T.L. hired Friedman Disability in November of 2015 after the VA denied his claim for a rating of greater than 30 percent for his service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with depressive disorder, and failed to grant him a total disability rating based on individual unemployability. T.L. served in the United States Air Force from 1964 to 1975, then reenlisted in 1987 before his final honorable discharge in 1989 following a total of eleven years of military service. During the Vietnam War, T.L. served at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base where he helped identify bombing targets and witnessed the loss of fellow airmen to enemy action, experiences which led him to develop PTSD.
When T.L. came to Friedman Disability, our firm’s first step was to obtain his complete VA and private medical records in addition to his VA disability claims file in order to identify favorable medical evidence of record overlooked by the VA. Reviewing T.L.’s medical history and the VA’s rating decision revealed that the VA’s own examining psychologists had identified a number of the PTSD symptoms that prevented T.L. from working, including impaired impulse control, unprovoked irritability, and suicidal ideation.
To confirm the effect of these symptoms on T.L.’s ability to follow a substantially gainful occupation (SGO), our firm also referred T.L. to a vocational expert with extensive experience referring veterans to job placements for an exam. Our firm then submitted a Notice of Disagreement (NOD) detailing this favorable medical evidence that had either been overlooked or improperly rejected without explanation, in order to prove that T.L. was entitled to a higher schedular rating for PTSD and a TDIU rating.
Responding to this NOD in a 2016 Statement of the Case (SOC), the VA granted T.L. a 50 percent schedular rating for his PTSD, again erroneously denying the veteran’s entitlement to full benefits under a TDIU rating. In its SOC, the VA acknowledged T.L.’s suicidal ideation, one of the criteria for a 70 percent or higher evaluation on the PTSD rating schedule, but dismissed it as “passive” (i.e. without a specific plan). The VA erred in doing so because the law does not distinguish between “passive” and “active” suicidal ideation.
The VA also erred by asserting that T.L. was still capable of work because he mentioned being involved with his church and attending some activities such as parades. The VA failed to consider that T.L. was unable to attend Sunday services because the congregation of five was too stressful a crowd to be in, and that the one time he attended a parade only happened because he had been trapped by road closures after dropping off his daughter. Identifying these and other errors, our firm helped T.L. file VA From 9 to continue his appeal and submitted a supplemental statement to VA Form 9 describing the VA’s legal mistakes and oversights.
Thanks to the efforts of Friedman Disability, in September of 2018 the VA granted T.L. the TDIU rating to which he was lawfully entitled with a 2013 effective date. This resulted in an award of more than $81,000 in past-due benefits in addition to continuing current disability paid at the 100 percent rate.