Citation Nr: 18154194
Decision Date: 11/30/18	Archive Date: 11/29/18

DOCKET NO. 15-46 065
DATE:	November 30, 2018
Entitlement to service connection for hypertension is denied.
The preponderance of the evidence is against finding that the Veteran’s hypertension is etiologically related to his service.
The criteria for service connection for hypertension are not met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1111, 1131, 5107(b); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303(a).
The Veteran served on active duty from September 1978 to September 1982.
This case comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) from a July 2012 rating decision of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO). A notice of disagreement was received in August 2012 and a statement of the case was issued in November 2015. The Veteran filed a timely notice of appeal to the Board in December 2015 and elected not to appear before the Board for an optional hearing.
In this instance, the Veteran’s service treatment records (STRs) are not available.  Where, as here, the service records are incomplete, lost or presumed destroyed through no fault of the claimant, VA has a heightened duty to assist in the development of the case. See Marciniak v. Brown, 10 Vet. App. 198, 200 (1997), citing O’Hare v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 365, 367 (1991). The Board further recognizes a heightened obligation to explain findings and conclusions, and a heightened duty to consider carefully the benefit of the doubt rule in cases in which records are presumed to have been, or were, lost 
In July 2012, VA issued a Formal Finding on the Unavailability of Service Records. The record reflects that VA has made reasonable efforts to obtain or to assist in obtaining all relevant records pertinent to the matter herein decided. Such efforts included attempts to obtain STRs from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) and from the Georgia National Guard. Additionally, an STR certification from August 2016 shows that a thorough review of all known DoD or United States Coast Guard systems, as appropriate has been accomplished.  Other than the records enclosed, it was concluded that no further records exist for the Veteran.  See August 2016 STR certification.
The Board notes that it has thoroughly reviewed the record in conjunction with this case. Although the Board has an obligation to provide reasons and bases supporting this decision, there is no need to discuss, in detail, the extensive evidence submitted by the Veteran or on his behalf. See Gonzales v. West, 218 F.3d 1378, 1380-81 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (the Board must review the entire record, but does not have to discuss each piece of evidence). Rather, the Board’s analysis below will focus specifically on what the evidence shows, or fails to show, on the claim. See Timberlake v. Gober, 14 Vet. App. 122, 129 (2000) (noting that the Board must analyze the credibility and probative value of the evidence, account for the evidence which it finds to be persuasive or unpersuasive, and provide the reasons for its rejection of any material evidence favorable to the claimant).
1. Entitlement to service connection for hypertension
Generally, to establish service connection a Veteran must show: “(1) the existence of a present disability; (2) in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) a causal relationship between the present disability and the disease or injury incurred or aggravated during service.” Davidson v. Shinseki, 581 F.3d 1313, 1315-16 (Fed. Cir. 2009); Shedden v. Principi, 381 F.3d 1163, 1167 (Fed. Cir. 2004). Service connection may also be granted for any disease diagnosed after discharge, when all the evidence, including that pertinent to service, establishes that the disease was incurred in service. 38 C.F.R. § 3.303 (d).
VA is required to give due consideration to all pertinent medical and lay evidence in evaluating a claim for disability benefits. 38 U.S.C. § 1154 (a). Lay evidence can be competent and sufficient to establish a diagnosis of a condition when (1) a layperson is competent to identify the medical condition, (2) the layperson is reporting a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or (3) lay testimony describing symptoms at the time supports a later diagnosis by a medical professional. Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372, 1377 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Lay evidence cannot be determined to be not credible merely because it is unaccompanied by contemporaneous medical evidence. Buchanan v. Nicholson, 451 F.3d 1331, 1336-37 (Fed. Cir. 2006).
The Veteran contends that he currently suffers from hypertension that he was first treated for while in service. 
VA treatment records from August 2004 show a diagnosis for hypertension.
The Board finds that the preponderance of the evidence is against the Veteran’s claim for service connection for hypertension. The Veteran has not presented a sufficient showing of evidence that he had hypertension in service, or within one year after his discharge from service. 
The Board has noted at length that the Veteran’s service records are unavailable. In July 2012, a Memorandum of Formal Finding on the Unavailability regarding VA’s attempts to obtain STRs was issued. That memorandum noted that it was determined that the Veteran’s records were requested from the NPRC and Georgia National Guard.  Additionally, an STR certification from August 2016 shows that a thorough review of all known DoD systems was accomplished and no further records exist for the Veteran.
To date, the Veteran has provided no corroborating evidence, including the lay statements of others present with him in service, to support his contention that he was treated for hypertension in service.  Moreover, the record evidence reflects that the initial showing of a diagnosis of hypertension was in 2004, which is decades years after the Veteran’s discharge from service.  
Accordingly, the Board finds that the preponderance of the evidence is against the claim and entitlement to service connection for hypertension is not warranted. 38 U.S.C. § 5107 (b); Gilbert v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 49 (1990).

Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	S. Morrad, Associate Counsel 

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