Citation Nr: 18160392
Decision Date: 12/27/18	Archive Date: 12/26/18

DOCKET NO. 16-52 045
DATE:	December 27, 2018
Entitlement to service connection for residuals of a left eye cataract is denied.
The preponderance of the evidence of record is against finding that the Veteran has, or has had at any time during the appeal, any residuals of a left eye cataract.
The criteria for entitlement to service connection for a left eye cataract have not been met. 38 U.S.C. §§ 1110, 1131, 5107; 38 C.F.R. §§ 3.102, 3.303.
The Veteran served on active duty from May 1979 to August 1979, with additional service in the Army National Guard.
This matter comes before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board) on appeal from a February 2016 rating decision of the Hartford, Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office (RO). 
The Veteran seeks service connection for residuals of a left eye cataract.  He contends that after an injury to the left eye in service, it was discovered that he had a cataract by blunt force trauma and that this ultimately grew to the point where it had to be removed in the late 1980s or 1990s.  
Service connection may be established for disability resulting from personal injury suffered or disease contracted in the line of duty in active military, naval, or air service.  38 U.S.C. § 1110; 38 C.F.R. § 3.303(a).  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). 
The Veteran’s service treatment records confirm that in May 1979, he was treated for a cataract in his left eye.  However, there is no evidence in the record that he currently suffers from a left eye disability or that he has any residuals from that in-service left eye cataract.  In August 1979, the Veteran underwent a physical examination as part of his release from active duty (REFRAD).  This examination showed that he had 20/20 distant vision in both the right and left eye, and that a clinical evaluation of his eyes was also normal.  There were no other notations made concerning the left eye.  In the associated report of medical history, the Veteran also reported that he did not have nor had he had any eye trouble.
Postservice the Veteran reports undergoing eye surgery at Fitchman Eye Center; however, after repeated attempts at securing medical records, Fitchman Eye Center advised VA in June 2016 that they had searched the Veteran’s name, date of birth, and social security number and could not locate him in their patient database.  
Records were obtained from the Social Security Administration (SSA).  However, although these records reflect the Veteran’s report of a left eye injury in service, they do not otherwise show that he has a current left eye disability or any residuals from the in-service left eye cataract.
The Veteran has not identified any other potential sources of medical information that would be pertinent to his claim.
VA attempted to schedule the Veteran for a VA examination in this matter; however, he is currently incarcerated and an examination was unable to be scheduled.  
The Board acknowledges that VA has special procedures for handling the scheduling of VA examinations for incarcerated Veterans.  Specifically, the duty to assist incarcerated Veterans requires VA to tailor its assistance to meet the peculiar circumstances of confinement; as such, individuals are entitled to the same care and consideration given to their fellow non-incarcerated Veterans.  Wood v. Derwinski, 1 Vet. App. 190, 193 (1991).  This includes: (1) attempting to arrange transportation of the claimant to a VA facility for examination; (2) contacting the correctional facility and having their medical personnel conduct an examination according to VA examination work sheets; or (3) sending a VA or fee-basis examiner to the correctional facility to conduct the examination.  Bolton v. Brown, 8 Vet. App. 185, 191 (1995).
Here, the Hartford RO scheduled the Veteran for an ophthalmologist examination to determine the nature and etiology of his current eye condition.  However, the RO documented a conversation with an administrator at the correctional facility where the Veteran is incarcerated, and they determined that transportation of the Veteran to a VA facility with a guard “is not acceptable.”  The RO documented that the VA provider would be unable to examine the Veteran at the correctional facility due to inability to transport the necessary equipment for an appropriate examination.  The RO also noted that VA no longer has contract funds, meaning that they would be unable to contract out the examination to a fee-basis provider.  Lastly, the RO advised that a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) contractor should be considered; however, it would need to be cleared through the Department of Corrections or correctional facility administrators.
VA does not have the authority to require a correctional institution to release a Veteran so that VA can provide him the necessary examination at the closest VA medical facility.  See 38 U.S.C. § 5711. 
The Hartford RO has exhausted all possible avenues for obtaining access to the incarcerated Veteran for the examination.  The Board is sympathetic to the Veteran’s contentions.  However, there is insufficient competent medical evidence supporting the Veteran’s contentions of a current eye disability.  While the Veteran believes he has a current diagnosis of a left eye disability, he is not competent to provide a diagnosis in this case.  The issue is medically complex, as it requires specialized medical education and the ability to interpret complicated diagnostic medical testing.  Jandreau v. Nicholson, 492 F.3d 1372, 1377, 1377 n.4 (Fed. Cir. 2007).  
In conclusion, the the preponderance of evidence is against the Veteran’s claim, and the benefit-of-the-doubt doctrine does not apply.  38 U.S.C. § 5107(b), 38 C.F.R. § 3.102.  Therefore, service connection is not warranted for residuals of a left eye cataract.
Veterans Law Judge
Board of Veterans’ Appeals
ATTORNEY FOR THE BOARD	A. Griffin, Associate Counsel 

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