Veteranclaims’s Blog

August 24, 2017

Inadequate Reasons and Bases; Depression; Credibility; Statements Incredible;

Excerpt from decision below:

“The Secretary, however, concedes that remand is necessary because the Board failed to provide adequate reasons or bases for denying Mr. Williams’s claim for benefits for depression.
In particular, the Secretary states that the Board inadequately explained its determination that Mr. Williams was not credible because
(1) other than [Mr. Williams’s] stressor statements related to an alleged stroke, the [October 2015 Board] decision did not find his statements to be incredible, just
3

uncorroborated; (2) the Board did not sufficiently explain why stressor statements would be relevant to adjudicating a claim of entitlement to service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder other than PTSD; and (3) the Board did not sufficiently explain why [Mr. Williams’s] current diagnoses of depression were impugned by the fact that the diagnoses were based on events that occurred after service or an inaccurate military history. Secretary’s Br. at 5-6. The Court agrees that the Board’s decision lacks adequate reasons or bases and will therefore vacate the Board’s decision and remand the matter for readjudication.”

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Designated for electronic publication only
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR VETERANS CLAIMS
No. 16-2969
STANLEY D. WILLIAMS, APPELLANT,
V.
DAVID J. SHULKIN, M.D.,
SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, APPELLEE.
Before DAVIS, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM DECISION
Note: Pursuant to U.S. Vet. App. R. 30(a), this action may not be cited as precedent.
DAVIS, Chief Judge: The self-represented appellant, U.S. Army veteran Stanley D.
Williams, appeals through counsel an August 15, 2016, Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) decision that denied entitlement to VA disability compensation benefits for an acquired psychiatric disorder other than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Record (R.) at 2-9. This appeal is timely, and the Court has jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision pursuant to 38 U.S.C. §§ 7252(a) and 7266(a). Single-judge disposition is appropriate. See Frankel v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 23, 25-26 (1990). For the reasons that follow, the Court will set aside the Board’s
decision and remand the matter for readjudication consistent with this decision.
I. DISCUSSION
In October 2015, the Board issued a decision denying Mr. Williams entitlement to benefits
for PTSD, finding that his claimed stressors had not been corroborated. R. at 85-88. The Board
remanded the matter of entitlement to benefits for a mental disorder other than PTSD, to include
depression, with which Mr. Williams had been diagnosed in May 2012. See R. at 59. The Board
directed VA to attempt to obtain additional treatment records relevant to that claim. R. at 89-90.
2
In the August 2016 decision on appeal, the Board denied Mr. Williams’s claim for benefits
for depression, finding:
A preponderance of the evidence in this case weighs against a finding of a current
diagnosis of an acquired psychiatric disorder. Although the record contains
diagnoses of chronic depressive disorder in the 2011 and 2014 private treatment
records, as well as VA treatment records in 2012, these diagnoses[] are based on[]
either events that occurred many years after service or what the Board has already
found to be, an inaccurate military history. The Veteran’s reports that [(1)] he
witnessed a member of his platoon shoot and kill a drill sergeant during boot camp;
[(2)] while stationed in Germany, he lost a close friend who choked on his own
vomit in his sleep; and [(3)] he had a stroke in May 1974, have not been
corroborated, and in fact, the evidence suggests that the Veteran’s stressor reports
are false.
The Veteran’s contentions do not constitute competent medical evidence for
purposes of determining whether he has an acquired psychiatric disorder that is
related to service. Thus, while he is competent as a lay person to describe his
symptoms such as feeling depressed, matters related to diagnosis and etiology of
the Veteran’s current complaints are within the province of trained professionals.
In addition, the Veteran’s service treatment records are absent of any complaints or
treatment related to depression. The Veteran’s August 1972 induction and March
1974 separation examinations revealed normal psychiatric evaluations. In the
report of medical histories, the Veteran denied that he had or has ever had
depression, excessive worry, or nervous trouble of any sort.
R. at 5-6.
To the extent that the arguments Mr. Williams raises in his informal brief relate to his claim
for benefits for PTSD, the Court may not entertain them. See Appellant’s Brief (Br.) at 1-5. As
the Board explained, that claim was not before the Board in April 2016 because it had been denied
by the Board in October 2015. R. at 5 (“[T]he issue of service-connect[ion] for PTSD is not
currently before the Board and the Board will only address whether the Veteran has some other
acquired psychiatric disorder; and if so, whether it is related to service.”). Mr. Williams did not
appeal the October 2015 decision to the Court, and it is therefore final.
The Secretary, however, concedes that remand is necessary because the Board failed to provide adequate reasons or bases for denying Mr. Williams’s claim for benefits for depression.
In particular, the Secretary states that the Board inadequately explained its determination that Mr. Williams was not credible because
(1) other than [Mr. Williams’s] stressor statements related to an alleged stroke, the [October 2015 Board] decision did not find his statements to be incredible, just
3 uncorroborated; (2) the Board did not sufficiently explain why stressor statements would be relevant to adjudicating a claim of entitlement to service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder other than PTSD; and (3) the Board did not sufficiently explain why [Mr. Williams’s] current diagnoses of depression were impugned by the fact that the diagnoses were based on events that occurred after service or an inaccurate military history.
Secretary’s Br. at 5-6. The Court agrees that the Board’s decision lacks adequate reasons or bases and will therefore vacate the Board’s decision and remand the matter for readjudication.
On remand, Mr. Williams is free to submit additional evidence and argument in accordance
with Kutscherousky v. West, 12 Vet.App. 369, 372-73 (1999) (per curiam order). See Kay v.
Principi, 16 Vet.App. 529, 534 (2002). “A remand is meant to entail a critical examination of the
justification for the decision” by the Board. Fletcher v. Derwinski, 1 Vet.App. 394, 397 (1991).
To that end, the Court will order that a copy of the Secretary’s brief be included in the record before
the Board on remand.
II. CONCLUSION
After consideration of the appellant’s and the Secretary’s briefs, and a review of the record
on appeal, the Board’s August 15, 2016, decision is SET ASIDE, and the matter is REMANDED
for readjudication consistent with this decision.
DATED: August 23, 2017
Copies to:
Stanley D. Williams
VA General Counsel (027)

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