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Edwards v. Shinseki

September 24, 2009

IRVIN J. EDWARDS, CLAIMANT-APPELLANT,
v.
ERIC K. SHINSEKI, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims in 04-1104, Judge Alan G. Lance, Sr.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rader, Circuit Judge

Published opinion

Before RADER, BRYSON, and DYK, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge RADER. Additional views filed by Circuit Judge RADER.

The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (the "Veterans Court") rejected Irvin K. Edwards's claim for an earlier-effective date for entitlement to benefits. Edwards v. Peake, 22 Vet. App. 29 (2008). In reaching that decision, the Veterans Court affirmed a ruling by the Board of Veterans' Appeals (the "Board") that Mr. Edwards had received adequate notice of an earlier denial of his claim. Because the Veterans Court gave Mr. Edwards adequate notice, this court affirms.

I.

Mr. Edwards began service on active duty in October 1977. In February 1978, a private hospital diagnosed Mr. Edwards with a "[p]sychotic break either due to: (1) schizophrenia or (2) psychotic depression." Over the next two months, Mr. Edwards remained in the hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The chief of the neuropsychiatric department summarized his condition:

SUMMARY OF MENTAL STATUS EXAMINATION: Suggested adult situational reaction of psychotic proportions, however, the possibility of a schizophrenic disorder was clearly evident.

While a patient at this facility he was treated on an open Medical Surgical Ward and was not a management problem. He was administered Thorazine 25 mg three times daily which resulted in the prompt resolution of his symptoms. . . . At this time, the patient has achieved the maximum benefit of hospitalization and he is to be discharged to full duty.

At a second evaluation, his treating clinical psychologist added:

Recommendations: PVT EDWARDS has a significant personality disorder but is responsible for his behavior. He does have a long standing duly diagnosed personality disorder whose military adaptability will not benefit from psychiatric treatment including hospitalization. This disorder is of such severity as to render the member incapable of serving adequately.

Based on these recommendations, Mr. Edwards received an administrative discharge on April 4, 1978. Edwards was then admitted to a VA hospital in July 1978. He was medicated and was subsequently discharged after he "remained dramatically improved and displayed no indication of his former psychosis."

Also in July 1978, Mr. Edwards filed for a disability rating for a nervous disorder. The Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office ("RO") initially denied this request in July 1981. Mr. Edwards did not appeal and the decision became final.

Nearly a decade later, in August 1987, Mr. Edwards's treating social worker referred him to a VA Day Hospital where he was diagnosed with residual schizophrenia.

In November of that year, with the aid of a VA adjudication officer, Mr. Edwards sought to reopen his claim for service connection. Soon thereafter, the RO received Mr. Edwards's service-medical records. At that point, the RO reopened the claim and scheduled Mr. Edwards for a follow-up medical examination. The RO sent Mr. Edwards a notice that he would receive a physical examination and a second notice setting the actual date of the examination. Mr. Edwards, however, did not report for the examination. The RO denied Mr. Edwards's claim in March 1988. For a second time, Mr. Edwards did not appeal and the decision became final.

Still another decade later, in January 1997, Mr. Edwards filed another claim to reopen his claim for service connection. In a rating decision issued in March 1999, the RO granted service connection for Mr. Edwards's schizophrenic disorder concluding that Mr. Edwards had submitted new and material evidence in the form of testimony, clinical records, and a medical report from a VA examination conducted in January 1999 to warrant a service award. The decision assigned a 50% disability rating with an effective date in January 1997. Mr. Edwards appealed the effective date. The Board denied an effective date earlier than January 1997. Mr. Edwards then appealed to the Veterans Court who granted a joint motion to remand and vacated the Board's decision based on the Veterans Claims Assistance Act of 2000. Pub. L. No. 106-475, 114 Stat. 2096 (2000). On remand, the ...


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