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Court Wins

CCK Appeals Board Denial for Service Connection for Hypertension Secondary to PTSD

Jenna Zellmer

May 31, 2017

Updated: June 20, 2024

Court Win - Service Connection PTSD

Summary of the Case

The Veteran served in the United States Air Force from June 1968 to August 1972, including service in Vietnam. He applied for service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was granted in March 2007. In January 2008, the Veteran filed for service connection for hypertension. He underwent a VA examination in August 2015 as part of a remand from the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims to assess the relationship between his service-connected PTSD and his hypertension.

The VA examiner stated that “PTSD has not been established as a secondary cause of hypertension,” and that there was no evidence that the Veteran’s PTSD “permanently worsened his hypertension beyond its natural progression.”

Board Denies Veteran Service Connection for Hypertension Secondary to Service-Connected PTSD

In February 2016, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied the Veteran service connection for his hypertension on both a secondary and direct basis. In denying the Veteran’s claim, the Board relied on a VA medical examination in which the examiner found “there is no evidence that the [appellant’s] PTSD has permanently worsened his hypertension beyond its natural progression.”

CCK Successfully Argues to Court, Court Remands Claim

On appeal, CCK argued that that there is no requirement of permanent worsening for a claimant to be entitled to service connection based on aggravation. CCK further noted that service connection as due to aggravation is warranted when the aggravation is not the result of the natural progression of the condition. The Court found that the VA examination was inadequate as it employed the wrong standard for aggravation and failed to comply with the Court’s remand order, and the Board therefore erred in relying on it to deny the Veteran’s claim. Thus, the Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the case back to the Board with instructions for it to make a new decision on the issue of service connection for the hypertension.

Read the Court’s decision.

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