Langdon v. McDonough, No. 20-1789 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Langdon served on active duty in the Navy, 1980-1996. After leaving service, Langdon sought disability compensation for a “spine condition especially [the] thorac[ic] [and] lumbar regions.” The VA determined Langdon had a service-connected thoracic spine injury, a non-service-connected lumbar spine injury, and only 55 degrees of forward flexion for his thoracolumbar spine. It also determined that Langdon’s service-connected thoracic spine injury caused no functional impairment; the non-service-connected lumbar spine injury caused his reduced flexion. Because his service-connected injury caused no functional impairment, the VA assigned Langdon a zero percent disability rating under 38 C.F.R. 4.71a. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals rejected his claim of entitlement to a 20 percent rating based on his limited thoracolumbar flexion but increased Langdon’s rating to 10 percent based on upper back pain under a different regulation, 38 C.F.R. 4.45(f), 4.59. The Veterans Court affirmed.
The Federal Circuit reversed. The VA’s regulation requires it to rate the thoracolumbar spine as a unit when applying the General Rating Formula. Under this interpretation, the VA does not dispute that Langdon has a service-connected thoracic injury with reduced thoracolumbar flexion that entitles him to a 20 percent disability rating under the General Rating Formula.