CCK succeeds at Court representing Veteran’s widow appealing for service connection for Cause of Death
The Veteran served in the United States Army from December 1941 to August 1945 with service in the Philippines and New Guinea. The Veteran was granted service connection for subtotal gastrectomy, duodenal ulcer, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), incision hernia, malaria, humerus fracture, and abrasions in August 1998. He was later granted entitlement to Total Disability Based on Individual Unemployability (TDIU).
The Veteran passed away in April 2005 due to acute myocardial infarction, with contributory causes listed as coronary atherosclerosis and end stage renal failure. In April 2005 following his death, the Veteran’s widow submitted a claim for service connection for the Veteran’s cause of death. The Regional Office subsequently denied the widow’s claim stating that the Veteran and the widow did not continuously live together prior to his death.
Veteran’s Widow Reapplies for Service connection for cause of death
In May 2008, the widow submitted application claim to reopen her claim for service connection for the Veteran’s cause of death. The Regional Office denied her claim to reopen her claim and the widow appealed her case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. In January 2014, the Board granted the widow’s claim to reopen her claim for death benefits. However, the Regional Office then denied service connection for cause of death.
The veteran’s widow appealed her case to the Board again, and in February 2017, the Board denied her claim for service connection for cause of the Veteran’s death, citing a 2016 VA examiner’s opinion that the Veteran’s service-connected conditions did not cause or result in his death.
CCK Appeals to Court
CCK appealed the Board’s denial of service connection for cause of death to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. CCK argued that the 2016 VA examiner’s opinion was inadequate because he stated that there was “an association between the Veteran’s PTSD and his causes of death, but then stated there was no causation or aggravation ‘established’ by the medical community.”
The Court Agrees with CCK’s Argument
The Court agreed that the Board erred in relying on the VA examiner’s opinion, as the examiner did not elaborate concerning what association exists between the Veteran’s conditions and his cause of death. The examiner’s opinion was therefore unclear.
The Court concluded that the Board erred in relying on the examiner’s opinion to deny service connection for cause of death. The appeal is remanded back to the Board for readjudication.
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