Inaccurate VA examinations used to deny increased rating for PTSD

Inaccurate VA examinations used to deny increased rating for PTSD

Summary

The Veteran served in the United States Air Force from 1970 to 1973.  In 2009 he filed a claim for non-service-connected pension for a psychiatric condition.  This claim was denied in April 2010 and he appealed the decision in May of that same year.  The Veteran withdrew his claim in October 2010.  The Veteran filed a new claim in March of 2011, this time for service-connected disability compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  In June of 2011, the Veteran was granted service connection at 10% back to the date of his disability claim. He filed an appeal in March of 2012, requesting an increased rating.  In February 2013, the VA increased his rating from 10% to 30% back to March of 2012.  In January 2014, he filed another appeal, requesting a rating above 30%.  He was denied an increased rating and appealed his case to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.

Board relied on VA examinations in its denial

The Veteran attended VA examinations in 2011 and 2013.  He also provided a wealth of treatment records and statements from his family members that described the severity of his symptoms.  However, the Board relied heavily on the VA examinations in making their determination.  The 2013 examiner opined that the Veteran’s symptoms were most accurately reflected by a 30% rating.  In March of 2016, the Board issued a decision denying an increased rating for PTSD.

CCK appeals to the CAVC

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Veterans Appeals a Board decision that denied the Veteran a rating higher than 30% for his service-connected PTSD.  The Board acknowledged that the Veteran experienced several symptoms that may have warranted a higher rating, but concluded these symptoms were attributable to another psychiatric disability.  It based its decision on a VA examiner’s opinion that the Veteran’s symptoms had improved over time, and thus were not due to PTSD.

Court win for the Veteran

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred in relying on this VA opinion because it was based on an inaccurate reading of the record. The Court agreed that the Veteran’s PTSD symptoms had not improved but had in fact worsened.  Because the examiner’s opinion was based on an inaccurate premise, the Board erred in relying on it.  The Court vacated the Board’s decision, and remanded the Veteran’s claim.

To read the Court’s decision, click here.

Category: Court Wins