Board committed multiple errors in denial of service connection for a psychiatric disorder
The Veteran sought service connection for a psychiatric disorder including as secondary to already service-connected disabilities.
The Board denied the claim in part due to a VA examination in which the examiner opined that the psychiatric disorder was not causally related to service or service-connected disabilities. The examiner also opined that the Veteran’s service-connected disabilities had aggravated his psychiatric disorder, but “not beyond normal progression.” On appeal, the Court agreed with several of CCK’s arguments on behalf of the Veteran.
The Court found that the Board committed several errors
First, the Court found that the Board did not adequately explain its determination that the VA fulfilled its duty to assist the veteran in the development of his claim. The VA did not demonstrate it made sufficient efforts to obtain federal records from the Veteran’s employer. However, the Board did not address this in its decision.
Second, the Court took several issues with the VA examinations of record. The Court held that the examiner appeared to apply the wrong legal standard, as 38 C.F.R. § 3.310(b) requires service connection on an aggravation basis for any increase in the severity of a condition proximately due to service-connected disorder and not due to the natural progress of the condition. The Court also held that this examination was inadequate because the examiner said the Veteran’s psychiatric condition resulted from a number of stressors without explaining why his service-connected disabilities were not part of these stressors.
Third, the Court held that the examiner should have considered the evidence of numerous behavioral problems the Veteran experienced while on active duty. As all of this evidence was in the Veteran’s file, the examiners should have discussed and considered this evidence in their findings.
Fourth, the Court noted that this Board decision was inconsistent with prior Board decisions in this Veteran’s case.
Finally, the Board found the Veteran’s own statements regarding his symptoms to be not credible. The Court determined that the Board failed to consider statements from the Veteran’s family members regarding his psychiatric symptoms since service, and failed to explain why it did not discuss these statements.
The Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded the issue
Because of these numerous errors, the Court vacated the Board’s decision regarding service connection for a psychiatric disorder and remanded the issue back to the Board for further proceedings.