We recently began representation of a Korean War veteran who had appealed a denial of service connection for renal cancer causally-related to benzene exposure. During the initial triage of claim and legal memorandum to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (Board), we had briefed a few issues regarding Stegall v. West, 11 Vet. App. 268 (1998) and the C&P examiner’s misreading of a Canadian epidemiological study (Hu, J. et al, Renal Cell Carcinoma and Occupational Exposure to Chemicals in Canada, Occupational Medicine, Vol 52, No. 3, 157-164 (2002)). The Board had previously cleared the flightline so to speak regarding actual exposure in a prior remand.
On December 18, 2014 the Board of Veterans’ Appeals granted service connection for renal cancer, relying in part on the veteran’s interpretation of the above-cited Canadian study. The claim will now be remanded to the Agency of Original Jurisdiction to promulgate a rating decision that reflects the veteran’s level of disability for the period of time on appeal and present.
Although now-mooted, I’ll try and explain what I actions I had taken to remedy any questions regarding competent medical evidence. Foremost, we had contacted the Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group in attempt to get clarification of the adjusted odds ratio for renal cancer when the exposure was less than six years. Although we did not receive a response, in the past we have been successful in obtaining clarification regarding scientific/medical studies.
More significantly, we were in the process of obtaining a clarifying statement from the veteran’s treating physician regarding the causal relationship between renal cancer and benzene exposure. In addition to the aforementioned Canadian study, I had provided the physician with other scientific studies, copies of service and post-discharge medical records, and other evidence concerning post-discharge risk factors (which were not present for this veteran).
I’m happy to say (and believe I can speak on behalf of the veteran), the Board of Veterans’ Appeals acted so quickly that I had to contact the veteran’s doctor to explain that the issue was now resolved. I will apologize to the trees at a later point. . . .