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United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
June 1, 2004, Decided
[*1090] DYK, Circuit Judge.
Appellant Ronald W. Wagner ("Wagner") appeals from the decision of the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims affirming the Board of Veterans Appeals' ("BVA") denial of disability benefits based on alleged aggravation of a right knee disorder during service. Wagner v. West, 2000 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1021, No. 99-419 (Vet. App. Oct. 19, 2000). Because the incorrect legal standard was applied to rebut the [**2] presumption of soundness under 38 U.S.C. § 1111, we vacate and remand for further consideration under the correct standard.
This case involves a claim for disability benefits for the veteran's right knee disorder. Title 38, section 1111 of the United States Code provides that:
] Every veteran shall be taken to have been in sound condition when examined, accepted, and enrolled for service, except as to defects, infirmities, or disorders noted at the time of the examination, acceptance, and enrollment, or where clear and unmistakable evidence demonstrates that the injury or disease existed before acceptance and enrollment and was not aggravated by such service.
38 U.S.C. § 1111 (2000) (emphasis added). Mr. Wagner served on active duty in the United States Navy from 1964 to 1968. The medical examination report dated February 25, 1964, the day Mr. Wagner enlisted, listed no preexisting defects or diseases. Subsequent in-service medical examinations conducted in 1964, 1965 and 1966 showed that Mr. Wagner complained of pain and a loss of mobility in his right knee. These medical records contained statements from [**3] Mr. Wagner indicating that he injured his right knee playing high school football prior to his enlistment. However, there was evidence that this preexisting injury was aggravated during service. For instance, two service medical records from 1965 stated that Mr. Wagner sustained a blow to his right knee in October 1964 and a medical record from 1966 indicated "episodes of 'dislocation'" occurring during service in Vietnam. (J.A. at 60.)
On March 24, 1995, Mr. Wagner filed a claim for disability compensation for service-connected posttraumatic stress disorder to the Veterans Administration ("VA") regional office ("RO"). In a statement in support of this claim filed on April 17, 1995, Mr. Wagner added additional claims for service connection and aggravation for a right knee disorder. In a 1996 rating decision, the RO concluded that the claims for service connection and aggravation for the right knee disorder were not well-grounded. 1 The RO stated that the record showed "some problem in service with a right knee condition with evidence indicating pre service football injury," but that there was "no evidence of any chronic knee condition at separation from service or on the first VA [**4] examination, post service." (J.A. at 169.) 2
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370 F.3d 1089 *; 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 10615 **
RONALD W. WAGNER, Claimant-Appellant, v. ANTHONY J. PRINCIPI, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Respondent-Appellee.
Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Wagner v. Nicholson, 2005 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 557 (U.S. App. Vet. Cl., July 6, 2005)
Prior History: [**1] Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Judge William P. Greene, Jr.
Wagner v. West, 2000 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 1021 (U.S. App. Vet. Cl., Oct. 19, 2000)
Disposition: Vacated and remanded.
aggravation, Veterans, disability, unmistakable, disorder, right knee, disease, preexisting, service-connected, Appeals, rebut a presumption, enrollment, pre existing condition, Regulation, overcome a presumption, in-service, rebutted, claim for services, demonstrates, rebuttal
Military & Veterans Law, Veterans, General Benefits, Compensation for Service Connected Death & Disability, Compensation for Service Connected Death & Disability, Eligibility, Appeals & Review, US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, General Overview, Remand & Remittitur, Labor & Employment Law, Disability Benefits, Scope & Definitions, Preexisting Conditions, Types of Disabilities, Evidence, Disability Evidence, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Presumptions, Rebuttal of Presumptions