W.L. hired Friedman Disability in May 2015 after the VA denied him a combined disability rating of greater than 80 percent, even though he was unable to work due to his worsening hearing loss and multiple service-connected orthopedic conditions.
W.L.’s service-connected conditions included: degenerative arthritis with IVDS, left radiculopathy with sciatic nerve involvement, left and right hip greater trochanteric tenosynovitis, with limited extension; left and right hip greater trochanteric tenosynovitis, with impairment of the thigh; left and right knee patellofemoral degenerative joint disease; left and right ankle disability; hypertension; bilateral hearing loss; tinnitus; reactive airway disease with history of bronchitis and pneumonia; and allergic rhinitis.
When the VA denied W.L. a total disability rating, it erred by failing to explain how someone with all of these conditions who had stopped working due to an inability to hear during meeting and on the phone could secure and follow a substantially gainful occupation (SGO).
W.L. enlisted in the United States Army in 1967, serving in Vietnam and elsewhere before being honorably discharged in 1988 after 21 years of service. When W.L. came to our firm, the Board of Veteran’s Appeals (BVA) had already become involved, remanding his claim for a total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU) until the BVA had enough evidence to raise the schedular ratings for W.L.’s hearing loss and other conditions.
To prove W.L.’s entitlement to the full benefits accruing to a total disability rating, our firm obtained W.L.’s complete public and private medical records and complete disability claims file. Our firm identified medical and other records referenced by the VA but not included in his claims file, and obtained these mistakenly withheld documents using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. Our firm also referred W.L. to an orthopedic specialist with extensive experience treating veterans for an examination, adding this report to the favorable medical evidence of record.
Thanks to these efforts, in July of 2018 the BVA granted W.L. a TDIU rating with a 2007 effective date. This resulted in an award of more than $125,000 to the veteran in addition to current disability paid at the 100 percent rate.