Navy Veteran Wins Service Connection for PTSD from Gulf of Sidra Incident

H.C. sought legal help from Friedman Disability in 2015 after the VA denied his claim for service connection for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), finding incorrectly that his reported in-service stressor was not credible.

H.C. was honorably discharged from the United States Navy in 1983 after serving for four years and had experienced fear of imminent attack from Libyan fighter jets while serving aboard the USS Ainsworth during the first Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981. Following H.C.’s discharge, his PTSD symptoms prevented him from working consistently, and he suffered periods of homelessness.

The VA first denied H.C.’s claim for service connection for PTSD because he had mistakenly supplied the VA with the incorrect date for the above in-service stressor related to the Gulf of Sidra incident, and the ship’s records for the date given by H.C. did not indicate any involvement in combat or engagement with Libyan fighter jets.

However, Friedman Disability was able to identify correctly the date of the above incident described by H.C. and substantiate its occurrence by obtaining copies of the USS Ainsworth’s ship logs for the approximate dates of the incident, which showed that (1) the ship was on “Readiness III,” defined by the Navy as a material condition of readiness commonly associated with wartime steaming where some, usually one-third to one-half, of the ship’s weapons are kept in a manned and ready status at all times; and (2) “Darken Ship [was] in effect” on the ship, meaning that the ship was trying to avoid being found.

Based on the above evidence contained in the ship’s logs, not to mention the findings of the U.S. Army Joint Services Records Research Center (JSRRC), which confirmed that the USS Ainsworth was in fact with the USS Nimitz and USS Forrestal at the time of the Gulf of Sidra incident, the VA conceded that H.C.’s in-service stressor had occurred.

In addition to proving that H.C.’s in-service stressor was credible, Friedman Disability also obtained a sworn declaration from H.C.’s treating psychiatric nurse specialist to confirm that his PTSD was in fact due to his fear of hostile military activity during the above in-service incident and that his PTSD severely impacted his employability, as distinct from the schizophrenia with which H.C. had also been diagnosed. With this additional, new and material evidence, our office successfully filed a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) on H.C.’s behalf that resulted in a 70 percent schedular disability rating for service-connected PTSD and an award of over $120,000 in past-due benefits for H.C. in addition to current disability paid at the 70 percent rate.