October 9, 2018, Washington, DC – Bergmann & Moore attorneys prevailed on behalf of a Vietnam War Veteran’s widow who sought survivor benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after the Veteran died.
The widow believed the Veteran’s death was related to his military service. The Georgia Veteran earned a Purple Heart Medal after he received shrapnel wounds to his head and shoulder. The Army Veteran was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a rare type of brain cancer, in December 2008. He died in April 2010.
In May 2010, his widow filed a claim for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC, also called survivor benefits). However, the local VA Regional Office (RO) denied the DIC claim in August 2011. She then appealed to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) in Washington, DC. In April 2014 and June 2015, the Board remanded the claim to the RO for a new VA medical opinion about the relationship between the Veteran’s glioblastoma and his service in the war, including exposures to toxic herbicides such as agent orange.
The Board also requested that the RO find his service medical records, including his Purple Heart Medal narrative describing the extent of his battlefield wounds. However, the RO upheld the denials in March 2015 and August 2017. As a result, the widow’s appeal returned to the Board.
In December 2017, the Board denied her DIC claim. Believing VA had made mistakes and seeking legal representation, the widow contacted B&M in order to appeal the Board’s denial to the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court), also in Washington, DC. In September 2018, B&M and the widow succeeded in vacating the Board’s denial when VA agreed to a Joint Motion for Remand (JMR). In the JMR approved by the Court, VA admitted the following errors:
1. VA failed to consider medical research about glioblastoma submitted by the widow in support of her claim.
2. VA failed to consider a favorable private medical opinion provided by the widow associating the Veteran’s glioblastoma with his exposure to herbicides while deployed to Vietnam.
3. The Board failed explain whether VA’s attempts to obtain additional service treatment records relating to the Veteran’s in-service shrapnel wounds substantially complied with prior instructions from the Board. This was important because VA needed to determine if the wounds suffered by the Veteran contributed to his death. The Army medical records VA obtained in the past did not specifically list the types of or locations of his Vietnam War shrapnel wounds.
As result of the JMR, the Veteran’s appeal was returned by the Court to the Board in order to correct VA’s errors and decide the widow’s DIC claim again. This includes searching for and obtaining Army records about his Purple Heart Medal.
B&M is honored to assist Veterans and family members with VA disability compensation appeals at an RO, the Board, or the Court. If you are not satisfied with VA’s decision on your disability claim, then please contact Bergmann & Moore for a free consultation at 877-208-5964 or info@VetLawyers.com.