Citation Nr: 18154114
Decision Date: 11/29/18	Archive Date: 11/29/18

DOCKET NO. 16-31 665
DATE:	November 29, 2018
ORDER
The claim of entitlement to service connection for the residuals of cold weather injury to the hands, bilaterally, is reopened.
REMANDED ISSUE
The issue of entitlement to service connection for the residuals of cold weather injury to the hands, bilaterally, is remanded.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The Veteran’s claim seeking entitlement to service connection for residuals of cold weather injury to the hands, bilaterally, was denied in an August 2010 rating decision for lack of a current disability.
2. The Veteran did not appeal the August 2010 rating decision or submit new and material evidence within the one-year appeal period; however, new and material evidence was received regarding the Veteran’s claim to reopen showing that he experiences numbness and tingling of the hands in cold weather.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The August 2010 rating decision denying a claim of entitlement to service connection for residuals of cold weather injury to the hands, bilaterally, is final.  38 U.S.C. § 7105(c); 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.104, 3.156(a)-(b), 20.302, 20.1103.
2. New and material has been received, and the claim of entitlement to service connection for residuals of cold weather injury of the hands, bilaterally, is reopened.  38 U.S.C. § 5108; 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(a).
REASONS AND BASES FOR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
Reopening Previously Denied Claim
The Veteran previously submitted a claim of entitlement to service connection for residuals of cold weather injury to the bilateral hands, which was denied in an August 2010 rating decision on the basis that the Veteran did not have a current disability.  The August 2010 rating decision became final because the Veteran did not submit a Notice of Disagreement or new evidence relating to the claims within the appeal period.  See 38 C.F.R. § 3.156(b).  Although the Veteran did, in April 2011, submit a claim for a left hand disability, he identified that disability as the residuals of a hyperextended thumb.  The Board notes that claims that present distinct factual bases, such as medical disorders with different medical causes, may be distinguished and adjudicated independently; factors for the adjudicator to consider in determining the scope of a claim include the claimant’s description, the symptoms, and the information submitted.  See Brokowski v. Shinseki, 23 Vet. App. 79, 86-87 (2009); Tyrues v. Shinseki, 23 Vet. App. 166, 187 (2009), aff'd 631 F.3d 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2011); and Boggs v. Peake, 520 F.3d 1330, 1337 (Fed. Cir. 2008).  On these bases, the April 2011 claim was distinct from the claim for cold injury residuals such that the August 2010 rating action became, and remained, final.
In connection with the Veteran’s claim to reopen his claim for service connection for residuals of frostbite to the bilateral hands, VA received a February 2016 VA treatment record showing his report of experiencing numbness and tingling in the hands during cold weather.  This evidence is new in that it was not previously of record, and material because it relates to a previously unestablished element of service connection, i.e., whether the Veteran has a current disability affecting his hands.  Thus, the Board finds that new and material evidence has been received sufficient to reopen his previously denied claim.  38 C.F.R. § 3.156(a); Shade v. Shinseki, 24 Vet. App. 110, 117-18 (2010); Justus v. Principi, 3 Vet. App. 510, 513 (1992).
REMAND
Service connection has been established for the Veteran’s peripheral neuropathy of the right and left lower extremities as residuals of cold weather injury occurring during service.  The Veteran contends that he also experienced cold injuries to his hands during service that resulted in a current disability of numbness and tingling.  See April 2013 Notice of Disagreement; June 2016 Correspondence.  The Board finds that a VA examination is warranted.  McLendon v. Nicholson, 20 Vet. App. 79 (2006). 
The matter is REMANDED for the following action:
1. Obtain all outstanding VA medical records and ask the Veteran to provide authorizations for any private medical records he would like considered in connection with his appeal.
2. Notify the Veteran that he may submit lay statements from himself and from other individuals who have first-hand knowledge, and/or were contemporaneously informed of his in-service and post-service bilateral hand symptomatology. The Veteran should be provided an appropriate amount of time to submit this lay evidence.
3. Schedule the Veteran for an appropriate VA examination to determine the current nature, onset and etiology of any current cold injury residuals. The claims file should be made available to and reviewed by the examiner and all necessary tests should be performed.  All findings should be reported in detail.  After a review of the claims file, including the lay statements provided by the Veteran, the examiner should state whether it is at least as likely as not that any functional impairment of the Veteran’s hands (1) had a clinical onset during active service, or (2) is otherwise related to the claimed in-service exposure to cold.  A medical rationale must be provided for any opinion provided.

 
JEBBY RASPUTNIS
Acting Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	Tracie N. Wesner, 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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