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May 27, 2024

Supreme Court Will Hear Veterans Benefits Case & Concerns about the MENT

Concerns About the Morel Emotional Numbing Test (MENT)

Worthen & Moering (2011) recommended that C&P examiners consider using the Morel Emotional Numbing Test (MENT) during PTSD exams, but we cautioned that “it is not yet known how many combat veterans with genuine PTSD intentionally perform poorly on the test because they naively believe that they are ‘supposed to’ fail the test because they have PTSD.”[1]

Recent research supports our concern. Williamson et al. (2024) suggest that a psychological phenomenon, diagnosis threat, exerts an influence on some veterans, resulting in higher MENT error scores even if they have genuine PTSDRead more ...

Bufkin v. McDonough Heads to the U.S. Supreme Court

Veterans Joshua E. Bufkin and Norman F. Thornton jointly appealed a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The cases were consolidated as Bufkin v. McDonough.

On 29 April 2024 the Supreme Court granted certiorari, which means the Court will hear the case during their next term (October 2024).

This is an important case because the Federal Circuit, and the Veterans Court before them, have, according to the petitioners and four amici curiae, ignored the clear intent of Congress, viz., that the Veterans Court take due account of the Secretary’s application of the benefit-of-the-doubt rule.

On the other hand, the Federal Circuit agreed with the Veterans Court that the underlying Board of Veterans Appeals decision was "not clearly erroneous" and therefore "the benefit of the doubt doctrine does not apply." Bufkin v. McDonough, 75 F.4th 1368, 1370 (Fed. Cir. 2023).

Learn more on the Compensation and Pension Exam News page or jump to specific sections of my writeup:

 

Continue reading "Supreme Court Will Hear Veterans Benefits Case & Concerns about the MENT"

May 20, 2024

What does this odd phrase mean in the M21-1 Manual?

The M21-1 Adjudication Procedures Manual contains a section titled, Accepting a Fee-Based Examiner’s Report, which states:

"There is no prohibition against acceptance of a VA examination report for rating purposes from a fee-based medical examiner who has previously submitted a statement on the claimant’s behalf."

I have often wondered, what exactly does "who has previously submitted a statement on the claimant’s behalf" mean?

I submitted an inquiry to the updated, and quite helpful, Ask VA site, and I received a reply that indirectly answered my question.

Here are the links to my write up of that inquiry and the conclusion I reached:

"... Who Has Previously Submitted a Statement on the Claimant’s Behalf"

» My Inquiry to Ask VA (what exactly does that phrase mean?)

» Ask VA's Response 

» Conclusion

 


I am writing an article tentatively titled: Why So Many Substandard Psychological C&P Exams? 

For experienced C&P psychologists you will not find any earth-shattering new insights, but it might offer a slightly new perspective.

If you would like to read a sneak preview (first 500 words), click here to download a copy. I welcome your feedback. 


Continue reading "What does this odd phrase mean in the M21-1 Manual?"

May 08, 2024

USMC Vet and his Wife Battle VA and Win Big

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Beaudette served honorably for 10 years, including five combat tours during OEF and OIF.

Among other disabilities, he suffers from the effects of multiple traumatic brain injuries and legal blindness and receives VA disability compensation at the 100% rating level. He and his wife began receiving VHA Caregiver Program benefits in 2013.

When Mr. Beaudette and his wife received notice in 2017 about a regular reassessment of Caregiver Program eligibility they asked for a delay until after Mr. Beaudette had recovered sufficiently from recent major surgies so that he could participate in the reassessment. 

In a baffling bureaucratic decision, VHA denied their request and made their reassessmemt decision based on medical records alone without interviewing the veteran and his wife, and ended their eligibility for the Caregiver Program. 

The Beaudettes followed VHA rules for appealing an adverse decision but to no avail. They finally appealed to the Board of Veterans' Appeals, but the Board ruled they did not have jurisdiction to review the VHA decision. The Beaudettes petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims for a writ of mandamus. 

The Beaudette's fortitude and determination to hold VA to account for a bonehead decision led to significant federal appeals court decisions overturning VA's legal mistakes. 

Continue reading "USMC Vet and his Wife Battle VA and Win Big"

Apr 28, 2024

Poor Quality Contractor Exams: Senator Warren Demands Answers

In a letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Senator Warren highlighted:

  • reports from veterans about examiners who had not reviewed their records;
  • exams conducted in hotel rooms or broomclosets; and that
  • VA still does not have a genuine quality assurance program for C&P exams. → Read more ...

And here is a highly relevant research article:

Andrew Meisler & Mayumi O. Gianoli, PTSD Disability Examination Reports: A Comparison of Veterans Health Administration and Contract Examiners, Fᴇᴅ. Pʀᴀᴄ. (2022).

This study offers "the first systematic evidence of greater symptom/impairment reporting and poorer overall quality in contract examinations for PTSD disability claims compared with those conducted by VHA examiners, with resulting differential outcomes in VHA disability ratings."


You might be interested in a newsletter I started recently:

Psychological Insights for Veterans Law Attorneys - a monthly newsletter that empowers attorneys and VA-accredited claims agents to effectively challenge the credibility of VA psychological exams.

Subscribers receive a unique guide I wrote recently: How To Challenge the Presumption of Competency for VA Mental Health Examiners.

The April 2024 issue offers a brief summary and PDF regarding: 

  • Important Considerations for Telemental Health C&P Exams, 

and addresses the question:

  • Should a Private Examiner Complete an Initial PTSD DBQ?

Continue reading "Poor Quality Contractor Exams: Senator Warren Demands Answers"

Apr 09, 2024

Removing a Veteran's 2nd Amendment Rights Now Requires a Court Hearing

On the Legislative Priorities page: Veterans 2nd Amendment Protection Act - Passed! New Law as of 9 March 2024

Continue reading "Removing a Veteran's 2nd Amendment Rights Now Requires a Court Hearing"

Apr 05, 2024

VA Disability Fraud Cases

Kandinsky-218

VA disability fraud cases, particularly involving PTSD and other mental disorder claims.

Continue reading "VA Disability Fraud Cases"

Jan 23, 2024

Trauma Exposure and Transdiagnostic Distress

Why is this Research Important for C&P Examiners? This research (Crowe, Hawn, Wolf, Keane, & Marx, 2024) provides additional evidence that service-related trauma ...

Continue reading "Trauma Exposure and Transdiagnostic Distress"

May 08, 2022

MST Compensation and Pension Exam

You are not alone

MST compensation and pension exam recommendations for psychologists and psychiatrists

Continue reading "MST Compensation and Pension Exam"

Apr 04, 2022

MST-based Claims Still Difficult without a PTSD Diagnosis

After Congress passed a new law in December 2020, I thought that henceforth claims based on MST, whether based on a PTSD diagnosis or not, i.e., they could be based on another covered mental health condition, would be treated in the same manner as PTSD claims, which are governed by 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f)(5).

But that has not happened. I therefore must conclude that either I misunderstood the new law or perhaps the first bill did not conform to proper statutory construction. For more on this topic, see:

MST that Causes Depressive, Anxiety, & Other Mental Disorders Should Be Covered ... and

VA Standard of Proof for non-PTSD, MST-related Disability Claims

 


My (Revised) Comment on Proposed Changes to VA Mental Health Ratings

On 15 Feb 2022, the Department of Veterans Affairs published a proposed rule to update the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD), which includes the General Rating Formula for Mental Disorders.

I submitted my comment, a 12-page document, on 8 Mar 2022. I have since revised it (3 Apr 2022), clarifying a couple of points and correcting some minor errors. It's on this page:

VA Mental Health Ratings 


Update: Correct VA Medical Records

I recently updated my article: How to Correct VA Medical Records

Thanks to veteran Mark Yelton, who asked a question in the Comments section (near the bottom of the page), I clarified recommendations for sending a letter to your local VAMC requesting a correction to your medical records.

And I added a CHECKLIST for Requesting a Correction, available online or as a PDF you can download.

See also 7 Reasons to Review Your VA Medical Records.

 



In brief ...

Navy Veteran Defrauds VA & SSA for Over $1 Million in Disability Benefits

Are You a Veteran with Law Enforcement Experience?

 


 

Continue reading "MST-based Claims Still Difficult without a PTSD Diagnosis"

Mar 12, 2022

VA Mental Health Ratings

federal register 1952

VA mental health ratings will change in 2022 or 2023.

Continue reading "VA Mental Health Ratings"

Mar 07, 2022

Is VBA Defying Congress?

The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 seemed to indicated that Military Sexual Trauma (MST) that causes depressive, anxiety, & other mental disorders should be adjudicated like PTSD under 38 C.F.R. § 3.304(f)(5), but VBA apparently disagrees.

Continue reading "Is VBA Defying Congress?"

Aug 26, 2021

Wounding Warriors

Wounding Warriors book cover

Wounding Warriors: How Bad Policy Is Making Veterans Sicker and Poorer - New book by LTC Daniel Gade PhD (US Army Ret.) & journalist Dan Xing Huang

Continue reading "Wounding Warriors"

Aug 23, 2021

Expanded Review of June 2021 Advisory Committee Meeting

I expanded my review of the June 2021 Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation meeting so that it now includes:

* Positive Aspects of the June 2021 ACDC Meeting

* Positive Aspect: VASRD Mental Disorders Update

* Concerning Aspect of the June 2021 ACDC Meeting

* Committee Wants More Info on VBA Quality Assurance Program

* VA Office of Inspector General also takes issue with VBA's claim that they measure disability claims outcome

* VA Office of Inspector General reports about VBA's quality assurance program

* My Letter to the Committee re: VA's Misleading "Accuracy" Metric

* VA's Misleading "Accuracy" Metric (5-page PDF document)

* Board of Veterans Appeals also publishes a misleading "accuracy" statistic

Continue reading "Expanded Review of June 2021 Advisory Committee Meeting"

Aug 14, 2021

Review of the June 2021 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation

* Positive aspects of the meeting.

* More info re: the update to the VA Schedule of Rating Disabilities (VASRD) for Mental Disorders.

* Concerning aspect of the meeting: Erroneous information given by VBA officials.

* New document: VA's Misleading "Accuracy" Metric.

Continue reading "Review of the June 2021 Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation"

Jun 28, 2021

Life Events Checklist: Reliable & Valid Scoring Methods

The Life Events Checklist (LEC) is a widely used self-report measure of trauma history that categorizes events by the proximity of trauma exposure; however, the field has published multiple scoring methods for the LEC.

Note that in this context, "proximity" means "how close to the trauma were you?" For example did a person experience the trauma directly? Observe the trauma? Or did they hear about the trauma?

The authors of this research study propose a novel scoring procedure in which total scores are weighted according to the proximity of trauma. The Weighted Score method assigns relative "weights" to three types of traumatic experiences.

Directly experienced trauma = 3

Observed traumatic event = 2

Heard about traumatic event = 1

For psychologists and psychiatrists who wish to ascertain the overall "trauma load", or "trauma burden", experienced by an examinee or patient, understanding the pros and cons of different LEC scoring methods should prove useful.

Continue reading "Life Events Checklist: Reliable & Valid Scoring Methods"

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