Vietnam Veteran Wins Disability Compensation

February 5, 2010

Cleary Gottlieb won disability benefits for a Vietnam veteran pro bono client following a successful appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals. During his tour in Vietnam as a light weapons infantryman, the veteran was exposed repeatedly to loud noises, including a mortar blast on one occasion that went off inches from his head. Although he sought medical treatment for his injury at the time, neither the treatment nor his injury was documented. Beginning in 1974, the veteran sought disability benefits for hearing loss but was denied because his separation physical included a partial hearing test that did not indicate a hearing disability.

Working with The American Legion and the National Veterans Legal Services Program, Cleary Gottlieb began assisting the veteran in 2008 in an appeal of a 2005 Department of Veterans Affairs decision that again denied benefits for the veteran’s hearing loss and tinnitus. A significant challenge in the appeal was addressing the veteran’s 1969 separation physical, which indicated no hearing disability when the veteran left the service. Cleary Gottlieb’s brief to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals cited lay evidence from family members and soldiers who served with the veteran, an expert medical opinion, medical evidence and recent case law that supported linking the veteran’s hearing disability to service. The Board held that the weight of the evidence supported the veteran’s claim for service connection for his hearing loss and tinnitus. In January, the veteran was notified that he would receive increased VA disability compensation benefits as a result of his successful appeal.