Veteran totally disabled after a brain injury in service.
Result: Service connection granted for an acquired psychiatric disorder rated at 100 percent with approximately $250,000 in back pay awarded.
The veteran served during the Vietnam era but was injured during training in upstate New York. The veteran suffered a severe blow to the head and right hand. The hand injury eventually resulted in the partial amputation of several fingers. His immediate medical care during the service focused on the hand injury as it was more critical.
However, shortly after discharge the effects of the head injury caused the veteran to be hospitalized for severe psychiatric complaints. He spent many years in and out of a psychiatric hospital. His friends and family noticed immediately that he was not the same person as he was before the service. As a result of his hand and psychiatric injuries, the veteran was not able to sustain significant gainful employment much past the 1970s.
His problems not only prevented him from pursuing an occupation, but it resulted in his divorce. Before the accident in service he was considered normal. He did well in high school and had no other difficulties. But after the accident the veteran had difficulty remembering things and at times had difficulty carrying on a normal conversation. He suffered frequent nightmares of the accident and he was largely dependent on his elderly parents for survival.
He began filing claims for VA benefits. The VA granted him service-connection for the hand injury because the service medical records clearly documented the hand injury. However, the rating for a finger amputation was minimal. As a result, the money was not sufficient to sustain him.
The VA, however, denied the brain/psychiatric claims. The VA did not believe the veteran suffered a head or brain injury during service. They refused to believe his story. Basically, the VA did not see any service medical records for treatment of any brain or psychiatric complaints. The VA repeatedly denied the claim, and the veteran continued to re-file his claims–but to no avail. The only medical records concerning the brain were after service and the VA thought that any brain or psychiatric disability was due to something that happened after service.
Finally, the veteran hired our law firm to represent him on appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He was trying again to reopen his claim for a psychiatric disorder. We filed a brief with the Court and were able to get the case remanded back to the Board. Once the case was returned to the Board we arranged to have the veteran examined by a well-known forensic psychologist. The psychologist diagnosed the veteran with PTSD as a result of the documented in-service hand injury.
Our strategy was that if we could show that the veteran had PTSD caused by a documented in-service stressor, then we could prevail. Our forensic psychologist assisted provided us with the medical evidence to support our theory.
The Board did not initially accept our private medical evidence. Instead, the Board remanded the case back to the regional office for another VA exam. While we were waiting for the VA exam, we obtained additional medical reports from another private psychologist and several of the veteran’s treating VA doctors. All the doctors concurred with our theory of the case. We submitted these additional reports. Finally, the VA scheduled the veteran for a compensation and pension exam. By this time, the file contained numerous favorable medical opinions. Undoubtedly, this evidence helped to influence the VA examiner who wrote a favorable opinion.
We continued to submit additional argument and medical reports for almost an additional three years before VA made a decision. We continued to call VA to determine the status. We were advised that VA had made a decision. But we waited almost 8 months for VA to mail us the decision. The result: 100 percent service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder with an award of almost $250,000 in back pay.