January 23, 2019, Washington, DC – Bergmann & Moore attorneys prevailed on behalf of a disabled Veteran who sought disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for more than ten years.
In August 2008, the Veteran filed her claim with the local VA Regional Office (RO) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from an in-service sexual assault while she served in the Army during the 1980s.
In March 2009, the RO denied her claim because VA could not find evidence to corroborate the assault, called a “stressor” by VA, in her service medical records. The Veteran believed VA was wrong in denying her PTSD claim based on Military Sexual Trauma (MST). In April, she began the appeal process when she filed VA Form 21-0858, called a Notice of Disagreement (NOD), with the RO.
In June 2010, the RO again denied her claim, so she filed VA Form 9, called a Substantive Appeal. The RO then sent her claim to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), located in Washington, DC. In September 2017, the Board denied the Veteran’s appeal, finding she had no diagnosis of PTSD.
The Veteran continued to believe VA made a mistake on her PTSD / MST claim, so she reached out to B&M for representation in December 2017. The next month, the Veteran and B&M filed an appeal with the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (Court), also located in Washington, DC.
In December 2018, the Veteran and B&M prevailed at the Court when VA agreed to a Joint Motion for Remand (JMR). In the JMR, VA agreed that the Board made the following mistakes in deciding the widow’s claim:
1. Although the Veteran identified important treatment records, VA failed to notify the Veteran about signing a release to obtain them. As a result, VA failed to obtain and consider several VA and private care records.
2. Although she requested a Board hearing, the Board withdrew her request for an appeal hearing, alleging she did not attend the appointment. However, the Board had no evidence to support that she failed to attend, thus denying her a hearing.
3. The Board discounted a private medical exam that found the Veteran had PTSD. However, the Board did not explain why the Board it was discounted.
As result of the JMR, the Veteran’s appeal was returned by the Court to the Board in order re-decide the claim, including obtaining and considering relevant medical records. In addition the Board must explain why the Veteran should not receive another claim appeal hearing. Finally, the Board must address her private medical records diagnosing her with PTSD.
Bergmann & Moore is pleased with the JMR, and we are now turning our attention to ensure our client receives the correct and maximum disability rating and effective date from VA.
B&M is honored to assist Veterans and family members with VA claim appeals at a VA Regional Office, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.
If you are not satisfied with VA’s rating decision on your claim, such as a low rating, an incorrect effective date, or a denied benefit, then please contact Bergmann & Moore for a free consultation at 877-564-8439 or info@VetLawyers.com.