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TDIU Cases & Sedentary Work: CCK Wins Precedential Case

Summary of the Case

Mr. Withers served in the United States Marine Corps between 1968 and 1969.  While serving in Vietnam, he was wounded during combat.  Later, he was granted service-connected compensation for gunshot wound residuals to the right arm and leg, lower back problems, and PTSD.  In 2004, Mr. Withers began missing work because of the physical and psychological complications arising from his service-connected disabilities.  As a result, he stopped working in December of 2004, and then applied for TDIU in 2005.  Mr. Withers was originally denied in 2008, but continued to appeal to the Board.  After obtaining several medical opinions, the Board upheld this denial.

Board denies Veteran’s claim for TDIU

In 2016, the Board issued a decision denying the Veteran’s claim for TDIU.  In its decision, the Board relied in part on the fact that none of the VA examiners concluded that the Veteran’s service-connected disabilities precluded him from limited or sedentary employment.  Additionally, the Board asserted that Mr. Wither’s college education and three-decade history as a sales manager strongly suggest that he has the training to perform sedentary work.

CCK argues for a definition of sedentary work

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims the Board decision that denied TDIU.  CCK argued that the Board simply reiterated the examiner’s conclusions that Mr. Withers is capable of sedentary work without explaining the concept of sedentary work in light of his specific physical and psychological limitations.  In other words, the Board did not explain what “sedentary work” means when relying on it as the basis for denial.  CCK further asserted that the Court should order the Secretary to adopt the Social Security Administration’s definition of sedentary work until the Secretary establishes his own set definition.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that if the Board bases its denial of TDIU on the conclusion that a Veteran is capable of sedentary work, then it must explain how it interprets that concept in the context of a specific case.  Specifically, the Board must define the meaning of sedentary work and address how it factors into the veteran’s overall disability picture, vocational history, and ability to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation.  Additionally, before the Board can rely on an examiner’s finding that a veteran is capable of sedentary work to deny TDIU, it must also ensure that the finding is consistent with the medical evidence as a whole.

This precedential decision represents the first occasion in which the Court has articulated the proper analysis for the Board to undertake when addressing the concept of sedentary work.  While CCK urged the Court to establish a definition for sedentary work, the Court maintained that the question of importance is not what sedentary work means, but what connection sedentary work bears to the requirements of TDIU.  Ultimately, the Court remanded the case in order for the Board to establish adequate reasons and bases for its decision, and undertake any additional fact finding necessary to accomplish that task.

To read the Court’s decision, click here.

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