This Veteran of the Vietnam War had multiple disabilities.
Result: Back pay from PTSD increase and TDIU award exceeded $100,000.
As a result of Agent Orange exposure, this Veteran developed Type II Diabetes. He was service connected for diabetes and also PTSD. He was rated at 50 percent for the PTSD and 20 percent for diabetes. He filed to increase his PTSD rating and his diabetes rating. The Board and regional office denied him an increase. He hired us to handle his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
In terms of background, the Veteran’s PTSD symptoms made it impossible for him to be around people. As a result, the Veteran could not work a regular job. He tried to earn a little extra money by fixing cars from his garage at home. If he was lucky, he was able to earn a few hundred dollars a month. However, the PTSD symptoms aggravated his physical pain from a non-service connected back disability as well as his diabetes. As a result, he eventually had to give up doing auto repairs. His only income was his VA check for his combined rating of 60 percent. Needless to say, money was very tight for this Veteran.
On review of his file, we discovered that the severity of his PTSD had fluctuated during various time periods. The Board failed to consider higher ratings for the different time periods where the condition was worse. We successfully argued that the Board failed to consider what are called “staged ratings”. As a result, we successfully obtained a remand of his case.
Once the case was back at the Board we developed more evidence in his case. We had his case reviewed by an expert forensic psychologist with whom we often work. She was able to determine that his PTSD symptoms were much more severe than the 50 percent rating. She also noted the research that indicates a clear relationship between psychiatric problems and physical pain. She gave the opinion that due to the PTSD symptoms the Veteran lost all his income and was not able to work or otherwise earn a living. In addition, we argued that he was entitled to TDIU.
The Board issued a decision in the case and increased his rating for PTSD to 70 percent, but remanded back to the regional office his claim for TDIU. The Board wanted to schedule the Veteran for a compensation and pension (C&P) exam. Once the case was back at the regional office VA scheduled the Veteran for the C&P exam. We helped prepare him for the exam. Once the exam was over, we made a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a copy of the C&P exam report. We wanted to see what the VA examiner said. The C&P exam report was largely favorable. In the meantime, we had also contacted a vocational expert who evaluated the Veteran and determined that the Veteran’s PTSD made him unable to maintain gainful employment. We submitted additional argument along with the vocational expert’s report.
The result: The Veteran was awarded TDIU. His back pay – from the PTSD increase and TDIU award – exceeded $100,000.