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Court Wins

Vietnam Veteran Wrongly Denied Service Connection in Herbicide Exposure Case

Robert Chisholm

August 30, 2021

Updated: November 20, 2023


Case Summary

The Veteran served in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970, spending the latter 11 months of his service as a Quality Assurance Specialist in Vietnam.  Following his time in Vietnam, the Veteran developed hypertension, or high blood pressure, leading to a host of other conditions.

In 2001, he was diagnosed with a kidney infection, which later developed into chronic renal disease and end stage renal failure requiring hemodialysis.  Additionally, he suffers from coronary artery disease (CAD) and arteriosclerotic vascular disease, also known as atherosclerosis.  A May 5, 2013 nephrology consultation stated that the Veteran was not eligible to be a kidney transplant candidate due to his severe atherosclerosis.

The Veteran has filed multiple claims since 2015 for these illnesses as well as other disabilities, including bilateral hearing loss, tinnitus, and more.

VA Denies Veteran Service Connection

VA denied the Veteran service connection for his claims, citing insufficient evidence.  VA also noted that his disabilities are not considered presumptive Agent Orange conditions.

On June 15 and 16, 2016, the veteran filed multiple Notices of Disagreement with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), requesting further consideration of his exposure-related claims.

CCK Argues Service Connection for Hypertension, Heart Conditions, and Kidney Failure

In 2019 and 2020, two separate appeals were finally brought before the Board.  In both cases, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD argued service connection on behalf of the Veteran for hypertension, end stage renal failure, and atherosclerosis.

CCK cited Clemons v. Shinseki to assert that the Board should liberally construe the Veteran’s claim for atherosclerosis to encompass a diagnosis of hypertension.  CCK then argued for service connection for hypertension on a direct basis, invoking a 2018 update in the congressionally mandated biennial review of health issues linked to herbicide exposure.  The 2018 update determined that there is sufficient evidence linking hypertension to Agent Orange exposure.  Based on this, Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD argued for secondary service connection for the Veteran’s kidney disease and heart conditions, as they were caused by the hypertension.

The Board remanded the separate cases to the VA Regional Office on August 26, 2019 and March 3, 2020, respectively, for rating decisions.

VA Grants Service Connection and a 100% Disability Rating

VA granted service connection for the Veteran’s herbicide exposure-related conditions based on the additional evidence and arguments offered by CCK.  VA awarded the Veteran full disability benefits in two different rating decisions.

On July 30, 2020, the Board granted service connection for hypertension associated with herbicide exposure in Vietnam at a 0 percent rating effective June 15, 2016.  Based on this, the Veteran was given secondary service connection for aortic stenosis with transapical aortic valve replacement and ventricular and supraventricular arrhythmia.  The conditions were assigned a 60 percent rating on June 15, 2016 and increased to a 100 percent rating beginning on September 10, 2019.

On August 26, 2020, the Board granted service connection with 100 percent benefits for chronic renal disease with end stage renal failure requiring hemodialysis, with an effective date of June 16, 2016.  The Board also approved eligibility for special monthly compensation based on housebound criteria and Dependents’ Educational Assistance.

About the Author

Bio photo of Robert Chisholm

Robert is a Founding Partner of CCK Law. His law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans in the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and before the Department of Veterans Affairs. As a veterans lawyer Robert has been representing disabled veterans since 1990. During his extensive career, Robert has successfully represented veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals, Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Robert