Citation Nr: 18124083
Decision Date: 08/07/18 Archive Date: 08/03/18
DOCKET NO. 10-32 708
DATE: August 7, 2018
The issue of entitlement to service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder, to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is remanded.
REASONS FOR REMAND
The Veteran served on active duty June 1973 to June 1976.
1. The issue of entitlement to service connection for an acquired psychiatric disorder, to include PTSD is remanded.
In March 2016, the Regional Office (RO) submitted a Defense Personnel Records Information Retrieval System (DPRIS) request and letter to the United States Army Crime Records Center for verification of the Veteran’s claimed in service stressor that another service member committed suicide in service while they were stationed together at Fort Bragg, North Carolina around March 1974. While the RO indicated a negative response was received from the United States Army Crime Records Center, there is no documentation that a DPRIS response was received. June 2016 VA Memorandum; cf. July 2017 Letter from the Veteran’s Representative (alleging the VA has not fulfilled its duty to assist in confirming the Veteran’s claimed in service stressor). As such, a remand is necessary in order to verify this claimed in service stressor.
In January 2018, an addendum VA medical opinion was obtained. See January 2018 VA Addendum Medical Opinion. Following a review of the claims file, the VA examiner concluded the Veteran did not meet the diagnostic criteria for PTSD during the last VA examination in April 2016. In doing so, the VA examiner noted the prior PTSD related diagnoses have all been rule out diagnoses and were made in conjunction with reports of active alcohol and substance use. Given his mood reactions have been in concert with alcohol and substance use, the VA examiner opined it was less likely than not his acquired psychiatric disorder diagnoses were related to his service. However, a January 2009 VA Substance Abuse Treatment Program Note expressly indicates he met the diagnostic criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Therefore, a remand is necessary for another VA examination. Cf. Reonal v. Brown, 5 Vet. App. 458, 461 (1993); cf. also McClain v. Nicholson, 21 Vet. App. 319, 321 (2007).
The matter is REMANDED for the following action:
1. Verify the Veteran’s claimed in service stressor that another service member committed suicide while they were stationed together at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, around March 1974 with the appropriate agency(ies).
2. Once the first request has been completed, to the extent possible, schedule the Veteran for an examination with an appropriate medical professional to determine the nature and etiology of his claimed acquired psychiatric disorder.
After reviewing the record, the examiner should:
(a.) Identify all current and prior diagnoses of an acquired psychiatric disorder, to include PTSD, depressive disorder not otherwise specified, anxiety not otherwise specified, alcohol dependence and cocaine dependence.
In doing so, the examiner is should consider diagnoses of an acquired psychiatric disorder under both DSM IV and DSM 5 diagnostic criteria.
(b.) Reconcile all prior diagnoses of an acquired psychiatric disorder with the current findings. If any prior diagnoses cannot be reconciled with the current findings, explain why.
In doing so, the examiner is reminded that for VA compensation purposes the current disability element may be satisfied if the Veteran was diagnosed with an acquired psychiatric disorder at the time he filed or during the pendency of the claim, even if it resolves prior to the adjudication of the claim.
(c.) As to each current diagnosis and any prior diagnosis that cannot be reconciled with the current findings, opine as to whether it is at least as likely as not (50 percent probability of greater) caused by or otherwise related to the Veteran’s active duty service and explain why.
As to a diagnosis of PTSD, the examiner should also discuss whether the claimed in service stressor(s) supports the diagnosis and explain why.
(d.) In rendering an opinion, the examiner should consider and weigh the Veteran’s relevant lay statements of record.
3. Once the above requests have been completed, to the extent possible, readjudicate the appeal.
BETHANY L. BUCK
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD G. Suh, Associate Counsel