Members of Congress Introduce Legislation to Support Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma

Gregory M. Rada Legal Update

Last month U.S. legislators introduced H.R. 1954 – the Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act of 2017. In large part, legislators drafted H.R. 1954 in response to reports of nude photos of female service members being posted online. The bill is aimed at ensuring that these veterans have sufficient access to counseling and benefits. Under the present laws, it is not clear that victims of cyber sexual harassment are eligible for these services.

Legislators also drafted the bill to make it easier for victims of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) to prove disability claims for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). H.R. 1954 would change the standard of proof and allow for the victim’s own testimony to corroborate these claims. Advocacy groups have been working to lessen the burden of proof for years, arguing the current standard unfairly disadvantages MST victims who do not have sufficient corroborating evidence.

Read More

VA Finalizes Camp Lejeune Presumptive Conditions

Gregory M. Rada Disability Compensation, Legal Update

After a long wait, the Department of Veterans Affairs has finalized and released regulations that establish a presumption of service connection for certain conditions caused by contaminants in the water supply at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Camp Lejune Contaminated Drinking Water

The amended regulations apply to veterans, former reservists, and former National Guard members who served for at least 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987. During that time, service members were exposed to water contaminated with the toxic chemicals trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride. These toxic chemicals contaminated the water supply to housing facilities, recreational facilities, and the base hospital, and reached service members through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion of the contaminated water.

Read More

VA Issues Updated Guidelines for Partial Knee Replacements

Gregory M. Rada Disability Compensation, Legal Update

This past November, the VA updated the portion of the M21-1 Manual that instructs VA raters how to process claims for evaluations of partial knee replacements. This update is a response to a decision by the Federal Circuit in Hudgens v. McDonald, which I wrote about in a previous post.

In Hudgens, the Federal Circuit held that partial knee replacements qualify for the one-year temporary 100% disability rating under Disability Code (DC) 5055. The November 2016 update to the M21-1 Manual, however, takes a very restrictive view of the Hudgens case and limits when the VA will apply DC 5055 to partial knee replacements.Read More

VA Offers New TBI Exams to Thousands of Veterans

Gregory M. Rada Disability Compensation

VA Offers New TBI ExamsThe VA is offering new TBI exams to thousands of veterans who did not have their initial examination performed by either a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurosurgeon, or neurologist. This action impacts more than 24,000 veterans and will ensure these veterans receive a proper initial TBI examination and a new rating decision. The VA is offering new initial TBI exams because it failed to follow its policy requiring that certain medical specialists conduct initial TBI examinations.

Read More

Federal Circuit Rules Partial Knee Replacements Qualify for Temporary 100 Percent Rating

Gregory M. Rada Disability Compensation, Legal Update

Partial_Knee_ReplacementOn May 18, 2016, in Hudgens v. McDonald, the Federal Circuit ruled that partial knee joint replacements qualify for ratings under Diagnostic Code (DC) 5055, which is the diagnostic code that grants a temporary 100% rating for the year following a knee joint replacement, and then a minimum 30% rating thereafter. This is a great outcome for veterans undergoing partial knee replacement surgery, because prior to this ruling, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims had ruled that DC 5055 applied only to total knee joint replacements.

The veteran in this case, Mr. Hudgens, applied for a temporary 100 percent rating under DC 5055 after he underwent a partial knee replacement on his service-connected knee. The VA denied his claim stating that DC 5055 applied only to total knee replacements, not partial knee replacements.

Read More