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The Recent Sharp Case

November 28, 2017

One of the most frequent errors seen in VA adjudication is the flawed development of VA examinations addressing the functional effects of flare-ups of a service-connected disability. In many cases, a VA examiner states that he/she cannot offer an opinion on the effects of flare-ups because the claimant was not experiencing a flare-up at the time of the examination. In …

Understanding Military Sexual Trauma Claims

November 7, 2017

Military sexual trauma, or MST, is defined by the VA as an in-service sexual assault, the repeated threat of one or continuous sexual harassment against a service member. It is no secret that MST is grossly underreported due to the victim’s sensitivity over the violation and due to the military’s callous response to MST allegations. One study reports that “7.6% …

Making the Most of the Presumption of Soundness

June 21, 2016

What is the Presumption of Soundness? A veteran is presumed to have been in good health prior to service if her/his entrance examination does not note the existence of the specific condition or disability: [E]very veteran shall be taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted,and enrolled for service, except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at …

Challenging Effective Dates

October 1, 2015

Reviewing Cases for Proper Effective Dates More and more we are seeing decisions coming out of the VA in which there is an inappropriate assignment of an effective date for the awarded disability. This bulletin will help you to understand proper application of 38 U.S.C. § 5110(a)so as to better prepare you for effective representation of your clients. Effective dates …

Painful Motion and Flareups

August 1, 2015

In theory, the VA rating schedule is based upon the veteran’s loss of earning capacity caused by a service-connected disability.  The VA compensates the veteran due to the loss of capacity to earn income.  Functional impairment is one of the most obvious factors that affect the loss of earning capacity. If a service connected disability impairs the veteran’s ability movement, strength, …

Leveraging GAF Scores in Psychiatric Disability Claims

June 1, 2015

PSYCHIATRIC CLAIMS: LEVERAGING GAF SCORES TO YOUR CLIENTS’ ADVANTAGE While assisting a veteran with a claim related to psychiatric disabilities, you will likely come across so-called “GAF” scores, the acronym referring to Global Assessment of Functioning under the DSM-IV.[1] These scores show up in treatment records and VA examination reports as inconspicuous notations, usually found at the conclusion of a …

Effects of Medication on VA Disability Claims

April 21, 2015

MEDICATED AND NON-MEDICATED VETERANS 1. Medicated Service-Connected Disabilities Many veterans suffer severe side-effects from taking medication for their service-connected disabilities. For instance, the taking of prescribed narcotics to relieve the painful effects of a service-connected back disability may cause the following symptoms: sleep impairment, loss of cognitive function, anxiety and so forth. A rating specialist, or decision review officer must …