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Court Wins

CCK Helps Thailand Veteran Establish Presumptive Service Connection for Ischemic Heart Disease

Alyse Phillips

January 19, 2022

Updated: June 20, 2024

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Case Summary

The Veteran served on active duty in the United States Air Force from December 1967 to December 1971.  From 1970 to 1972, he worked as an Air Traffic Control Officer at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand.  He was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal for his service.

With the help of Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD, he filed a claim in early 2018 for ischemic heart disease and aortic valve replacement surgery resulting from herbicide exposure in Thailand.

In September 2018, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied service connection for both conditions, stating that the Veteran did not submit medical evidence of a current, chronic disability and showed no indication that his disability was related to herbicide exposure or his active military service.

The Veteran filed a Notice of Disagreement with VA’s decision on January 16, 2019, appealing to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board).

CCK Argues Service Connection Due to Herbicide Exposure

The case came before the Board on February 18, 2020, with CCK representing the Veteran.

CCK argued that medical records submitted to VA proved the Veteran did, in fact, have a current diagnosis of chronic ischemic heart disease (IHD).  IHD is one of the qualifying VA presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure.

Thailand veterans must also demonstrate that they performed regular work duties near the perimeter of the Royal Thai Air Force Base to be eligible for presumptive service connection based on herbicide exposure.  Military records showed that the Veteran served as an Air Traffic Control Officer at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand from January 1970 to January 1971.  According to CCK, he reported that he walked by aircraft hangers and aircraft maintenance buildings near the perimeter on a daily basis.  His duties included launching and recovering aircrafts.

CCK also contended that the Veteran’s aortic valve replacement surgery should be considered secondary to his IHD, as he was forced to have the surgery in 2017 because of his IHD.

Board Grants Service Connection for Ischemic Heart Disease

Based on this evidence, the Board concluded that it was “at least as likely as not” that the Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides while serving in Thailand.

Since he met the presumptive criteria for Agent Orange exposure, the Board granted entitlement to service connection for IHD.  The Board also remanded the issue of service connection for the aortic valve replacement surgery for further development by VA.

On October 9, 2020, VA granted the Veteran disability compensation at a 100 percent rate effective from January 23, 2018.

About the Author

Bio photo of Alyse Phillips

Alyse is a Supervising Attorney at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick. Since joining the firm in August of 2016, she has specialized in representing disabled veterans and their dependents before the United States Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Alyse