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Court Wins

The Board erred when it denied service connection for an acquired psychiatric disability

Bradley Hennings

March 12, 2018

Updated: November 20, 2023


Summary of the Case

The Veteran served honorably on active duty in the United States Army from 1986 to 1992. While she was in service, a car she was driving lost control and went off a cliff. She also reported sexual harassment from a superior officer. Upon separation, she reported weight loss, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. She continued to experience chronic psychiatric symptoms following service, and was eventually diagnosed with panic disorder, depression, and a personality disorder.

The Veteran filed a claim for service connection for a psychiatric disorder in 2007, which VA denied. It relied on a VA opinion that the Veteran’s symptoms were related to post-service life developments and childhood trauma, rather than her in-service experiences. The Veteran appealed this decision to the Board, which subsequently ordered more examinations to determine whether the Veteran’s psychiatric symptoms were related to service. These examiners gave negative opinions because the Veteran did not seek psychiatric treatment in service and was not diagnosed with a disability in service.

Eventually, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals found these opinions persuasive and denied the Veteran’s claim in 2016. It rejected the veteran’s lay statements about her in-service sexual assault because it found she was not credible. It also relied on the fact that the Veteran had a personality disorder which is not a disability for VA purposes.

With CCK’s help, the Veteran appealed the Board decision to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

CCK appeals to Court and the CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it relied on inadequate VA examinations to deny the Veteran’s claim for service connection. Specifically, the Court found that the VA examiners inappropriately relied on the fact that the Veteran did not seek treatment for a mental disorder in service. Additionally, the Court agreed the examiners were wrong to rely on the lack of a diagnosis in service. The Court found that the Board did not explain how these inadequate examinations provided enough information for the Board to make its decision.

The Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the Veteran’s claim for further adjudication.

About the Author

Bio photo of Bradley Hennings

Bradley Hennings joined Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick as an attorney in January 2018 and currently serves as a Partner in the firm. His practice focuses on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Bradley