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CCK successfully appeals denial of service connection based on herbicide exposure in Thailand

CCK successfully appeals denial of service connection based on herbicide exposure in Thailand

Summary

The Veteran served honorably in the United States Army from April 1968 to April 1970, including service in Thailand at Camp Friendship, adjacent to Korat Air Base.  His military occupational specialty was a supply specialist and stock clerk.  The Veteran reported that as a supply clerk, he had to work near the perimeter of Camp Friendship where all the incoming and outgoing supplies were loaded and unloaded.  He was diagnosed with type II diabetes and prostate cancer, and also developed peripheral neuropathy, hypertension, and ED.

The Veteran filed a claim for service connection for these disabilities based on herbicide exposure in Thailand.  The Regional Office submitted a request to the U.S. Army and Joint Record Research Center (JSRRC) in an effort to verify the Veteran’s exposure to herbicides.  JSRRC was unable to locate the Veteran’s unit records, but confirmed his unit’s location at Camp Friendship and general responsibilities and activities.  JSRRC also noted that a Defense Department report contained evidence of significant use of herbicides on the fenced-in perimeters of military bases in Thailand, but was unable to confirm the Veteran’s duties brought him to the perimeter of the base.

Board denies service connection based on herbicide exposure in Thailand

In May of 2016, the Board denied the Veteran service connection for type II diabetes mellitus and prostate cancer as due to herbicide exposure, as well as the remaining disabilities as secondary to those conditions.  The Board found that the Veteran’s testimony that he worked along the perimeter of Korat Air base was not credible because it was in direct conflict with the JSRRC response.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the Board’s denial of service connection for type II diabetes mellitus and prostate cancer due to herbicide exposure in Thailand.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for finding the Veteran’s lay testimony regarding service along the perimeter of Camp Friendship incredible.  The Court found that there is a difference between a lack of confirmation of service along the perimeter, and a direct conflict with service record.  The Court noted that before the Board can find a veteran not credible, it must lay a proper foundation.  Here, the Board did not explain why it would be expected to find verification of the Veteran’s presence at the perimeter of Camp Friendship in his service records.

The Court therefore remanded the Veteran’s appeal back to the Board for further adjudication, explaining there is a straightforward question for the Board to answer: whether it is at least as likely as not the Veteran’s duties as a supply specialist placed him on or near Camp Friendship or Korat Air Base perimeters, and if so, herbicide exposure should be conceded.

To read the Court’s decision, click here. 

Category: Court Wins

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