Over the years of my involvement in VA law, I have occasionally (rarely, mind you) heard of Medical Doctor cum Juris Doctorate hired guns. No names here. You all know who you are. In the same vein, I have encountered psychologists who assume the mantle of a psychiatrist in order to make their IMO more probative. That’s mighty thin ice to tread successfully yet some do.
A psychiatrist, as we know, is both a medical doctor in addition to possessing a PhD in bent brains. In this capacity, he is expertly suited to opine on the probability a given mental disorder (PTSD in the instant case) might induce an organic disorder such as sleep apnea. In any event, absent a medical degree in psychology, his hypothesis would require extensive peer-reviewed psychiatric/medical cites to defend it. Now imagine combining a law dog with an M.D and have him try to repaint the oral as well as the written argument. Ruh-oh, Rorge. This enigma was what Chief Judge Davis, St. Mary and St. Bartley were presented with. If you’re defending the client, where is the fine line in Court briefs where you transform yourself from an officer of the Court, segue into Ben Casey attire and don a stethoscope? That’s a ‘mighty fer stretch’ as Jed Clampett was fond of saying. Too fer a stretch from what I read. Apparently, now you have to pause, take a surgical time out and announce the change. And, to be sure, you have to do this at the Board of Veterans Appeals level-not when you arrive at the CAVC and maintain a straight face while telling them reasonable minds would infer you just slid sideways from attorney into medical specialist.
Let’s ignore the absence of any bent brain specialties and just focus on the Leagle Beagle/ Medical Doctor anomaly. I thought all those VLJ guys died and went to Heaven after Colvin v. Derwinski. Apparently a few were reincarnated as VA law dogs. If you intend to pull off this stunt with any aplomb, it now will require a ‘magic moment’ where you, switching from lawyer to doctor, announce it succinctly and clearly. You would almost have had to draw a panel with three excruciating hangovers at the oral to win this one on appeal. Even then, it would additionally require hoodwinking their sober clerks as well.
I have always admired the Court’s exceptional ability to discern post hoc rationalizations by our illustrious Secretary presented for the first time in their Appellee’s Brief. However, it would appear, that talent came around full circle and has bit the appellant on the buttocks and cost them the appeal. This was sad but avoidable and a valuable lesson learned for the very few who inhabit this unique niche. Trying to post hoc it and write it off as immaterial to the crux of the appeal will not avail you. This is Varsity Law. No quarter given.
On December 4, 2014, Mr. Harvey’s representative, Mr. David Anaise, submitted what he categorized as an “appeal brief” to the St. Petersburg RO and asserted that “we appeal the rating decision of April 17, 2013.” Mr. Anaise is a licensed medical doctor, licensed attorney, and accredited VA representative. The letterhead of this submission stated “David Anaise, MD, JD,” and included an email address for “anaisedavid.office,” and he began the submission by identifying himself as an accredited attorney representing Mr. Harvey “in his claim for VA benefits.” R. at 82.3 The signature block of the submission identified “David Anaise, MD JD Attorney at Law” as the author.
The next page of Mr. Anaise’s December 2014 submission is entitled “Obstructive Sleep Apnea” and the header stated “Appeal Brief” and “Page 5 of 8.” (emphasis in original). Mr. Anaise commenced this section of the document as follows:
Veteran has been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, treated by CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure]. The veteran’s sleep apnea is more likely than not secondary to his service-connected MDD/PTSD.
Right there in purple, our JD put on the stethoscope in the minds of the Court. He insists, however, it was patently evident to all present he was opining as a doctor (as opposed to a JD) when he espoused this epiphany. The Court intuited it as an Independent Medical Opinion (IMO) written, not by a doctor, but by his alter ego the law dog. That post hoc rationalization gig must really pull their chain because they weren’t buying any part of it. No way, doggies.
Without a doubt, no one in the VA legal community wishes any VA attorney ill will, least of all me. I merely report and you decide. To me, it’s a wonderful teaching moment on boundaries. Arguendo, how many of you have multiple degrees of this magnitude who can opine one way and the other? To my knowledge, only one other practices VA law with a medical degree. There’s a fine line in this business when assuming the mantle of respectability in any given field – be it legal or medical. Equally important now is the clear instruction on separation of powers. According to St. Meg et al., one has to henceforth make a very clear distinction when doffing one mantle (JD) and donning the latter (MD). Here, the ROA put the lipstick on the collar and told a tale on him. That’s called pushing the judicial envelope. That’s also a Bozo No-No at 625 Native Americana Ave. NW.
And that’s all I’m going to say about that.