We recently won service connection for a veteran’s myocardial infarction secondary to a service connected psychiatric disability. This veteran’s psychiatric disability was different than the typical PTSD scenario that we often face in this office. This veteran had a psychiatric disability that produced a binge eating disorder. Unlike the typical bulimia, this veteran as a result of the binge eating disorder developed morbid obesity.
This morbid obesity, in turn, caused metabolic syndrome and numerous cardiovascular problems.
It is a well-known fact that obesity is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. The VA historically views obesity as something that is not subject to service connection and does not actually consider it a disability.
However, no reasonable physician can dispute the fact that obesity is a medically significant physiological occurrence that carries with it numerous risk factors for a multitude of health problems. In this particular case, the veteran developed a host of problems, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. These problems eventually led to his myocardial infarction and a diminished workload capacity associated with his weakened heart.
The VA initially did not want to service connect this disability and they denied him numerous times throughout the appeal process, starting at the Regional Office and going up to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and eventually to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims. We were successful in getting the claim overturned on appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims, and then on remand we obtained an opinion from an outside consulting medical expert who determined that the psychiatric disability that drove the binge eating disorder really was at the heart of the problem resulting in the myocardial infarction.
The VA had supported their denial in this case based upon a VA medical examination report that continued to assert that binge eating does not cause heart problems. We, however, were able to locate significant scientific literature that did support a connection between binge eating disorder and heart problems.
Based upon our superior research and medical literature, as well as our articulate and well-reasoned medical expert, we were able to convince the Board of Veterans’ Appeals that service connection for this disability should be warranted.
This is yet another example of how a medical scenario that is slightly different than usual can nevertheless turn into a successful claim if an advocate understands the medical science and is willing to hire the right medical experts to prove the claim. As is our custom in these cases, we did thorough medical research and chose the right experts to help make the case. The result for our client was a victory after 22 years on appeal. That’s right, our veteran started his claim in approximately 1995 and we achieved a victory on his behalf in the year 2017.
The lengthy time it took to resolve this case is further evidence of the dysfunction within the VA system and it also illustrates the need for veterans to be persistent in pursuing their appeals. Too often, veterans give up too early and become discouraged at the repeated denials. But this case illustrates how persistence can pay off. As a result, the veteran will receive retroactive pay for 22 years.
If you are a veteran and you suffer from a psychiatric disability that you believe has caused a heart disability, then I invite you to call our office. Similarly, if you are a veteran who’s been on appeal for a lengthy period of time and you’re not winning your claim, then I also invite you to call our office. Our office concentrates in representing veterans who have been on appeal for many years.