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Allen v. Principi - 237 F.3d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 2001)

Rule:

Based on the language of the statute and the pertinent legislative history, 38 U.S.C.S. § 1110 does not preclude compensation for an alcohol or drug abuse disability secondary to a service-connected disability or use of an alcohol or drug abuse disability as evidence of the increased severity of a service-connected disability. Veterans can only recover if they can adequately establish that their alcohol or drug abuse disability is secondary to or is caused by their primary service-connected disorder.

Facts:

William Allen sought an increased disability rating, alleging that his increasing alcohol abuse was the result of service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When the Board of Veterans Appeals denied the increase, claimant sought judicial review. The Veterans Court held that its interpretation of 38 U.S.C.S. § 1110 was binding precedent and barred recovery to the extent that Allen sought increased compensation for his alcohol abuse disability, either as secondarily service-connected or as evidence of the increased severity of his service-connected PTSD. 

Issue:

Does 38 U.S.C.S. § 1110 preclude compensation for an alcohol or drug abuse disability secondary to a service-connected disability or use of an alcohol or drug abuse disability as evidence of the increased severity of a service-connected disability?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that § 1110, when read in light of its legislative history, did not preclude a veteran from receiving compensation for alcohol or drug-related disabilities arising secondarily from a service-connected disability, or from using alcohol or drug-related disabilities as evidence of the increased severity of a service-connected disability. Therefore, the court rejected the lower court's statutory interpretation of § 1110 and to that extent reversed the lower court's order. The case was remanded for proceedings consistent with the appellate court's interpretation of § 1110.

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