This veteran sought help from Disability Law Group after receiving a denial in January 2020 for the service connection of both knees. His military journey began in December 1963 when he was drafted into the Army. Before the tragic assassination of President Kennedy, he had been rejected by the draft board due to a right-knee condition. However, following the assassination, the Army reconsidered and enlisted him as a truck driver, a role that required frequent climbing in and out of the truck cab and bed during loading and unloading.
While he experienced some knee pain before being drafted, it significantly worsened during his service. The pain increased, causing instability, and he resorted to wearing an ace bandage. His limp became the subject of jokes among fellow service members, and the knee pain and limping persisted. Eventually, he started experiencing pain in his left knee, leading to surgeries on both knees.
In 2019, he filed a claim for service connection of bilateral knee conditions, which the VA denied with minimal investigation. Over the next year, finding legal assistance became a challenge due to office closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until February 2022 that he reached out to Disability Law Group.
Our attorney, Jason Pearson, deeply knowledgeable about the latest VA regulations, began working on the veteran’s case. It was during this process that Jason initiated a Higher-Level Review of the 2020 denial, seeking understanding for the delayed filing due to pandemic-related disruptions. The VA responded by granting the request and arranging an informal conference. In this conference, Jason advocated that the evidence strongly supported a service connection due to the aggravation of a preexisting injury. The VA Decision Review Officer concurred, recognizing a Duty to Assist Error and subsequently ordering a new VA examination.
The veteran attended the VA examination, where the examiner submitted a medical opinion suggesting that the knee conditions were less likely than not caused or aggravated by military service. Consequently, the VA issued another Rating Decision, denying the veteran’s claims.
Upon reviewing the evidence in the case, attorney Jason Pearson identified the missing evidence, devised a plan to obtain it, and filed a Supplemental Claim with the new information. The VA then ordered a new medical examination, during which the examiner agreed that the right knee was aggravated by service, and the left-knee condition was caused as a secondary effect of the right knee. As a result, the VA granted a 30% rating for the right knee, 20% for the left knee, and 10% for each of the two painful surgical scars on the knees.
However, the VA assigned an effective date for these claims of February 25, 2022 – the date of the Higher-Level Review filing. We filed another Higher-Level Review, requesting an earlier effective date back to the initial claim filing date of December 12, 2019. In a subsequent conference with the VA, Jason argued that the earlier effective date should be granted due to the continuous pursuit of the claim since its initial filing.
In August 2023, the VA issued a decision agreeing with Jason’s arguments and granting the earlier effective date, retroactively to December 2019. This date holds significant importance, particularly because one of the veteran’s knee replacements occurred a few months after he filed the initial claim. Consequently, the earlier effective date also provided back pay related to the temporary 100% disability rating that comes with a knee replacement, resulting in additional compensation for this veteran.
If your VA disability claims have been denied, don’t lose hope! This veteran is grateful for persevering. If you have questions about VA disability appeals, please contact us today.