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Court Wins

PTSD Symptoms Not Fully Analyzed by Board, Court Finds

Jenna Zellmer

January 25, 2018

Updated: November 20, 2023

veterans affairs

Summary of the Case

The Veteran served honorably in the United States Army from 1966 to 1968, during which time he fought in Vietnam.  He suffered shell fragment wounds in his legs while fighting in the Tet Offensive.  VA later granted service connection for these disabilities.  In 2009, the Veteran sought service connection for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to his time in Vietnam.  He endorsed PTSD symptoms of flashbacks, hypervigilance, and a short temper.  Aside from a few family relationships, he had no close friends and he had trouble connecting emotionally to his wife.  A VA examiner opined the Veteran experienced moderate to severe impairment in social functioning as a result of his PTSD symptoms.  VA awarded service connection and assigned a 30% rating.  The Veteran disagreed with that rating.

The Veteran retired at the end of 2009, and he experienced worsening symptoms as a result.  He had a hard time thinking of ways to fill his time and had more trouble getting along with people.  A second examiner opined the Veteran’s overall functioning had declined since 2009.  VA subsequently awarded a 50% rating, effective 2013, the date of the second VA examination.

VA denies higher ratings

The Board of Veteran’s Appeals issued the decision on appeal in May 2016.  It denied ratings in excess of 30% prior to 2013, and in excess of 50% since 2013.  For the first time period, the Board reasoned the Veteran was able to maintain hygiene, had good insight, and had good impulse control.  It also noted the absence of symptoms listed in the 70% and 100% criteria.  For the time period since 2013, the Board noted the absence of symptoms and concluded the evidence did not result in the necessary level of impairment to warrant a higher rating.

CCK appeals to Court; CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board failed to analyze the frequency, severity, and duration of the Veteran’s PTSD symptoms. Instead, the Board improperly focused on the absence of certain symptoms. The Court agreed that this was precisely the analysis forbidden by case law.
Thus, the Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the Veteran’s claim for further adjudication.

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