Denials of service connection for bilateral hip arthritis, bilateral knee arthritis relied on inadequate reasons or bases

Denials of service connection for bilateral hip arthritis, bilateral knee arthritis relied on inadequate reasons or bases

Summary

The Veteran served on active duty in the Navy from 1974 to 1994.  In July 2012, the Regional Office denied service connection for bilateral hip arthritis and bilateral knee arthritis.  The Veteran filed a timely notice of disagreement.  In December 2014, the Board remanded the claim for a VA examination.  The purpose of this exam was to determine the nature and etiology of any current bilateral hip or knee condition.  The exam specifically acknowledged that the record reflected recent complaints of bilateral hip and knee pain and an arthritis diagnosis.  However, the examiner opined against a nexus between the Veteran’s service and these conditions.

Board denied service connection for bilateral hip arthritis, bilateral knee arthritis

The Board denied entitlement to service connection for a bilateral hip disorder and a bilateral knee disorder in July 2016.  The Board again acknowledged the Veteran’s “consistent[ ] claims[s] that his arthritis had been getting steadily worse over the years from 20 years of service and walking up and down stairs and on a steel deck and concrete during service.”  However, the Board found the VA examiner’s opinion outweighed the Veteran’s contentions.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the denial of service connection for the Veteran’s hip and knee disorders.  In its decision, the Board relied on the VA medical examiner’s negative nexus opinion.  Specifically, the examiner found that the appellant’s hip and knee conditions were not related to climbing up and down ladders or working and sleeping on steel slabs.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board provided an inadequate statement of reasons or bases for relying on the January 2015 VA examination.  To be precise, the Court determined the examiner’s reasoning that “[e]xercise and activity is noted to be health [sic] for joints and muscles” was “nonresponsive to the appellant’s theory of service connection” because “[t]he appellant has not suggested that mere exercise and activity caused his arthritis.”  Accordingly, the Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the matter for readjudication.  Once on remand, the Board must provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for relying on the January 2015 VA Examination.  Furthermore, if it fails to provide reasoning, it must issue a new examination.

To read a copy of the Court’s decision, click here.

Category: Court Wins