnam. In July 1997, the Veteran filed a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related to his service in Vietnam. VA denied the claim in October 1998, citing that the Veteran’s stressor, or the cause of their PTSD, could not be verified. The Veteran did not appeal this decision.
Then, in 2003, the Veteran filed a claim for a skin condition due to exposure to Agent Orange, as well as claims for service connection for a cervical spine condition, sinusitis and bronchitis, and a new claim for PTSD. In August of 2003, VA denied the Veteran’s claim for all the conditions.
The Veteran then filed a Notice of Disagreement, continuing to seek benefits specifically for PTSD. VA once again denied the claim by issuing a Statement of the Case. The Veteran responded with a VA9 appeal.
Establishing Service Connection for PTSD
Then, in early March 2005, VA granted service connection for PTSD with a rating of 30 percent and an effective date going back to 2003. Still, the Veteran knew he should be entitled to a higher rating and submitted a Notice of Disagreement, seeking an increased rating for PTSD.
In 2006, VA granted the increased rating for PTSD from 30 percent to 50 percent, from the 2003 effective date, and a 70 percent rating from 2004 onward.
Veteran Seeks TDIU Benefits
After successfully securing an increased rating for PTSD, the Veteran then filed a claim for TDIU, or total disability based on individual unemployability. In January 2006, VA issued a decision denying entitlement to TDIU, however VA did grant a 20 percent rating for diabetes mellitus type II.
The Veteran appealed the decision with a Notice of Disagreement, and soon after VA granted TDIU benefits with an effective date of 2006.
Veteran Wins Benefits for a Heart Condition, Parkinson’s Disease, and SMC
In 2010, the Veteran filed a new claim for the heart condition. In 2011, VA granted a 60 percent rating for the heart condition from 2008 onwards. However, the Veteran was able to successfully appeal to secure an earlier effective date from 2007 and Special Monthly Compensation (S). The Veteran appealed once again and was granted a higher level of SMC benefits because of the Veteran’s need for aid and attendance.
In 2012, the Veteran also became service connected for Parkinson’s Disease with a 40 percent rating effective from 2011.
CCK Takes the Case
In 2015, the Veteran hired CCK to help secure the additional benefits to which he was entitled. Upon joining the case, CCK filed a Notice of Disagreement, seeking an earlier effective date for the aid and attendance benefits.
The Board issued a remand in April 2016, which send the decision back to the Regional Office. In June 2016, VA granted an earlier effective date for aid and attendance benefits.
Still, CCK knew the Veteran should be entitled to an even higher rating for special monthly compensation, as he relied heavily on his son for care and experienced difficulty performing day-to-day functions such as cutting his own food due to the tremors he experienced. As such, CCK filed an appeal for an increased rating for aid and attendance.
In August 2016, VA issued a Supplemental Statement of the Case which denied an increased rating for Special Monthly Compensation. CCK filed a Notice of Disagreement, continuing the appeal. In 2017, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals once again remanded the decision.
After a series of Compensation & Pension exams, VA issued another Supplemental Statement of the Case and the Veteran’s appeal was once again sent to the Board, where it was remanded. This cycle would continue until the Veteran unfortunately passed away of cardiovascular disease in late 2019.
CCK Secures Benefits for the Veteran’s Widow
CCK applied for the Veteran’s widow to be substituted into the Veteran’s case. CCK also applied for burial benefits on the widow’s behalf. Later, VA established that the Veteran’s surviving dependents were entitled to Dependents’ Educational Assistance and Dependency and Indemnity Compensation.
In July 2020, VA issued a Supplemental Statement of the Case which denied the appeal CCK had filed for a higher level of Special Monthly Compensation.
CCK then submitted an expert medical opinioned which opined that the Veteran’s Parkinson’s disease led him to need assistance to perform activities of daily living and to be mobile in certain locations of his home.
Finally, in May 2021, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals granted entitlement to Special Monthly Compensation based on the need for regular aid and attendance. Then, in August 2021, VA granted entitlement to Special Monthly Compensation based on the loss of use of both hands and of both feet dating all the way back to 2011. As such, CCK was finally able to secure the benefits the Veteran was entitled to during his long-fought battle with VA and to provide survivor’s benefits to his widow.
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