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BVA denies increased ratings for PTSD based on inadequate reasons or bases

BVA denies increased ratings for PTSD based on inadequate reasons or bases

Summary of PTSD claim

The Veteran served honorably in the Army from 1965 to 1967, with service in Vietnam.  While in Vietnam, he witnessed many deaths which still cause him anguish to this day.  In July 2009, the Veteran filed a claim for entitlement to service connection for PTSD.

A private clinical psychologist identified worsening PTSD symptoms including depression, anxiety, anger, and panic attacks.  The Regional Office granted service connection for PTSD effective June 30, 2009 evaluated at a 10% rating.  The Veteran appealed this rating decision in a timely manner.  As a result of his appeal, the VA ordered that the Veteran attend a new exam.  Once evaluated, the VA examiner  opined that the Veteran’s PTSD symptoms had indeed worsened.  He was now suffering from  increased depressive symptoms, including greater isolation from his few friends and less interest in former hobbies.

Board denies increased ratings for PTSD

The RO increased the evaluation for PTSD from 10% to 50%, effective July 19, 2013.  In March 2014, the Board granted an increased rating for PTSD from 10% to 30% prior to July 19, 2013.  It denied a rating in excess of 50% since that date.

The Veteran appealed this Board decision to the Court, and the Court issued a memorandum decision in August 2015, remanding the increased rating claims for the Board to adequately consider the favorable evidence contained in the 2012 private examination report.

The Board issued the decision on appeal in March 2016, denying the Veteran’s increased rating claims for PTSD.  The Board noted that there was evidence of significant interference with memory function, obsessional rituals, suicidal ideation, difficulty adapting to stressful circumstances, near-continuous panic or depression, and impaired impulse control.  However, it concluded that these symptoms did not cause functional impairment consistent with higher ratings.

Court agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the denial of increased ratings for PTSD in excess of 30 and 50%.  In its decision, the Board relied on the Veteran’s past ability to work, and his lack of treatment for PTSD over the years.  CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that these were inadequate reasons for denying higher ratings.  The Veteran retired more than 10 years before seeking service connection for PTSD.  Furthermore, the relevant regulations for PTSD ratings do not require a veteran to seek or obtain treatment in order to warrant a higher rating.  The Court vacated the Board’s decision on the issue of PTSD, and remanded the matter for readjudication.

Category: Veterans Law

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