Citation Nr: 18124034
Decision Date: 08/07/18	Archive Date: 08/03/18

DOCKET NO. 15-03 263
DATE:	August 7, 2018
ORDER
New and material evidence having been submitted, the Veteran’s request to reopen his claim for entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include heart murmur, is granted.
REMANDED
Entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include a heart murmur, is remanded.
FINDING OF FACT
Evidence received since the April 2011 rating decision denying service connection for a heart condition is neither cumulative nor redundant of the evidence of record at the time of the April 2011 final decision, and raises a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim as it relates to an unestablished fact.

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The April 2011 rating decision that denied service connection for a heart condition is final. 38 U.S.C. §§ 7104(b); 7252 (2012).
2. The criteria to permit reopening the Veteran’s claim for entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include heart murmur, based on new and material evidence have been met. 38 U.S.C. §§ 5108 (2012); 38 C.F.R. § 3.156 (2017).
REASONS AND BASES FOR FINDING AND CONCLUSION
The Veteran served on active duty in the Navy from July 1992 to January 1996.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from a February 2013 rating decision of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO) in Montgomery, Alabama (Agency of Original Jurisdiction (AOJ)).
The Veteran testified at a videoconference hearing before the undersigned in March 2018. A transcript of the proceeding is of record.
1. Whether new and material evidence has been submitted to permit reopening the Veteran's claim for entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include heart murmur
Generally, an unappealed AOJ denial is final under 38 U.S.C. § 7105(c). A claim for service connection may be reopened, however, if new and material evidence is received. 38 U.S.C. § 5108; Manio v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 140 (1991). Per 38 C.F.R. § 3.156, “new evidence means existing evidence not previously submitted to agency decision makers. Material evidence means existing evidence that, by itself or when considered with the previous evidence of record, relates to an unestablished fact necessary to substantiate the claim. New and material evidence can be neither cumulative nor redundant of the evidence of record at the time of the last prior final denial of the claim sought to be reopened, and must raise a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim.” 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(a).  
In determining whether evidence is new and material, the credibility of the new evidence is presumed. Justus v. Principi, 3 Vet. App. 510 (1992).
The threshold for determining whether new and material evidence raises a reasonable possibility of substantiating a claim is “low.” Moreover, in determining whether this low threshold is met, consideration need not be limited to consideration of whether the newly submitted evidence relates specifically to the reason why the claim was last denied, but instead should ask whether the evidence could reasonably substantiate the claim were the claim to be reopened, either by triggering the VA’s duty to assist or through consideration of an alternative theory of entitlement. See Shade v. Shinseki, 24 Vet. App. 110 (2010).
Except as otherwise provided by law, a claimant has the responsibility to present and support a claim for benefits. In evaluating a claim, the Board must determine the value of all evidence submitted, including lay and medical evidence. 38 U.S.C. § 1154(a) (2012); Buchanan v. Nicholson, 451 F.3d 1331, 1335 (Fed. Cir. 2006).
The Veteran filed his initial claim for service connection for a heart condition in February 2011. At that time, his service treatment records (STRs) were of record. The Veteran also submitted a “problem list” taken from his Birmingham VA Medical Center (VAMC) records noting he has chest wall pain, as well as treatment records from the Denver and Birmingham VAMCs. The Veteran provided nothing else in the form of medical records or even lay statements pertaining to any heart condition. The AOJ denied the Veteran’s claim for service connection for a heart condition in an April 2011 rating decision, indicating that there is no medical evidence showing that any heart condition is related to service. The AOJ elaborated and stated that his service treatment records showed that he complained of left-sided chest pain in December 1994, but that an examiner noted normal heart rhythm and rate with no evidence of a murmur at that time. The Veteran was provided notice of this decision and his appellate rights by letter dated April 28, 2011. However, the Veteran did not submit a notice of disagreement, or new and material evidence, within one year of notice of the decision. This decision, therefore, is final. 38 U.S.C. §§7104(b); 7252 (2012).
Evidence submitted since the April 2011 final AOJ rating decision includes voluminous CAPRI records, most notably one containing an entry dated January 2012 from Dr. F.N. She wrote a letter to the Veteran stating the following: “I have reviewed your echocardiogram and you have very mild aortic valve insufficiency causing your heart murmur.” 
The Board finds that the information provided and evidence associated with the Veteran’s claims file is sufficient to permit reopening his claim for entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include a heart murmur. Specifically, this letter from Dr. F.N. provides a diagnosis for the Veteran’s condition. Therefore, the Board finds that the evidence of record that has been submitted since April 2011 pertaining to the Veteran’s heart condition is new and material, is neither cumulative nor redundant, and raises a reasonable possibility of substantiating the claim. As such, the Board will permit reopening the claim. 
REASONS FOR REMAND
1. Entitlement to service connection for a heart condition, to include a heart murmur is remanded.
Regrettably, a remand is necessary to ensure that due process is followed and that there is a complete record upon which to decide the issues on appeal, in order to afford the Veteran every possible consideration. 
The Board seeks additional information to more fully develop the Veteran’s claim. Specifically, the Board shall remand this issue for a VA examination and requests that an examiner provide a diagnosis, if any, for the Veteran’s heart condition, as well as an opinion as to whether this disability is etiologically related to the Veteran’s service. 
The matter is REMANDED for the following action:
1. Obtain and associate with the claims folder updated VA treatment records and any private treatment records, specifically those from January 2017 to present, and those records pertaining to any heart condition. 
2. Afterwards, afford the Veteran an examination to determine the current nature and etiology of his heart condition. The claims file, to include a copy of this remand, must be made available to and be reviewed by the examiner. 
The examiner should specifically indicate whether the Veteran has or has had a heart condition to include a heart murmur, and provide an opinion as to whether it is at least as likely as not (50 percent or greater probability) that any such heart condition including a heart murmur occurred in or is otherwise etiologically related to the Veteran’s military service. 
In offering any opinion, the examiner must consider the following:
•	the Veteran’s service treatment records;
•	the January 2013 CAPRI records, including Dr. F.N.’s letter; 
•	the April 2016 CAPRI records; 
•	the June 2018 CAPRI records; and
•	the Veteran’s hearing testimony pertaining to his symptoms.
The rationale for any opinion offered should be provided.
3. Thereafter, readjudicate the claims. If any benefit sought on appeal remains denied, furnish the Veteran and his representative, if any, a supplemental statement of the case and an appropriate period of time to respond.

 
T. MAINELLI
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Victoria A. Narducci, Associate Counsel 

For A Complete Guide To VA Disability Claims and to find out more about your potential VA disability case and how to obtain favorable VA Rating Decision! Visit: VA-Claims.org

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