Bilateral knee condition denial ignored possible connection to service

Bilateral knee condition denial ignored possible connection to service

Summary

The Veteran served in the United States Army from 1968 to 1979.  He initially filed a claim for service connection for a bilateral knee condition in February 2006.   The Veteran argued that his bilateral knee condition was due to his bilateral feet and ankle conditions.  The VA granted service connection for his bilateral foot and ankle conditions, but not for his knee condition.  The next year in July of 2006, a VA examiner found that his bilateral knee condition was not due to his foot and ankle conditions, but provided no explanation for why this was the case.  In September and December 2006, the VA continued to deny benefits for his bilateral knee condition.

After providing private medical evidence, the Veteran filed an appeal in February 2007. The VA denied service connection once more in May of 2007.  The Veteran appealed his case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in June of 2007.

Board denies service connection for bilateral knee condition

The VA granted service connection for multiple conditions due to the Veteran’s ankle and foot conditions in July of 2011.   A VA exam in June of 2012 found that those conditions did not cause his bilateral knee condition.  In July of 2013, the Board found that the previous exams were inadequate and requested that new exams be completed.  Previous exams had not considered that the bilateral knee condition might have been aggravated by his foot and ankle conditions.  A new exam was provided in August of 2013, and again, the Board found it to be inadequate.  The VA provided another examination in July of 2015.  After reviewing all the examinations together, the Board issued a new decision in January 2016. The Board denied service connection for the Veteran’s bilateral knee condition.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims the Board decision denying the Veteran service connection for his bilateral knee disorder.  In its decision, the Board denied the Veteran entitlement to service connection because the VA examiners opined that his bilateral knee disability was the result of aging and morbid obesity.  The Board stated that, taken together, all the previous VA exams accurately described the cause of the Veteran’s bilateral knee condition.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s argument

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, the Board failed to address whether his service-connected disabilities caused or aggravated obesity and that such obesity subsequently caused or aggravated his bilateral knee condition.  The Board erred when it failed to address a reasonably raised secondary service connection theory and to provide adequate reasons or bases for its decision.  The Court set aside the Board’s decision and remanded the matter for further development.

To read the Court’s decision, click here.

Category: Court Wins