Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Opinions Part 4

Court of appeals for veterans claims

Garner v. Tran

In the case of Garner v. Tran, Ronald V. Garner has filed an appeal against the decision of the Board of Veterans' Appeals, which denied service connection for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Garner's argument is that his OSA results from his service-connected major depressive disorder (MDD). However, the Board, based on two VA examinations that showed no connection between OSA and MDD, rejected his claim. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims intervened and overturned the Board's decision, sending the case back for further investigation. The Court found that the Board had made an error by relying on insufficient examinations. Additionally, the Court clarified the General Counsel's opinion about obesity as a step towards establishing entitlement to service connection. The Court also addressed the issues of aggravation and secondary service connection, providing valuable insights on these matters.

Andrews v. McDonough

In Andrews v. McDonough, Wendell Andrews, a United States Marine Corps veteran, is appealing a Board of Veterans' Appeals decision denying entitlement to a rating above 10% for chondromalacia of the right patella with degenerative joint disease (DJD) and a rating above 10% for DJD of the left knee. The parties agree that the Board decision should be set aside and remanded, but disagree on the applicability of Kutscherousky v. West and Fletcher v. Derwinski. The Court ultimately holds that these cases do not apply, as they allow for submission of more evidence or require the Board to independently develop a claim, which is not permissible under the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017 (AMA). The Court remands the Board decision for VA to provide a new exam and for the Board to adequately state reasons or bases, while clarifying that Mr. Andrews may not submit new evidence to the Board. The Court also discusses the Board's decisions on other matters related to Mr. Andrews's case, such as service connection for bilateral pes planus, hip and back disabilities, and left knee instability.

Beaudette v. McDonough

The case discusses the case of Beaudette v. McDonough, in which Jeremy and Maya Beaudette are petitioning against Denis McDonough, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. The Beaudettes are seeking a writ of mandamus to let them appeal to the Board of Veterans' Appeals and to certify a class of claimants who have been denied the right to appeal. The dispute arose after the Beaudettes were initially granted benefits under the Caregiver Program, but were later denied after Jeremy Beaudette did not go to a medical examination. The Beaudettes argue that the VA's interpretation of the Caregiver Program statute is unfounded and conflicts with the Veterans' Judicial Review Act, while the VA argues that the statute explicitly construes helps decisions as medical determinations, which are beyond the Board's jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ultimately ruled for the Beaudettes, finding that the VA's interpretation is not supported by the language of the statute and that there is a strong presumption for judicial review. The Court also found that the Beaudettes met the prerequisites for class certification and that class-wide relief was the superior remedy. The Court appointed class counsel and ordered the Secretary to allow Board review of petitioners' claim. Judge Falvey dissented, arguing that the petitioners' interpretation of section 1720G disregards the language of subsection (c)(1).

Romero v. Tran

In Romero v. Tran, the appellant, Patricia Romero, is seeking an increased disability rating for PTSD, TDIU entitlement, and service connection for other conditions. The Board of Veterans' Appeals denied her appeal, but the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims overturned the decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court extensively discusses the presumption of regularity, including its boundaries, nature, reasoning, origins, and applications. Both the appellant and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs presented arguments, and the Court addressed the burden of proof on the Secretary to prove actual mailing.

Healey v. McDonough

Moving on to Healey v. McDonough, Navy veteran James R. Healey filed a claim for service connection for hypertension, diabetes, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) in 2009. While diabetes and NHL were granted service connection, the hypertension claim was denied. Healey tried to reopen his hypertension claim in 2015, contending that it resulted from NHL treatment and herbicide exposure. However, the Board of Veterans' Appeals denied the claim, relying on medical opinions that found no relation between Healey's hypertension and NHL therapy or diabetes. Healey argued that the Board erred by not addressing the hypothesis that his hypertension may be directly linked to herbicide exposure, as stated in the "Purplebook." The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated and remanded the decision, citing the Board's failure to address the Purplebook provision, though a concurring judge disagreed with the majority's analysis.

Wilson v. McDonough

In Wilson v. McDonough, Air Force veteran Randolph Wilson appealed the Board of Veterans' Appeals' decision that denied his request for an increased disability rating for bilateral hearing loss. Wilson contended that the Board made an error by not addressing his claim that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) did not conduct enough testing for his hearing loss, including neglecting to test for peripheral vestibular disorders (PVD). The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims vacated the decision and remanded the case to the Board for a fresh review. The Court ruled that the Board had to consider Wilson's assertions that the VA conducted no testing for PVD and that the Board's failure to address the potential relationship between Wilson's hearing loss and his PVD claim was not harmless. Although the Secretary of Veterans Affairs argued that the Board did not have to discuss these matters because Wilson never filed a formal claim, the Court concluded that the Board had to properly address and decide claims for secondary service connection that were reasonably raised during the processing of an initiated claim. Additionally, the Court emphasized that the Board needed to interpret Wilson's arguments liberally and address all the issues he raised, specifically noting that the Board's failure to consider the issues mentioned in Wilson's Form 9 required the remand.

Arline v. McDonough

The court discusses the case of Arline v. McDonough, 34 Vet.App. 238 (2021), in which Clifton Arline is appealing a decision by the Board of Veterans' Appeals. Arline argues that he should have received a higher rating for service-connected schizophrenia and a total disability rating based on individual unemployability. The Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims affirmed the Board's decision in part, but remanded the case for readjudication on Arline's schizophrenia rating. The case addresses the Board's reasoning for finding Arline's reports of workplace accommodations not credible, as well as Arline's arguments that the Board exceeded its own competence. It also discusses the definition of "employment in a protected environment" and the Board's consideration of Arline's volunteering and church activities. Finally, The court provides guidance on how to assess whether a protected environment exists.

Grimes v. McDonough

Veteran Thomas J. Grimes has been diligently pursuing service connection for various illnesses since 2011. At first, he submitted a claim for hearing loss, ear aches, sinus pressure, and tinnitus. Although the Regional Office (RO) approved service connection for bilateral hearing loss and tinnitus, they denied service connection for the aches and sinus pressure. In response, Grimes filed multiple appeals and applications, including claims for residuals of an ear cyst and hyperacusis.

In 2017, the Board denied compensable evaluation for bilateral hearing loss but remanded the claim for service connection for a sinus disability. Additionally, they referred the claim for hyperacusis back to the RO. Unwilling to accept this decision, Grimes appealed to the Court. Ultimately, the Court sided with him, recognizing that the Board had erred in treating his request for compensation for hyperacusis as a separate matter from his claims of bilateral hearing loss and sinus disability. The Court acknowledged that Grimes' filings and actions since 2011 had consistently shown his intent to seek compensation for hyperacusis as part of his original claims.

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