On 10/28/10, Judge Chiapetta of Baltimore, decided that he had to deny service connection for HCV to a Veteran (Case #1040550) based on his creative thinking skills with regard to acute and chronic HCV. This is also a jet-gun case but that’s not the issue I’m considering here.
In FINDINGS OF FACT, the judge writes:
“Hepatitis C was not shown in service or for many years thereafter and the preponderance of the evidence is against a finding that it is in any way related to the Veteran’s service.”
BUT the C. D. C. says:
What are the symptoms of acute Hepatitis C?
Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms
Later Chiapetta writes:
“…there is no medical evidence even suggestive of a possible link between his in-service risk factors and his current diagnosis of hepatitis C (which was first made almost two decade[s] after his discharge from service).”
BUT the Veteran served from August 8/74-8/76 and even though:
“…the Board notes that it is common medical knowledge that hepatitis C was not recognized prior to the late 1980s, the evidence does not support a finding of any symptoms consistent with hepatitis C while he was on active duty.”
“A review of the Veteran’s service treament records does not show any diagnosis or treatment for any liver-related disorders, including hepatitis C. “
BUT the C. D. C. states:
“How soon after exposure to Hepatitis C do symptoms appear?
If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. However, many people infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not develop symptoms.”
The Judge adds:
“The report of a July 1976 examination prior to separation does not indicate that the Veteran had hepatitis C, or any other liver-related disorders.”
BUT the C. D. C. answers:
Is it possible to have Hepatitis C and not know it?
Yes, many people who are infected with the Hepatitis C virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.
“What are the symptoms of chronic Hepatitis C?
Most people with chronic Hepatitis C do not have any symptoms. ”
“What are the long-term effects of hepatitis C?
…5-20 people will go on to develop cirrhosis over a period of 20-30 years.”
Chiapetta has one important gottcha moment here!:
“…The Veteran reports that he did not have hepatitis C prior to starting work at a VA Medical Center in September 2002…. He also reported that test results for his employee physical revealed negative findings for hepatitis C, and a review of the report of the September 2002 employee physical examination does not show any indication of that the Veteran had hepatitis C at that time. …The first positive finding of hepatitis is shown in a December 2002 VA treatment record.”
We don’t know what test he was given, however, the C. D. C. informs us:
Can a person have normal liver enzyme (e.g., ALT) results and still have Hepatitis C?
Yes. It is common for persons with chronic Hepatitis C to have a liver enzyme level that goes up and down, with periodic returns to normal or near normal. Some infected persons have liver enzyme levels that are normal for over a year even though they have chronic liver disease.
I don’t know if the Veteran’s HCV infection is due to cross-contamination from jet-guns, or his service in the Army, but with the possible exception of the Veteran’s 2002 physical, Judge Chiapetta’s writing and reasoning does not appear to be based on valid scientific evidence. Anyone see some?
The HCV Q & A’s come from this C. D. C. Fact Sheet.