Citation Nr: 18124087
Decision Date: 08/07/18	Archive Date: 08/03/18

DOCKET NO. 15-00 329A
DATE:	August 7, 2018
Entitlement to service connection for the cause of the Veteran's death is remanded.
The Veteran served on active duty from December 1962 to May 1965, including service in the Republic of Vietnam.  The Veteran died in May 2013.  The appellant is the Veteran’s surviving spouse.  
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal of a July 2014 rating decision of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO).
The appellant was scheduled to present testimony at videoconference hearing before a Veterans Law Judge in May 2018.  She was notified of the time and place of the hearing in an April 2018 correspondence.  However, she failed to report to the hearing and has not requested that the hearing be rescheduled.  The hearing request is deemed withdrawn.  See 38 C.F.R. § 20.704.  
1. Entitlement to service connection for the cause of the Veteran's death is remanded.
Initially, the Board notes that service connection was not in effect for any disability at the time of the Veteran’s death; therefore, the appellant seeks service connection for the cause of the Veteran’s death based on conditions not yet service connected.
Specifically, the appellant asserts that service connection for the cause of the Veteran’s death is warranted based on the Veteran’s in-service exposure to herbicide agents.  The appellant indicated that the Veteran had heart disease, skin cancer, and renal failure related to Agent Orange and dioxin exposure which ultimately resulted in his death.  
The Veteran’s DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, notes that he served in the Republic of Vietnam.  Accordingly, his exposure to herbicide agents is conceded.  Additionally, the Veteran’s death certificate indicates that his immediate cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia with respiratory failure and renal failure listed as underlying causes.  Although these conditions are not subject to presumptive service connection based on exposure to herbicide agents, the appellant is not precluded from establishing service connection with proof of direct causation.  Combee v. Brown, 34 F.3d 1039, 1042 (Fed. Cir. 1994).
There is not an opinion of record to address any potential relationship between the Veteran’s cause of death and his in-service exposure to herbicide agents.  Additionally, the claims file does not contain treatment records dated after December 2005.  After any available treatment records are obtained, an opinion should be obtained regarding the cause of the Veteran’s death.   
The matter is REMANDED for the following action:
1. After obtaining any necessary releases, obtain any outstanding VA and private treatment records dated prior to the Veteran’s death, beginning from December 2005.
2. Thereafter, obtain a medical opinion regarding the Veteran’s cause of death.  The claims file should be made available to the examiner and review of the file should be noted in the requested report.  Following review of the claims file, the examiner should respond to the following:
Is it at least as likely as not (a 50 percent or greater probability) that any principal or contributory causes of the Veteran’s death are related to his active duty service, to include exposure to herbicide agents therein?
The examiner should specifically address the Veteran’s cardiac arrhythmia, respiratory failure, or renal failure noted on his death certificate. 
All findings and conclusions should be supported with a complete rationale.
Thomas H. O'Shay
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals

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