Behcet's Disease documented in old military files


My husband is a Vietnam Vet with 8 years in the Army. He has a 10 year old claim for Aortic Anuerysm and Aortic Valve disease which was denied due to lack of service connection. Recently we came across his old Army medical file which contains records from over 70 visits with Army doctors for “Behcet’s Disease” related issues. He didn’t know it was “Behcet’s” at the time, but we do now. We had a Rheumatologist/IME review his file and confirm. Since Behcet’s can cause Aortic Aneurysm and Aortic Valve Disease, should he re-open the old claim, as secondary to Behcet’s? Or might he have better success opening a new claim for Behcet’s and if approved, re-open the old claim? Does it make a difference? Thanks for all you do!

Jim's Reply:

Behcet's disease is a disease that causes blood vessel inflammation (among many other symptoms) and can indeed cause or contribute to vascular problems like aneurysms. Your question is complex...first up, yes...he should file a claim today saying that he is claiming Behcet's disease as a primary disability and the aneurysm and any other vascular or other associated symptom as secondary conditions. I'd suggest getting that in process quickly to get things started. Then we have to think about that old claim. Under most circumstances, if he didn't timely appeal (within a year of the denial) the claim would be closed and that's pretty much that. Or if those records weren't available for review by VA at the time, he may be out of luck.

However...if the information about Behcet's disease was available to VA at the time of the claim and they missed it or didn't make the correlation between vascular problems and Behcet's disease, there may be a case for a Clear & Unmistakable Error (CUE) claim. If VA made a CUE, then there is a possibility of the effective date of any new claim being as far back as the date he filed. That would best be guided by a veterans law attorney who is experienced in CUE claims and's a complex legal and documentation issue. VA typically pushes back hard when we make CUE claims. I'd urge you to browse the pages of my site, The VAWatchdog Dot Org,  and speak to any or all of the accredited lawyers you'll see featured there.