Gilbert v. Shinseki, No. 13-7056 (Fed. Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Gilbert served in the Navy. His reported medical history upon entry into service revealed no psychiatric defects. After leaving service, Gilbert was diagnosed with major depression and required treatment for psychiatric illness and alcohol dependence. Gilbert acknowledged that he experienced depressive episodes and suicidal ideation throughout his life, that he has been abusing drugs and alcohol since he was a teenager, and that he continued to abuse alcohol while in the Navy. Gilbert sought compensation for psychiatric disability and other conditions with the VA. Multiple psychiatric examinations produced conflicting opinions. The VA denied service connection; the Board affirmed. The statutory “[p]resumption of sound condition” was applicable because no psychiatric condition was noted upon entry into service, 38 U.S.C. 1111; to rebut the presumption, the government had to provide clear and unmistakable evidence demonstrating that the disease existed before enrollment and was not aggravated by service. Based on Gilbert’s acknowledged history, the Board concluded that the government proved that his psychiatric illness pre-existed enrollment, but that the government failed to establish that Gilbert’s “pre-existing depression was not aggravated by active service,” and did not rebut the presumption of soundness. The Board nevertheless denied service connection, concluding that Gilbert failed to prove that his post-service psychiatric conditions “were correlated to [his] military experiences.” The Veterans Court and Federal Circuit affirmed.