From the Hollywood Regional
Office in greater Los Angeles
Here’s one of those HCV claims that looks for all the world like it has legs. Vet serves in Vietnam as a medic, or, in the alternative as a hospital orderly. In any event, his risk factors appear legitimate. Johnny Vet applies for the Hep and is a little disingenuous and less than forthcoming when answering the Risk Factors Questionnaire (RFQ). In fact, he studiously avoided answering it completely. Which is okay with the VA because he’s already spilled the beans on his proclivity to use drugs way back thirteen months earlier. Just because he quit 25 years ago and leads a model life now does not a successful claim make. What’s more, offering no logical explanation for your lapse of good judgement leaves the door open to VA to supply the answers.
Having a soupçon of medical knowledge can be anathema to your claim, too. Johnboy apparently was unaware that HCV did not become a brand-name disease until 1989 and reach official recognized status by 1992. Thus, claiming you were diagnosed with it in 1970 can be a real dealbreaker when the subject of credibility comes up.
The Board has considered the Veteran’s statement that he was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 1970. As set forth, there is no objective evidence of liver problems during service or for many years thereafter. The Veteran underwent a physical examination in May 1972 in connection with his Reserve service. At that time, he specifically denied having jaundice or hepatitis. Thus, the Board finds the Veteran’s report regarding the date of diagnosis to be inconsistent with other evidence and not credible.
Johnny Vet has many deficiencies in his claim but the willful misconduct via the intravenous drug use undoubtedly worked against him. Additionally, when asking for a combat exemption under 38 USC §1154(b), it helps if you have a medal or two that proves you were in the fray. Alas, Johnny comes up short on this one as well.
Initially, the Board notes the Veteran’s reports of combat participation. Personnel records show that the Veteran was a hospital man and was assigned to the U.S. Naval Support Activity, Danang, Vietnam. The Veteran did not receive any awards or decorations establishing combat participation. The Board has considered the Veteran’s April 2009 statement discussing his Vietnam service, to include working at a military hospital and a security base. The overall evidence, however, is against finding that the Veteran engaged in combat with the enemy. 38 U.S.C.A. § 1154(b) (West 2002) is not for application.
To really put a fork in it all, our “hospital man”, under the able guidance of the Disabled American Veterans, has arrived (as usual) with no supporting nexus letter or Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) that could possibly support his contentions that he had exposure to blood or blood products. In sum, he arrives with little more than lay testimony that paints an admirable picture of a combat medical person with a debilitating disease caused by his MOS. As most of us know from experience, this rarely carries the day.
Evidence is king in this game. Lay testimony, in conjunction with facts and documented service records, is the repair order. I have no doubt this Vet could have won if he’d developed the case more completely but that is ostensibly why we go to the VSO experts. Here at Asknod we have demonstrated that negative evidence and “Imperial entanglements” are not the death knell to a HCV claim. Proper development in a logical progression with careful management of evidence introduced most often is the panacea. However, arriving at the Board of Veterans Appeals with a saddlebag full of nothing more than contentions won’t even get you in the door. Arriving with no nexus when it is a legal requirement further enunciates the reason we advocate you simply do it yourself and get it right the first time. Each failure makes it more and more insurmountable the next time out as all too many of you have discovered.