Court of Appelas for Veterans Claims Decisions, Part 3

VA Benefits Appeals Help part 3

Snider v. McDonough

In Snider v. McDonough, 35 Vet.App. 1 (2021), Patricia K. Snider appealed a decision that denied her husband a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU). Snider, a veteran, was represented by Mark D. Vichich, Richard J. Hipolit, Mary Ann Flynn, and Megan C. Kral. The appellee was Denis McDonough, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This case was presided over by Judges Pietsch, Toth, and Falvey, who handled the appeal under the veterans appeals process.

At first, the Court affirmed the decision made by the Board, which denied Snider's husband the TDIU rating. However, Snider and her legal team sought a reconsideration or panel review. The Court granted their motion and withdrew the initial decision made by a single judge. During the review, an important question arose: whether the "reasonable possibility" standard established in Ray v. Wilkie should be applied to Snider's case. The Secretary argued that the precedent set by Pederson should be considered instead. Ultimately, the Court determined that the standard established in Ray applied to Snider's case, holding that there was a need to reevaluate and reassess Snider's eligibility for the TDIU rating based on this standard.

The Court also deliberated on the significance of the M21-1, which emerged as a contentious point in the parties' arguments. The M21-1 is an internal manual used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to guide its decision-making processes. Considering this, the Court remanded the case for further review and readjudication, making sure all relevant factors and precedents, including the "reasonable possibility" standard from Ray v. Wilkie, are duly considered.

This case highlights the complexity and intricacy involved in VA benefits appeals, the importance of legal representation for veterans, and the adherence to established precedents and standards in the appeals process. By examining the facts, understanding the applicable standards, and reviewing, the Court aims to equitably resolve veterans like Snider seeking fair and just outcomes in their disability claims.

Long v. Wilkie

In the case of Long v. Wilkie, 33 Vet.App. 167 (2020), a veteran's appeal of a decision not to refer his noncompensable bilateral hearing loss rating for extraschedular consideration was discussed. The appellant, Walter G. Long, was represented by attorneys Jenna E. Zellmer and Shawn D. Murray, while the appellee, Robert L. Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, was represented by Ronen Z. Morris, Megan Flanz, Mary Ann Flynn, Kenneth A. Walsh, and Lance P. Steahly. The case was heard by a panel of nine judges, who ultimately affirmed the Board's decision, finding that Long's symptomatology was not exceptional and did not justify referral for extraschedular consideration.

The Court also found that the rating criteria for hearing loss contemplated Long's symptoms, including **anxiety and depression**, **reduced self-esteem**, **inability to understand spoken conversations without hearing aids**, **difficulty hearing in meetings**, and **ear pain from using hearing aids**. The Court further discussed the importance of a valid **DSM-5 diagnosis for psychiatric disabilities**, and the need for a clear link between a symptom and a **service-connected disability** in order for extraschedular consideration to be justified.

The Court also addressed its struggle to create a cohesive framework for extraschedular referral and assignment, with two dissenting judges disagreeing with the majority's interpretation of the **Thun framework**. The Court ultimately argued for one of two potential methods for addressing the issue of extraschedular referral for hearing loss, while a dissenting opinion called for remand to allow the Board to make factual findings. Senior Judge Mary J. Schoelen filed an opinion **concurring in the judgment** but dissenting in part, while Judge Amanda L. Meredith filed a **dissenting opinion**, joined by Judges Michael P. Allen and William S. Greenberg.

Andrews v. McDonough

The case discusses the case Andrews v. McDonough, focusing on VA benefits appeal and VA disability. Here, David A. Andrews, a Marine Corps veteran, is seeking service connection for hepatitis C, which falls under VA disability appeal. Andrews argues that his condition resulted from exposure to various risk factors during his military service, making it a key aspect of the VA disability claim.

However, the Board of Veterans' Appeals denied Andrews' claim, raising the need for a board appeal. Although both parties acknowledge the Board's error in their decision, they differ in their proposed remedy. Andrews wants the Court to reverse the Board's ruling, emphasizing the importance of a VA benefits appeal. But McDonough argues for the case to be remanded for more fact finding, highlighting the significance of supplemental claim and the need for veterans to provide substantial evidence to support their VA disability claim.

The Court ultimately reverses the Board's decision for Andrews, considering important factors such as the applicable legal standard, uncontested facts, and the limited impact that additional development could have on the claim. This outcome reflects the effectiveness of pursuing a VA appeal where the existing evidence strongly supports the veteran's position. The case also addresses the VA appeals process, mentioning the veterans claims and the role of veterans law judges in reviewing cases.

Throughout the case, it is important to acknowledge the relevance of veterans service organizations, VA claims, and the appeals modernization act in providing legal help and support to veterans throughout the VA benefits appeal process. Additionally, the case highlights the significance of VA outreach events and VA outreach materials in contacting veterans and making sure they are informed about their rights and options for VA appeals.

This case showcases the impact of effective appeals in obtaining VA disability benefits for veterans. It underscores the importance of presenting compelling evidence and arguments during the decision review process, particularly regarding a VA disability appeal. The Court's ruling for Andrews shows the commitment to justice and fairness for those who have served our country.

Hall v. McDonough

Walter H. Hall, a Marine Corps veteran, started a pursuit of service connection for his ankle, foot, and hip conditions, considering them to be secondary to his service-connected knee disability. Unfortunately, his claims were denied by the regional office of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Determined to seek justice, Hall promptly filed a Notice of Disagreement, but due to an inadvertent choice of the incorrect form, the Board of Veterans' Appeals accepted it and later dismissed his claims for lack of jurisdiction. In response, Hall took his case to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, and his perseverance paid off. The Court ruled in his favor, affirming that the Board had jurisdiction and remanded the case for further development.

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