Recent Federal Cases

Federal Circuit Cases

1) Massie v. Shinseki (No official citation yet) (To file a claim for service-connected benefits, normally a veteran must submit something in writing, requesting benefits for a service-related condition. 38 C.F.R. § 3.157(b) creates an exception, allowing a report of a VA examination or of a VA hospitalization to constitute an informal claim for an increased rating for a service-connected disability.  Massie held that, to fall under this exception, there must be 1) an actual report of an outpatient examination or hospitalization identifying a particular injury or disability and 2) the report must indicate that the service-connected condition has worsened).

2) Parks v. Shinseki, 716 F.3d 581 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (In Parks and in other Federal Circuit cases and Veterans Court opinions the presumption of regularity has been applied to the competency of VA examiners.  This means that any VA clinician including nurse practitioners and physician assistants are presumed qualified to provide a medical opinion on virtually any medical specialty.).

3) Vazquez-Claudio v. Shinseki, 713 F.3d 112 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (Vazquez-Claudio held that the symptomatology is the first factor in the determination of the appropriate disability level of a mental disorder.  Thus, in order to obtain a high disability rating, say a 70% disability rating, it is not enough to show impairment of occupational or social functioning, causing “deficiencies in most areas.” Rather, the veteran’s symptoms must correspond to the same or similar symptoms listed for the desired disability level under the rating schedule.).

4) Walker v. Shinseki, 708 F.3d 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2013) (38 C.F.R. § 3.303(b) states that a presumption of service connection exists for post-service manifestations of "chronic disease" if the chronicity of the disease was "shown as such in service (or within the presumptive period under §3.307)," or, if there is "continuity of symptomatology" after service. The presumptive period for diagnosis of a chronic disease under §3.307 is 1 year from separation from service. The last component is the definition of "chronic disease," which is found in §3.309(a). Section 3.309 enumerates several specific diseases that are eligible "chronic diseases" under the scheme.  Walker decided that only diseases expressly listed in §3.309(a) are eligible for presumptions under §3.303(b).).

Veterans Court Cases

1) Trafter v. Shinseki, 26 Vet. App. 267  (2013) (On the question of the VA’s obligation to obtain an examination report or opinion, Trafter held that for DIC cases the VA must consider the same factors under 38 U.S.C. § 5103A(d)(2) as it does for service-connected disability claims.).

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