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BVA errs in denial of service connection for a bilateral knee condition

BVA errs in denial of service connection for a bilateral knee condition

Summary

The Veteran served on active duty in the U.S. Army from June 1993 to February 1994.  An August 1993 in-service treatment record showed left knee pain and muscle spasm while running and jumping rope.  In a January 1994 report, the Veteran did not indicate any knee disabilities or symptoms.  She filed a claim for service connection for a bilateral knee condition.  She reported  a left knee condition related to service, and a right knee condition secondary to her left knee disability.

The regional office denied her claim in April 2008.  She timely disagreed and subsequently appealed to the Board.  The Board denied service connection for the right knee in June 2013 and remanded the claim for the left knee.  After appealing to the CAVC, the Court granted a joint motion for partial remand on the basis that the right knee disability claim was intertwined with the left knee disability claim.  Per remand instructions, the Veteran attended a May 2014 VA examination. The examiner opined that her bilateral knee disability was not related to service.

Board denied service connection for bilateral knee condition

The Board denied the Veteran entitlement to service connection for a bilateral knee condition in October 2016. It rejected the Veteran’s lay statements that she experienced bilateral knee symptoms since service.  The Board stated that the January 1994 report showed that she denied knee symptoms.  It also asserted that she had a financial interest in reporting that symptoms continued since service.

CCK appeals to Court

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for its credibility determination.  The Court explained that it was not clear why the Board relied on an in-service 1994 record to determine that reports of symptoms continuing after service were not credible.  The only other reason provided to reject the lay evidence was that the Veteran had a financial interest in her claim, which is not a sufficient reason by itself.

Thus, the Board erred when it denied service connection for both knees.  The Court vacated the Board’s decision and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its decision.

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

Category: Court Wins

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