Citation Nr: 18123939
Decision Date: 08/06/18	Archive Date: 08/03/18

DOCKET NO. 15-32 033
DATE:	August 6, 2018
Service connection for cervalgia, degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine (cervical spine disability) is granted.  
The evidence is evenly balanced both for and against the claim as to whether the currently diagnosed cervical spine disability is related to military service. 
The criteria for entitlement to service connection for cervical spine disability have been met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131, 1137 (2012); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303, 3.304 (2017).
The Veteran served on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from May 1987 to Jan 1992.   This matter comes on appeal from a decision rendered from the VA Regional Office in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

Establishing service connection generally requires competent evidence of three things: (1) a current disability; (2) in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship, i.e., a nexus, between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the current disability.  38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a).
In regard to element (1), current disability, VA and private examinations indicate diagnoses of cervalgia, degenerative joint disease, and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine.  
In regard to element (2), in-service incurrence, the Veteran received medical treatment for neck strain in April 1989, November 1989, and August 1991.  The service records state that he struck his head against a low beam causing him to fall back to the ground.  
In regard to element (3), causal relationship, the record contains April 2011 and September 2011 private medical opinions which support the claim.  When asked to provide an opinion regarding the etiology of the cervical spine disability, a VA examiner in January 2011 and August 2012 concluded that it was less likely than not that the Veteran’s the cervical spine disabilities were related to military, citing the absence of objective evidence of continuous treatment for an extended time period of time subsequent to service discharge. Significantly, this examiner opinion was insufficient as he does not directly address any statements from the Veteran regarding post service symptoms, which he is competent to provide.  The Veteran’s statements regarding his post service pain are credible and they were taken into consideration by the private clinicians. 
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In light of the in-service injury and positive private medical opinions, the Board finds that the evidence regarding the third element, causal relationship, is in relative equipoise. Resolving reasonable doubt in the Veteran’s favor, the Board finds that the third element is satisfied. 38 U.S.C. § 5107; 38 C.F.R. § 3.102.
As all three elements have been satisfied, the Board finds that service connection for cervalgia, degenerative joint disease and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine is warranted.
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Department of Veterans Affairs 

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