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Samuels V. West



  • HadIt.com Elder


NAME: Samuels v. West

ISSUE(S): Well-grounded claim



The veteran entered service in October 1970. The entrance physical examination report recorded a normal psychiatric condition. Seventeen days after the veteran entered service, a medical report noted he complained of being scared around weapons because he had accidentally shot a girlfriend prior to service. An Army medical board restricted the veteran from the use of weapons. He was subsequently discharged after serving three months and twenty-three days for failing to meet medical fitness standards at the time of his induction.

More than four years after his discharge, the veteran filed a claim for service connection of a nervous disorder. The Board denied this claim in October 1977, finding that there was no confirmed psychiatric disorder until 1976, more than four years after the veteran’s separation from service. Over the years, the veteran received many various diagnoses of psychiatric disorders, not including PTSD. In March 1991, he filed a claim for PTSD and submitted a December 1989 psychological report which showed a diagnosis of PTSD and included a history supplied by him of his having PTSD from Vietnam. In a December 1991 VA psychiatric examination, the veteran “remembered” more combat experiences, alleging that he had seen many people killed. Atypical psychosis was diagnosed and the “stress of military service” was listed as an environmental factor.

A July 1994 BVA decision remanded the veteran’s PTSD claim and ordered the RO to determine the exact nature of the veteran’s mental condition and alleged PTSD stressor. After the BVA remand, the RO obtained multiple medical reports showing that the veteran had PTSD as a result of his alleged Vietnam experiences. During a February 1995 VA examination, the veteran admitted that he had not been in combat, but asserted that he had been in Vietnam. The diagnoses provided were paranoid schizophrenia and dependent personality traits. The “stress of [m]ilitary experience” was listed as an environmental factor. PTSD was not diagnosed, but the examiner commented that “there is much evidence to diagnosis PTSD in my opinion.”

The BVA, in a March 1996 decision, determined that the preponderance of the evidence was against the veteran’s PTSD claim. The BVA found that, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, third edition, (DSM-III), there was no evidence of a stressor that would support a diagnosis of PTSD.


The Court noted that a well-grounded PTSD claim is one where the claimant has “submitted medical evidence of a current disability; lay evidence …of an in-service stressor, which in a PTSD case is the equivalent of in-service incurrence or aggravation; and medical evidence of a nexus between service and the current PTSD disability.” Cohen v. Brown, 10 Vet.App. 128, 137 (1997). The appellant’s evidentiary assertions must be accepted as true for the purpose of determining whether the claim is well grounded. The exceptions to this rule occur when the evidentiary assertion is inherently incredible, or when the fact asserted is beyond the competence of the person making the assertion. King v. Brown, 5 Vet.App. 19, 21 (1993).

The veteran’s PTSD diagnoses were based upon his fictitious recitation of combat experience in Vietnam. None of the PTSD diagnoses referred to any non-fictional in-service incident, such as fear of weapons, as a potential in-service stressor. For the purpose of determining whether the veteran has submitted a well-grounded PTSD claim, the alleged stressor is his combat experience in Vietnam. However, the record is clear that the veteran had no service in Vietnam. Although lay evidence of a PTSD stressor is generally presumed to be truthful, in this case the veteran’s testimony as to his Vietnam combat experience is inherently incredible, and neither the Board nor the Court is required to accept his assertions as true. Cf. King, 5 Vet.App. at 21. Because the veteran did not submit credible evidence of an in-service stressor, and thus no evidence of service incurrence, his PTSD claim is not well grounded.

IMPACT ON DECISIONMAKERS: The decision in this case is consistent with Court caselaw on well-grounded claims. This decision does not warrant a change in current regulations, policies, or procedures.



X ___ /s/ 11/23/98

Yes No Robert J. Epley Date

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