Fighting for Proper Disability Benefits for a Vietnam War Veteran

THE CHALLENGE:

As a result of his military service in Vietnam, Mr. R developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and tonsil cancer, which he argued was related to Agent Orange exposure. After the war, he received monthly benefits for a 30% rating for PTSD, and no benefits for tonsil cancer, since the US Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) did not agree that it was connected to his service.

OUR OBJECTIVE:

In September 2013, a pro bono team at McDermott took on Mr. R’s appeal to the US Court of Veterans Claims. The appeal stemmed from the VA’s denial of Mr. R’s request for an increase in his PTSD benefits to a 50% rating and additional benefits for tonsil cancer.

THE OUTCOME:

Nearly five years later, in August 2018, the VA ruled that Mr. R qualified for individual unemployability retroactive to 2008, thereby entitling him to enhanced monthly benefits at a 100% rating and a significant lump sum payment for retroactive benefits.

DIG DEEPER:

The team filed an initial appeal in 2014, and the same year, the Court of Veterans Claims agreed that McDermott had presented sufficient evidence to support a remand of both the PTSD and tonsil cancer claims to the Board of Veterans Appeals for further consideration.

In July 2015, after considering additional evidence the team obtained and submitted in support of both claims, the Board of Veterans Appeals increased Mr. R’s PTSD rating from 30% to 70% and granted service connection for tonsil cancer, but ruled that his tonsil cancer symptoms were not significant enough to be compensable.

In 2016, McDermott filed a Notice of Disagreement on Mr. R’s behalf and later asked the VA to reconsider whether the veteran qualified for individual unemployability on the basis of the severity of his service-connected disabilities.