The Veteran served during the Gulf War Era and Peacetime in the Navy from October 1987 to February 1994, and February 1994 to March 1996.
The VA initially granted service connection for thoracic strain at 20 percent disabling, effective June 24, 2010, and denied service connection for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, in a February 2011 Rating Decision. The VA additionally denied service connection for lumbar spine.
A timely Notice of Disagreement was filed with the VA, disagreeing with the denials of service connection and arguing an increased rating is warranted for the Veteran’s thoracic strain. Subsequently, the VA issued a Statement of the Case (SOC) on December 9, 2015, continuing a 20 percent evaluation for thoracic strain, and denying service connection for PTSD, and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and lumbar spine.
Pertaining to the Veteran’s PTSD, the VA determined that one of the Veteran’s active service periods was dishonorable for VA disability purposes and that his stressor event fell during this period. However, the VA had failed to adequately adjudicate additional stressor events during the Veteran’s service period that was honorable for VA disability purposes. The basis of our appeal for service connection for PTSD was related to the stressors the Veteran’s experienced during his honorable period of service. This same stressor event was also the incident that resulted in the physical conditions the VA denied.
On January 27, 2016, a VA Form 9 was filed appealing all the issues from the SOC to the Board of Veterans Appeals (BVA). A Brief in Lieu of hearing was filed on March 18, 2019, discussing all the claims on appeal at the Board. The Board of Veterans Appeals granted service connection for PTSD in its September 12, 2019 decision. This decision also remanded the issues of the Veteran’s cervical spine, lumbar spine, and a rating in excess of 20 percent for thoracis spine for further development.
Subsequently, a June 9, 2020 Rating Decision implemented the Board’s decision and granted service connection for PTSD at 50 percent disabling effective June 24, 2010. This resulted in retroactive benefits of 92,249.95 due to the Veteran.
Next, a July 22, 2020 Rating Decision granted service connection for degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine at 20 percent disabling and left upper extremity radiculopathy at 10 percent disabling, both effective June 24, 2010. This decision also granted degenerative disc disease lumbar spine, and associated the condition with the Veteran’s thoracic strain and continued to evaluate it at 20 percent disabling. This resulted in a retroactive amount due to the Veteran of $28,863.51.
The VA simultaneously issued a Supplemental Statement of the Case (SSOC) continuing the 20 percent rating for the Veteran’s thoracis train and lumbar spine condition and returning the claim to the BVA. A second BVA decision of March 19, 2021, remanded the issue of an increased rating for the thoracis train/lumbar spine condition and entitlement to individual unemployability, which was reasonably raised by the record.
A statement in support of claim was filed on May 11, 2021, with the proper VA forms regarding individual unemployability and argument in support of entitlement. Subsequently, a December 8, 2021 Rating Decision granted entitlement to individual unemployability effective June 24, 2010. This resulted in a retroactive amount due to the Veteran of $205,372.43.
Overall, Finkelstein and Partners was able to obtain service connection for the Veteran’s denied physical and mental conditions, and receive a grant of entitlement to individual unemployability. The combined retroactive award due to the Veteran over the course of the appeal totaled $326,485.89.