Board failed to consider social impact of service-connected hearing loss

Board failed to consider social impact of service-connected hearing loss

Summary

The Veteran served on active duty in the United States Navy from 1977 to 1983, including in Vietnam where he earned the Combat Action Ribbon and the National Defense Service Medal.  While service aboard the USS Neosho, the Veteran operated an 81-millimeter mortar and was exposed to gunfire.  In November 2008, he was granted service connection for bilateral hearing loss, but assigned a non-compensable rating.  The Veteran appealed his 0% rating to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.  During the course of his appeal, a VA examiner opined that his service-connected hearing loss impacted the ordinary conditions of the Veteran’s daily life.  His wife reported he had trouble hearing conversations, the radio, and the television.  Additionally, the Veteran’s hearing loss impacted him socially, and negatively affected his basic daily activities.

BVA denies increased rating for service-connected hearing loss

In April of 2016, the Board denied the Veteran entitlement to a compensable rating for service-connected hearing loss.  The Board also determined that the Veteran was not eligible for referral to the Director of Compensation for an extraschedular rating.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court the denial of an increased rating for the Veteran’s service-connected hearing loss.  In its decision, the Board determined that the Veteran’s 0% rating contemplated all of the functional loss caused by his bilateral hearing loss.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board failed to provide an adequate statement of reasons or bases for denying the Veteran an increased rating for hearing loss.  Specifically, the Board’s explanation of its denial of referral to the Director of Compensation was insufficient.  The Court held that the Board’s failure to address the Veteran’s statement that hearing loss had a negative impact on him socially was an error.  Additionally, the Court found that the Board only considered evidence of the Veteran’s inability to hear speech and failed to address the social impact caused by hearing loss.  The Court therefore vacated the Board’s decision, and remanded the Veteran’s claim back to the Board for consideration of this evidence.

To read the Court’s decision, click here.  

Category: Court Wins