The Veteran developed kidney disease after serving in the Army during the Korean Conflict era.
Result: Nearly 12 years of back pay awarded for accrued benefits, and service-connection for the cause of death and back pay in excess of $190,000.
This Veteran was scheduled to be discharged from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The Veteran notified his father and a friend that he was getting out, and they made arrangements to go to New Jersey to meet him. The Veteran had his separation physical, which included a urine test. The doctor in the medical corps told him that there was protein in his urine and that he needed to stay over and come back the next day for another urine test. The Veteran advised his father and friend that he would be delayed in getting out due to protein in his urine. The next day his urine test was negative. The medical corps recorded a negative urine test result, and made no record of the initial positive test result.
The Veteran got out of the service and went on with his life. His life went on as normal for many decades. He married and had a family. However, in the 1990s he began having some trouble with his kidneys. It was found that he had high blood pressure, which the doctors said was a factor in the onset of his kidney disease.
The kidney disease progressed to the point that he needed dialysis. He eventually got on the list for a kidney transplant. But before he could get the transplant, he had to have heart surgery to address some heart issues. Thankfully, the Veteran received a kidney transplant and did fairly well under the circumstances.
He then remembered his discharge exam from the Army in the early 1950s. He remembered that the doctor told him he had protein in his urine. After some research he learned that protein in the urine could be a sign of early kidney disease. But there was no record of the positive urine test. The Veteran looked up his old friend who met him at Camp Kilmer almost 5 decades earlier. He remembered the Veteran advising him that he had to be held over due to protein in the urine. The Veteran got a statement from his friend and filed a claim.
Naturally, the VA denied him on the grounds that there was no proof anything happening with his kidneys in service. The Board also denied the Veteran. He then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He hired us to represent him.
We discovered that the Board did not adequately consider the statements of the Veteran’s friend. We were able to successfully argue for a remand.
When the case was remanded we discovered that the Veteran’s separation exam report contained several clues. First, the negative urine test result was marked as a “re-check”. We reasoned that there would not have been a “re-check” unless there was an initial positive test result. We also noticed that he had a systolic blood pressure of 135. We suspected that this might have been borderline hypertension in service. We hired a top medical expert.
Our medical expert reviewed the case and found that it would not have been the standard practice to do a re-check of a urine test unless the first test was positive. Establishing this then allowed us to prove that the Veteran was telling the truth. The medical expert also found that the Veteran had the beginnings of hypertension during service. Hypertension then led to the kidney disease. Based on this, the medical expert concluded that it was at least as likely as not that the Veteran’s kidney disease was related to service.
The Board had the Veteran go to a C&P exam. The C&P examiner partially agreed with our medical expert. The case went back to the Board where service connection was granted. The case then returned to the regional office to be implemented. However, 6 weeks after the favorable award – and after our Veteran client had been appealing for more than a decade – he died of complications of his kidney disease. His death came as a shock to his surviving wife. He had not even received the money from VA for his back pay.
We immediately filed to substitute his wife on all his pending claims, including accrued benefits. We also filed to obtain service-connection for the cause of death.
We submitted additional arguments to the regional office, and obtained and submitted an additional medical expert report regarding the cause of the Veteran’s death. The result: almost 12 years back pay awarded for accrued benefits, and service-connection for the cause of death.