Board relies on faulty reasoning in denying benefits for PTSD

Board relies on faulty reasoning in denying benefits for PTSD

Summary

The Veteran served in the United States Navy from 1966 to 1969.  In November of 2011, he filed a claim for disability benefits for his post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.  In January of 2012, he attended a VA examination.  The examiner stated that his symptoms did not align with a medical diagnosis for PTSD.  Subsequently, in February of 2012, the VA denied service connection.  He submitted an appeal, along with a medical opinion from his treating psychologist.   The VA submitted an additional medical opinion in support of the prior VA exam.

The VA assigned its own medical opinion and examinations more legal weight and denied his appeal once more in October 2012.  The Veteran submitted an appeal in January 2013 and was provided with a new VA exam in January of 2014.  This new exam also had negative findings for a PTSD diagnosis.  In January of 2014 the VA continued the denial of service connection.

Board continues to deny service connection for PTSD

In March of 2014, the Veteran submitted an appeal to the Board of Veterans Appeals, continuing to seek service connection.  In December of 2015, the Board continued the denial of his appeal.  Despite providing multiple opinions from his treating psychologist, the Board found that the VA examinations had more legal weight in determining the Veteran’s eligibility for benefits.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed the December 2015 Board decision that denied the Veteran service connection for his PTSD.  The Board found the VA examination reports finding the Veteran did not have PTSD were more probative than a private opinion finding the Veteran did have PTSD.  In denying service connection, the Board found that the private opinion was not entitled to probative weight because it was based on the Veteran’s description of his own symptoms.  The Board stated that the Veteran was not a medical professional.  Therefore, he was not qualified to provide an opinion on his own medical condition.

CAVC vacates the Board’s decision

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it provided an insufficient statement of its reasoning as to why the VA examination reports were more probative than the private opinion.  The Court found that the Board failed to fully explain why the VA exams should be given more legal weight.  In his medical opinion, the Veteran’s treating psychologist described why the tests used in the VA examinations were not appropriate for combat veterans.  The Court set aside the Board decision and remanded the issue of service connection for PTSD.  Accordingly, the Board must provide adequate reasoning in its evaluation of the VA examinations and the Veteran’s own private medical opinion.

To read the Court’s full decision, click here.

Category: Court Wins