Consulting the BVA: A Series

Consulting the BVA will be an on-going series. I will read BVA opinions and share what I learn.

I like to read through BVA opinions to glean insight into the best ways to overturn VA denial letters.  While Board of Veterans Appeals decisions are not binding, they often provide valuable clues for how to craft a successful appeal.

One issue that every veteran faces is convincing the VA that a nexus exists between their service and their current disability.  In PTSD cases, for example, the veteran must provide evidence that the current diagnosis is the result of an in-service stressor or stressors.  Sometimes, however, everyday life can be an obstacle to proving that the current medical condition is the result of service.

For example, do you have financial concerns or marital problems?  Is someone in your family suffering from their own medical issues?  And did you happen to tell the VA examiner about these concerns?  If you did, you may find out that the VA believes your current anxiety is the result of these non-service issues.  And if the VA believes that non-service connected stressors are causing or even contributing to your PTSD, don’t be surprised when you receive a denial letter.

In one claim at the Regional Office, the adjudicator claimed that because the veteran was distressed both by service connected and non-service connected stressors, it was less likely than not that his PTSD was the result of his service.  Even though the VA examiner noted that the veteran reported disturbing memories of his service, and those memories contributed to his current mood symptoms, the claim was nevertheless denied.

This denial, however, was in error.  Federal cases have provided that when the VA cannot distinguish between service and non-service connected conditions, signs and symptoms must be attributed to the service-connected disability.  Moreover, a central tenet of VA law holds that reasonable doubt should be resolved in the veteran’s favor.

Veterans must remember that the VA makes mistakes on a regular basis.  A denial letter does not mean you are ineligible for benefits.   Veterans must be prepared for a denial letter and they must have a plan in place for appealing.

If your claim for VA benefits has been denied, contact VA Legal Team for a free consultation.