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Court Wins

Denial of Increased Rating for PTSD Ignored Evidence of Record

Jenna Zellmer

July 26, 2017

Updated: November 20, 2023

Denial of Increased Rating for PTSD Ignored Evidence of Record


The Veteran served in the United States Navy on active duty from 1972 to 1975, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.  He filed a claim for service connection for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) in August of 2006, reporting symptoms of insomnia, hypervigilance, and nightmares related to his time in service.  In July of 2007, the Veteran was granted service connection for his post-traumatic stress disorder at a 30% rating, effective back to the date of his claim.  In June of 2008, the Veteran filed a Notice of Disagreement for an increased rating for PTSD, and his appeal was denied in a May 2009 Statement of the Case.

Board grants an increased rating for PTSD to 50%

The Veteran appealed his case to the Board of Veterans Appeals in June of 2009.  He attended a hearing before the Board in November of 2011 and described his symptoms in detail.  The Board later remanded the issue of an increased rating for PTSD back to the Regional Office in order to obtain additional treatment records and a Compensation and Pension examination.  The case returned to the Board after the Regional Office continued their denial of a rating in excess of 30%.  After reviewing the Veteran’s new medical evidence, the Board granted an increased rating for PTSD to 50%, effective back to the date of the Veteran’s original claim in August of 2006.

CCK appeals to the Court for an increased rating for PTSD

CCK argued before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims that the previous Board decision should be vacated as the Veteran was entitled to an increased rating, based on the evidence of record.  The Board found that the Veteran’s primary symptoms included difficulty sleeping, nightmares, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and hypervigilance.  The Board claimed that these primary symptoms would only result in slightly reduced reliability and productivity.

CAVC finds the Board erred

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it failed to address favorable of evidence of more severe symptoms, including suicidal ideation, difficulty adapting to stressful situations at work, and impaired impulse control that resulted in physical confrontations.  The Court also agreed that the Board did not properly consider the frequency, severity, and duration of the Veteran’s symptoms.

Finally, the Court found the Board did not consolidate all of the medical evidence into a consistent disability picture.  It explained, “[a]lthough the Board described most of the medical evidence, it did not explain how it melded the various pieces of evidence together in arriving at its disability evaluation.”  In light of the Board’s errors, the Court set aside the Board’s decision and remanded the Veteran’s claim for further development.  The Board must provide adequate reasons and bases in its 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