TDIU denial relied on insufficient and unexplained medical opinions

TDIU denial relied on insufficient and unexplained medical opinions

Summary

The Veteran served honorably in the United States Navy from December 1960 to June 1982, including service as a pilot.  During service, the Veteran was involved in an airplane crash.  The Veteran filed his initial claim for service connection for his low back disability in January 2007.  In November 2007 the Regional Office granted the Veteran a non-compensable rating for his low back disability effective January 9, 2007. The Veteran described that his service-connected disability kept him from working in his January 2012 Board testimony.  As of January 2012, the Veteran was rated at a 60%.

Board issues TDIU denial

In its March 2016 decision, the Board found that the Veteran was not unemployable.  In coming to that conclusion, the Board found that the Veteran could work a less physically demanding job.  The Board based that conclusion on all of the medical opinions of record that found he could perform sedentary or moderate work.  The Board also found that the Veteran was employable because he had college and post-college education, which would allow him to work in a less physically demanding occupation.

CCK appeals to the Court

CCK successfully appealed to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims the Board’s TDIU denial.  The Board found that the Veteran would be capable of performing moderate or sedentary work and therefore he would not unemployable.

CAVC agrees with CCK’s arguments

CCK argued, and the Court agreed, that the Board erred when it relied on unexplained medical evidence.  The Board relied on a VA medical opinion that found, based on the Veteran’s impairment, he would be able to perform moderate or sedentary work.  The Court found that the VA medical examiner who came to that conclusion provided no explanation (rationale) why that was true.  Examiners are required to provide an adequate rationale for their findings.  The Board therefore erred when it provided an inadequate statement of reasons or bases for its treatment of the medical evidence in the case.  The Court vacated and remanded the Board’s TDIU denial for readjudication.  This means the case will return to the Board for it to provide an opinion that is consistent with the law and relies on adequate medical evidence when making its decision.

To read the Court’s decision, click here.

Category: Court Wins