Citation Nr: 18160552
Decision Date: 12/27/18	Archive Date: 12/27/18

DOCKET NO. 17-02 024
DATE:	December 27, 2018
ORDER
Service connection for a left-hand disorder is denied.
Service connection for a right-hand disorder is denied.  
Service connection for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is denied.
FINDINGS OF FACT
1. The Veteran has no current left-hand disorder.
2. The Veteran has no current right-hand disorder
3. The Veteran does not have a current diagnosis of PTSD.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
1. The criteria to establish entitlement to service connection for a left-hand disorder have not been met. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1154(a) (2012); 38 C.F.R.              § 3.303(d) (2017).
2. The criteria to establish entitlement to service connection for a right-hand disorder have not been met. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1154(a) (2012); 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(d) (2017).
3. The criteria to establish entitlement to service connection for PTSD have not been met. 38 U.S.C. § 1110 (2012); 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f) (2017).
REASONS AND BASES FOR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
The Veteran served on active duty in the U.S. Army from February 2006 to June 2012, including service in Southwest Asia.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from a November 2014 rating decision of the Jackson, Mississippi Regional Office (RO).
Concerning the Veteran’s claim of entitlement to service connection for PTSD, a timely NOD was filed and a statement of the case was issued; however, in his timely substantive appeal, the Veteran indicated that he was only perfecting his appeal of service connection for a bilateral hand disorder. The RO certified the matter to the Board for adjudication as if a substantive appeal had been filed for PTSD. See Percy v. Shinseki, 23 Vet. App. 37 (2009).
Service Connection
Service connection may be granted for a current disability arising from a disease or injury incurred in or aggravated by active service. 38 U.S.C. § 1110 (2012). Service connection may 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) (2017). Service connection generally requires (1) medical evidence of a current disability; (2) medical or, in certain circumstances, lay evidence of an 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 current disability. Shedden v. Principi, 381 F.3d 1163, 1167 (Fed. Cir. 2004).
The law is well settled that in the absence of proof of a current disability, there can be no valid claim. Boyer v. West, 210 F.3d 1351 (Fed. Cir. 2000); Brammer v. Derwinski, 3 Vet. App. 223 (1992).
Left and right-hand disorder
In his July 2012 statement, the Veteran reported that his bilateral hand disorder began in January 2007 and that he received medical treatment “on numerous occasions.”
In a February 2011 post-deployment health assessment, the Veteran indicated that he did not have numbness or tingling in his hands and that he did not attend sick call or receive a limited profile due to numbness or tingling in his hands. 
A May 2012 service treatment record (STR) reflects that the Veteran underwent a finger injury. However, there were no other details that identified which finger or on which hand. 
The Veteran’s report of separation from the armed forces (DD Form 214) reflects that his duty specialty was Aircraft Powertrain Repairer. Due consideration shall be given to the places, types and circumstances of such Veteran’s service as shown by such Veteran’s service record, the official history of each organization in which such Veteran served, such Veteran’s medical records, and all pertinent medical and lay evidence. 38 U.S.C. § 1154(a) (2012). As an Aircraft Powertrain Repairer, the Veteran would have used both hands to repair military aircraft. 
A January 2013 VA treatment record noted that the Veteran’s right-hand grip was weak. A right-hand VA radiograph revealed normal findings.  
In October 2014, the Veteran was afforded a VA examination. The Veteran reported experiencing bilateral hand pain since 2011 due to repetitive gripping and grasping as a mechanic. The Veteran also reported that he did not seek medical treatment for his hands during service. 
The VA examiner did not diagnose the Veteran with a left or right-hand disorder. In addition, a bilateral hand VA radiograph revealed normal findings. Furthermore, the VA examiner indicated that the Veteran did not have any functional impairment of his hands. See Saunders v. Wilkie, 886 F.3d 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2018) (holding that where pain alone results in functional impairment, even if there is no identified underlying diagnosis, it can constitute a disability). 
In an April 2016 VA treatment record, the Veteran reported experiencing right hand pain. However, there was no accompanying diagnosis. 
In his January 2017 substantive appeal, the Veteran reported experiencing bilateral hand weakness and numbness during service. 
A preponderance of the evidence is against a finding that the Veteran has a current left or right-hand disorder. Although the Veteran has reported experiencing bilateral hand pain, weakness and numbness, the October 2014 VA examiner indicated that the Veteran did not have any functional impairment of his hands. In addition, the VA examiner did not diagnose the Veteran with a left or right-hand disorder. Significantly, no competent medical provider has diagnosed the Veteran with a left or right-hand disorder. Therefore, service connection is not warranted and the claims are denied.
PTSD
Service connection for PTSD requires medical evidence diagnosing the condition; a link, established by medical evidence, between current symptoms and an in-service stressor; and credible supporting evidence that the claimed in-service stressor occurred. 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f) (2017).
The Board notes that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) is applicable because the Veteran’s appeal was certified to the Board in February 2018. See 79 Fed. Reg. 45,093, 45,094 (stating that the DSM-IV governs all applications for benefits certified to the Board prior to August 4, 2014).
The Veteran asserts undergoing three in-service stressors that resulted in his PTSD: he experienced a mortar attack during his service in Southwest Asia; the Veteran’s truck commander committed suicide and the Veteran’s battalion chaplain assistant committed suicide.
VA treatment records dated December 2012, March 2014 and February 2015 reflect a negative PTSD screen.
In September 2014, the Veteran was afforded a VA PTSD examination. The VA examiner indicated that the Veteran did not have a diagnosis of PTSD under the DSM-V because his symptoms did not meet the diagnostic criteria.
In an April 2015 VA treatment record, the Veteran was diagnosed with PTSD and assigned a Global Assessment of Functioning (GAF) score of 63 by a VA psychiatrist. Although the VA psychiatrist did not explicitly indicate which DSM applied to the diagnosis of PTSD, the Board notes that the DSM-V has abandoned the GAF scale; therefore, the Board finds that this PTSD diagnosis was rendered under the DSM-IV. See Golden v. Shulkin, 29 Vet. App. 221, 225 (2018) (holding that the Board errs when it uses GAF scores to assign a psychiatric rating in cases where the DSM-V applies). 
In August 2016, the Veteran was afforded another VA PTSD examination. The VA examiner indicated that the Veteran did not have a diagnosis of PTSD under the DSM-V because the Veteran’s stressors were not adequate to support a diagnosis of PTSD.
(Continued on the next page)
 
A preponderance of the evidence is against a finding that the Veteran has a current diagnosis of PTSD under the DSM-V. Two VA examiners have indicated that the Veteran does not have a diagnosis of PTSD under the DSM-V. Therefore, service connection is not warranted and the claim is denied.
 
Vito A. Clementi
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	B. Cohen, 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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