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Court Wins

CCK Helps Veteran Win Retroactive TDIU for Heart Condition

March 4, 2022
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Case Summary

The Veteran served in the United States Army from June 1966 to June 1969, including active duty in the Vietnam War.  He received a Combat Infantryman Badge and the Purple Heart for his service.

The Veteran filed an initial claim for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability benefits in October 2011.  He received a 10 percent rating for tinnitus on October 1, 2013 but was denied service connection for several other conditions.  He filed additional claims for coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular heart disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and more in 2014 and 2015.

On August 22, 2014, VA granted him service connection for CAD at a 30 percent rate.  On January 12, 2015, VA also granted service connection for PTSD at a 30 percent rate but denied the Veteran’s appeal for an increased rating for CAD.

The Veteran filed a Notice of Disagreement in appeal of VA’s January 2015 rating decision, seeking an increased rating for CAD.  In a September 2017 claim, he also requested consideration for Total Disability based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU).

After years of appeals for increased ratings for multiple service-connected conditions and subsequent VA denials, the case finally reached the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on October 29, 2019.

CCK Argues for Increased Rating for CAD and Eligibility to TDIU

Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD represented the Veteran before the Board in the issues of entitlement to TDIU and an increased rating for CAD and valvular heart disease.

According to CCK, a vocational rehabilitation specialist had stated in an April 2019 report that after a thorough review of his claims file, it was clear that the Veteran had been unable to secure or maintain substantially gainful employment.  According to the Veteran, his CAD and valvular heart disease caused him debilitating fatigue, rendering him unable to perform even minimal physical activity.

CCK also contended that in a December 2014 Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam, the VA examiner had remarked that the Veteran’s valvular heart disease was a greater contributing factor to his impaired heart function than his CAD, but the specific degree of contribution by each condition could not be determined.

Based on these arguments, the Board remanded the matters of entitlement to TDIU and an increased rating for the Veteran’s heart condition.

On September 2, 2020, VA granted TDIU, equal to a 100 percent schedular rating, effective from September 2017.  On January 28, 2021, VA granted service connection for valvular heart disease, combined with CAD, at a 60 percent rate starting in 2012, and alternating between 100, 30, and 60 percent over the years.

Board Grants Earlier Effective Date for TDIU

In an April 20, 2021 Board hearing, CCK contended that the Veteran had been unemployable due to his heart disability since his initial claim for CAD in March 2014.  At that time, CAD was rated 60 percent disabling, meeting the minimum schedular requirements for TDIU benefits.  Based on this, the Board approved March 2014 as the new effective date for TDIU.

In a May 2021 rating decision, VA also extended eligibility to Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) with a new effective date, also March 2014.