VA Must Assist Veteran With Claim Based On Agent Orange Exposure In Thailand
Summary of the Case
The Veteran served in the United States Army from March 1963 to February 1986, including service in Thailand from August 1967 to December 1967. He served at U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Force Base as an administrative specialist. The Veteran filed for service connection for coronary artery disease and bilateral skin condition of the feet in February 2009. He claimed that his conditions were due to exposure to Agent Orange during his service in Thailand. VA obtained a memorandum from the Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC) in May 2009 that stated the Veteran was not stationed in Vietnam during his military service. VA did not ask the Veteran for more information regarding his service following the JSRRC determination.
Board Denies Veteran’s Claim
In August 2015, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals denied the Veteran’s claim for service connection for coronary artery disease and skin condition. In its decision, the Board stated that VA was supposed to extend special consideration regarding herbicides in cases where a veteran is stationed “on or near the perimeters of Thailand military bases” if they had a certain Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). However, the Veteran did not have the MOS VA listed as being necessary for special consideration of his claim.
CCK Appeals to Court and Court Agrees with CCK’s Argument
CCK appealed the Veteran’s Board denial to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). The Court found that the Board erred when it denied service connection for a cardiac disease and a skin disorder, both as a result of Agent Orange exposure in Thailand. The Court reiterated the rule that VA must assist veterans in acquiring information regarding potential Agent Orange exposure in Thailand. VA should ask the veteran for the approximate dates, location, and nature of the exposure to Agent Orange. Although the Veteran was asked about his service in Vietnam, he was never asked to provide information regarding potential exposure in Thailand. This was required, as special consideration of herbicide exposure should be extended to veterans whose duties placed them on or near the perimeter of the U-Tapao air force base, where this Veteran served.
The Court stated that the Board did not fulfill its duty to assist the veteran in his claim, and remanded the Veteran’s case for readjudication.
To read the Court’s decision, click here.
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