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Former soldier with terminal cirrhosis denied PTSD benefits by Veterans Review and Appeal Board

by HR Law Canada

A former regular member of the Canadian Armed Forces has had his claim for benefits related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) denied by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB).

The case involved an unnamed appellant who had initially been denied entitlement for PTSD by Veterans Affairs Canada on July 5, 2022. This decision was subsequently upheld by a VRAB Entitlement Review Decision dated May 24, 2023. The appellant then sought an appeal against this decision.

The appellant’s advocate presented a case emphasizing the unique pressures and challenges of military service, arguing that his PTSD originated from service-related events, including harassment in the workplace. Specific incidents cited included a threatening situation involving the burial of barrels, a suicide attempt following a punitive response from the military, and harassment following an assault charge.

Despite these submissions, the Panel focused on the lack of corroborative evidence and inconsistencies in the appellant’s account. The Panel noted that the appellant’s service records did not document any of the alleged incidents before the diagnosis of his terminal condition, alcoholic cirrhosis.

Additionally, the appellant’s own statements during his application for disability benefits in 2022 centered on the assault charge, without mention of the other alleged incidents.

The medical evidence, including reports from mental health professionals during and after the appellant’s service, did not substantiate a link between his PTSD and military service. The medical records mainly addressed personal problems, such as alcohol abuse and legal issues, without mentioning workplace harassment or service-related trauma.

In its decision, the Panel adhered to the criteria set out in Section 39 of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act, which requires a thorough consideration of all evidence and the drawing of every reasonable inference in favor of the appellant.

However, the Panel concluded that the appellant had not met the burden of proving a significant causal connection between his PTSD and military service.

This decision underscores the complexities and challenges in establishing a link between military service and subsequent mental health conditions, particularly in cases where documentary evidence and medical records do not corroborate the claimed service-related events.

The VRAB’s decision, while acknowledging the appellant’s health issues, ultimately found no basis to grant the disability award for PTSD related to Regular Force service.

“Given the fact that the Appeal Panel found that the Appellant’s statements and testimony were non-credible, any potential link of PTSD to the Appellant’s military service dissolved,” it said.

“The Appeal Panel acknowledges that the Appellant has numerous health issues and wishes him well.”

For more information, see 100005209512 (Re), 2023 CanLII 129828 (CA VRAB).

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