Veteran speaking with physician

Disability Law Group: October Case Spotlight

Following nearly a decade of fighting, alone, to obtain service-connected disability benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the veteran turned to attorneys Mandy Kelly, Erika Riggs and Randall Mansour to assist him in his case. The veteran served in the U.S. Army from August through September of 1989 – his time in the military had been cut drastically shorter than anticipated due to his experiences while there. He claimed that his currently diagnosed psychiatric disorder, to include schizoaffective disorder, was caused by his time in the Army and his traumatic experiences while serving; he continued to complain of auditory hallucinations and paranoid thoughts.

While serving, he complained of his new symptoms he began to experience as well as the extraordinary stress he endured, however, his reports only reflected that he was noted to be disruptive, disobedient and unreceptive to counseling. As a result, he was recommended for discharge due to a personality disorder under AR 635-200, Chapter 5, paragraph 5-13. Upon discharge, the veteran filed his claim for service-connection, stating that he believed his condition was a result of his time in service. The VA afforded the veteran various examinations over the years in connection with his claim, but the examiners – contracted through the VA – determined that the veteran’s condition was more consistent with a hereditary condition rather than a result of his experience(s) during service.

While the veteran obtained and submitted favorable letters from his own treating mental health providers and specialists, in support of his claim, the VA disagreed. He even supplied letters from his family members who confirmed that he was not mentally ill, nor did they know about any mental health treatment, prior to service. Unfortunately, the VA found that the medical and lay evidence received were not sufficient as they did provide the appropriate rationale to support his claim. The veteran filed appeal after appeal, but continued to be denied – this is when he decided to hire an attorney to help him in his fight for benefits.

In preparation for his next Board of Veterans’ Appeals hearing, another opinion was requested by a doctor contracted through the VA – one who had never actually met or examined the veteran. This doctor wrote an extensive opinion ultimately opining that the veteran’s current “schizoaffective disorder” was a natural progression of his “personality” disorder that he believed must have been present prior to service; however, he failed to indicate any records from before the veteran’s time in service supporting this conclusion.

Attorneys Mandy Kelly and Erika Riggs worked together to strategize the best legal avenues for relief in this case, reviewing thousands of pages of evidence – from the personnel and in-service records to updated mental health examinations. Our attorneys and team, at Disability Law Group, worked together with the veteran to help shed light on the true picture and history of his mental health condition. Attorney Kelly represented the veteran in his Board hearing in June of 2019, arguing that the evidence supports our theory that it is at least as likely as not that the veteran’s schizoaffective disorder had its onset during military service or was otherwise related to his time in service. The Board agreed, recently issuing a decision that reversed the previous denial and granted service-connection to the veteran back to his initial filing date in 2005.

If you are not receiving the disability benefits you deserve through the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs – whether you are thinking about applying or have already been denied – call and speak with one of our experienced attorneys today. We will fight alongside you to help you win the benefits you deserve. Call us today to schedule your free consultation. 800-838-1100.