Citation Nr: 18160610
Decision Date: 12/28/18	Archive Date: 12/27/18

DOCKET NO. 16-49 827
DATE:	December 28, 2018
Entitlement to service connection for residuals of prostate cancer is denied.

The Veteran’s prostate cancer disability is not shown to be related to any event, injury or disease in service, to include exposure to contaminated water at Camp Pendleton. 

The criteria for service connection of the residuals of prostate cancer are not met.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131, 5107; 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303.
The Veteran had active service from January 1974 to January 1976. 
This matter comes to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) from a January 2016 rating decision of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO). 
In October 2017, the Veteran’s representative submitted final argument and waived initial RO consideration of any new evidence.
Service Connection – Applicable Laws and Regulations
Service connection may be granted for a disability resulting from a disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by active military, naval, or air service.  38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131 (2012); 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a) (2017).  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 incurred in service.  38 C.F.R. § 3.303(d) (2017). 
Establishing service connection generally requires (1) medical evidence of a current disability; (2) medical or, in certain circumstances, lay evidence of in-service incurrence or aggravation of a disease or injury; and (3) medical evidence of a nexus between the claimed in-service disease or injury and the present disability.  Shedden v. Principi, 381 F.3d 1163, 1167 (Fed. Cir. 2004). 
When considering whether lay evidence is competent, the Board must determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a veteran’s particular disability is the type of disability for which lay evidence may be competent.  Kahana v. Shinseki, 24 Vet. App. 428 (2011); see also Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372, 1376-77 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  A veteran is competent to report symptoms because this requires only personal knowledge, not medical expertise, as it comes to him through his senses.  See Layno v. Brown, 6 Vet. App. 465, 470 (1994).  
Lay testimony is competent to establish the presence of observable symptomatology, where the determination is not medical in nature and is capable of lay observation.  Barr v. Nicholson, 21 Vet. App. 303 (2007).  Lay evidence may establish a diagnosis of a simple medical disability, a contemporaneous medical diagnosis, or symptoms that later support a diagnosis by a medical professional.  Jandreau, 492 F.3d 1372, 1377.
Reasonable doubt concerning any matter material to the determination is resolved in the Veteran’s favor.  38 U.S.C. § 5107(b); 38 C.F.R. § 3.102.

Service Connection - Analysis
The Veteran seeks service connection for his residuals of prostate cancer that he asserts were caused by his contact with contaminated water in Camp Pendleton. 
The Veteran submitted competent medical evidence that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  Therefore, the current disability element of service connection is established.  See November 2015 Radiation and Oncology VA treatment records. 
The evidence of record indicates that the Veteran served in Camp Pendleton.  See Certificate of Release of Discharge from Active Duty form DD-214.  The Veteran’s exposure to contaminated water during his service at Camp Pendleton has been conceded. 
The Veteran’s service treatment records (STRs), including his entrance and separation examination reports, do not contain any reports of treatment or a diagnosis of prostate cancer while in-service.  
In September 2015, the Veteran submitted documents from the California Code on contamination and from the VA on military hazardous exposures in other areas.  The documents reference the California Code’s description of the geographic surroundings of Camp Pendleton and contamination.  The military hazardous exposure documents reference places such as Camp Lejeune and Fort Douglas, Utah, but not Camp Pendleton. 
In September 2016, a VA examiner was asked to provide an opinion of the Veteran’s residuals of prostate cancer and whether it was at least as likely as not caused by exposure to contaminated water at Camp Pendleton.  The examiner reviewed the Veteran’s treatment records, lay statements about the contaminated water at Camp Pendleton and medical literature.  The examination report also included a comment from the American Cancer Society which indicated that the cause of prostate cancer is unknown to medical researchers, but risk factors include age greater than 50, family history, and geography.  The examiner also reasoned opined that the medical literature does not stipulate that contaminated water at Camp Pendleton causes prostate cancer.     
For the foregoing reasons, the Board finds that service connection for the residuals of prostate cancer in this case not warranted. 
Initially, the Board notes that the Veteran only asserts that his prostate cancer, diagnosed decades after service, was caused by contaminated water while serving at Camp Pendleton.  See September 2015 Claim for Compensation; August 2016 NOD.
The Board acknowledges and has considered the Veteran’s web documents related to the water at Camp Pendleton and hazardous exposures in other places such as Camp Lejeune and Fort Douglas, Utah.  The Board finds, however, that they do not contain any opinion or conclusion with respect to the ultimate question at issue in this case; namely, whether the Veteran’s prostate cancer residuals are at least as likely as not etiologically related to contaminated water exposure at Camp Pendleton. Therefore, the web documents received in September 2015, are of limited value and are far outweighed by the September 2016 VA examiner's opinion, which addresses the matter directly.
To the contrary, the VA examination opinion contains clear conclusions with a supporting rationale.  The examiner also noted that the claims file, including the Veteran’s treatment records regarding prostate cancer, were considered.  As such, the Board finds the opinion highly probative.  See Nieves-Rodriguez v. Peake, 22 Vet. App. 295 (2008). 
To the extent the Veteran asserts on his own behalf that his prostate cancer is medically related to service, the Board notes that lay witnesses are competent to provide testimony or statements relating to symptoms or facts of events that the lay witness observed and is within the realm of his or his personal knowledge, but not competent to establish that which would require specialized knowledge or training, such as medical expertise.  Layno, 6 Vet. App. at 469-70.
For the foregoing reasons, it is the Board’s conclusion that the criteria for service connection of the residuals of prostate cancer caused by exposure to contaminated water at Camp Pendleton are not met. 
In reaching this conclusion, the Board has considered the applicability of the benefit of the doubt doctrine.  However, as the preponderance of the evidence is against the Veteran’s claim, that doctrine is not applicable, and the claim is denied.  38 U.S.C. § 5107; 38 C.F.R. § 3.102.

Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals

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