The Veteran served in the United States Army. During an in-service training exercise at Fort Lewis, the Veteran watched as a friend fell off a bridge and drowned. The Veteran was later diagnosed with PTSD, and he filed a service connection claim in 2016.

To support his claim, he submitted a doctor’s statement diagnosing PTSD. In the statement, the doctor reported that the Veteran completed basic training and six additional weeks of advanced training at Fort Lewis. The Veteran also provided the location of the incident, his unit, and the full name of his friend. The Regional Office (RO) sent the Veteran letters asking him to confirm the exact date of the incident, but the Veteran never responded.

In 2017 and 2018, the RO denied service connection in 2017 because it said that it could not confirm his friend’s death. The Veteran appealed the decision to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board).

The Board Ignored Evidence that Should Have Triggered Duty to Assist

In July 2018, the Board issued a decision that denied service connection for PTSD. The Board stated that the Veteran had not “provided any date as to when” the stressor occurred, so it could not confirm the incident. At the same time, the Board acknowledged that the Veteran was stationed at Fort Lewis for basic training and a subsequent period of additional training.

The Veteran Hired Timothy R. Franklin to Represent Him

At the U.S Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC), Mr. Franklin argued that the record contained enough evidence to trigger the Board’s duty to research the incident. Specifically, he argued that the Veteran had provided an approximate date of the incident. He pointed out that the Veteran said the incident happened during training at Fort Lewis, and the record showed that he was at Fort Lewis for up to sixteen weeks immediately after his active duty started.

Veterans Should Not Be Afraid to Appeal to the CAVC

If the Board denied your claim, please consider letting us help win your claim. Veterans Service Organizations do not typically practice at the CAVC, and we represent veterans at the CAVC for no charge.

If you have a case, we will review it for free. Act fast, whether you contact me or another accredited attorney, because you only have 120 days from the date of the Board decision to appeal to the CAVC.

Link to Vacated Board Decision

Link to CAVC Joint Motion for Remand