As a veterans’ disability attorney we are often confronted with a myriad of circumstances that give rise to claims for compensation in the veterans’ disability arena. The following story is a true story taken from our case files. We just received word of a victory for a veteran and an award of 100% disability compensation for a delusional disorder.
This case is notable for several reasons. Primarily, this case illustrates how superior advocacy can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in some of the most complex disability cases in the federal agency.
The facts of the case are as follows. Our client was in the Navy. His rating was as a cook and he worked on board a ship as a cook. He had no particular training as a Special Forces Operative or anything like that.
His service personnel records indicated no evidence that he ever stepped foot on the land mass of the Republic of Vietnam. Moreover, his ship records indicated that the ship did not even get anywhere close to the inland waterways or otherwise near shore.
Nevertheless, the veteran filed a claim for PTSD and recounted an elaborate story of Special Forces Operations in clandestine missions into the Republic of Vietnam. The claim for PTSD was obviously denied because of the lack of an ability to corroborate the stressor. The VA denied him for years on the grounds that there just was no proof that he actually served in Vietnam and there was no proof that he engaged in these covert operations.
There was nothing in his personnel file that suggested participation in such activities. His training and specialty was further inconsistent with his description of his Special Forces operations.
The case went up on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. The veteran hired our law firm based on our extensive experience in representing veterans before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Before the Board was the issue of entitlement to service connection for an acquired psychiatric disability to include PTSD.
The evidence of record also raised the suggestion of other psychiatric diagnoses. The Board decision denied the PTSD but remanded the psychiatric claim other than PTSD back to the Regional Office. After a thorough review of the case file at the U.S. Court of Appeals we determined that there was no viable way to sustain an appeal for the PTSD denial.
But an interesting thing happened in the course of our review. In reviewing his story we began to notice uncanny unparallels with the story line and plot of the Vietnam era movie, Apocalypse Now, starring Robert Duvall. The story recounted by our client read like a screenplay for Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. So we began to wonder. Is this veteran the world’s biggest liar or is there something else going on here from a psychiatric standpoint?
In conversing with the client I ascertained a deep and sincere honesty with respect to his recitations of the facts. This veteran genuinely believed he experienced these events in Vietnam as a Special Forces Operative. But the problem from a legal perspective was that his story was not provable.
There was virtually no way to prove his theory of the case involving his presence in Vietnam on a special mission to assassinate a rogue colonel.
So what could explain the sincere honesty with respect to how this veteran perceived events with the directly contradictory official record? This is where our keen legal minds and experience came in. I thoroughly reviewed the file and I determined that the veteran had at least two head traumas during active duty.
These head traumas were documented. I then set to work to ascertain whether or not head trauma can cause a delusional disorder. I reasoned that he could not be so sincere and yet be untruthful at the same time. So I reasoned that his perception was that these events really occurred and he was being sincere and honest about it. But in reality, they never really happened.
The situation started to remind me of another motion picture called A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe. I began to be convicted that this was the scenario happening in this case. My research uncovered evidence that would link head trauma to a delusional disorder.
Therefore, we enlisted the services of one of the top forensic psychiatrists available in veterans’ disability cases. This psychiatrist is an individual that works with our office on difficult and complex cases. His involvement in cases has been instrumental in our veterans’ disability law firm’s winning of the biggest and most complex cases in this arena.
He was able to conclude that it was at least as likely as not that the veteran’s delusional disorder was caused by the in-service head trauma.
We presented these arguments directly to the Regional Office on the remanded claim. As a result, the Regional Office was forced to concede the validity of our theory of the case. They granted service connection and awarded a 100% disability rating for this veteran.
This veteran’s long wait has finally come to an end. He has been vindicated for all the years on appeal and for all the years that people thought he was crazy. In reality, he was delusional but it took the experience and tenacity of a veterans’ disability benefits attorney to win his case.