Board Grants Appeal For Service Connection For TBI and PTSD

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals recently granted an appeal filed by Veterans Help Group on behalf of a veteran for service connection for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

With respect to the appeal for service connection for TBI, the veteran claimed that he suffered a head injury in 2003 when he struck his head against a steel shed.  The injury took place when the veteran and his tent were lifted in the air by a sandstorm. The veteran claimed that he received medical treatment for the head injury at the time of the incident. The only medical records of treatment for a head injury were from a subsequent cut to the head from a bottle falling on it in 2004 as well as treatment for head injury symptoms in 2008 including dizziness, headache, exhaustion and nausea. However, there were no medical records located that verified the incident. The veteran also submitted statements from two fellow veterans confirming the incident.

As a result, the VA denied service connection for the TBI claim since there was no evidence of head trauma in service and that the condition had not been clinically diagnosed.

The Board of Veterans Appeals found that the veteran had been diagnosed with a TBI as noted in the 2008 treatment records. The Board also found that the veteran’s statements and those of the two fellow veterans credibly described the incident in service. Based on the findings, the Board held that the veteran had incurred a TBI in service and that he continued to suffer a ongoing disability. Therefore, the Board granted the appeal for service connection for TBI.

With respect to the PTSD appeal, the veteran claimed various stressful events including the storm mentioned above that lifted both he and his tent in the air, various firefights, and witnessing a number of dead bodies. The veteran received treatment in service for major depression and anxiety starting in 2001 and was later diagnosed in service with depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

A VA examination determined the veteran did not meet the diagnostic criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD. Instead, the doctor diagnosed dysthemia (depression) and personality disorder. The veteran subsequently underwent a second VA exam three years later. That examiner failed to diagnose PTSD, instead diagnosing dementia.

As a result, the VA stated that although treatment records show a diagnosis of PTSD, the diagnosis had not been linked to a verified in-service stressor or the “fear of hostile military or terrorist activity” by a VA psychiatrist or psychologist. The VA went on to state there had been no causal relationship between an in-service stressor and the current psychiatric diagnosis of dementia for service connection for that condition. Therefore, service connection for PTSD was denied.

The Board of Veterans’ Appeals disagreed with VA and found the veteran had provided sufficient evidence to prove he had been exposed to a hostile military activity and had submitted sufficient evidence in the form of his own statements that he was in fear of this hostile military activity. Additionally, the Board found the veteran had submitted sufficient proof that he was diagnosed with PTSD and continues suffering disabling symptoms of PTSD based on treatment records and the veterans statements. Therefore, the Board granted service connection for PTSD.

Disability Benefits for Veterans with Brain Damage

If you experienced a head injury while on active duty and your doctors are concerned you may now be showing signs of a TBI or PTSD, please contact the experienced advocates at Veterans Help Group to evaluate any possible claims that could be made.

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