Lynch v. McDonough, No. 20-2067 (Fed. Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Lynch served on active duty in the Marine Corps, 1972-1976. In 2015, Lynch was evaluated on two separate occasions by Dr. Newsome, a private psychologist. Lynch described phobias about confined spaces, panic attacks, memory problems, mood swings, frequent nightmares, antisocial behaviors, and depression, which he attributed to intrusive memories from his time in service. Dr. Newsome reported that Lynch’s symptoms and the results of the PTSD Checklist supported a diagnosis of PTSD.
Lynch filed a claim of entitlement to disability benefits for PTSD and underwent a VA PTSD examination. The VA examiner reported that Lynch’s PTSD did not result in symptoms that were severe enough to interfere with occupational or social functioning or to require continuous medication and that the level of impairment observed by Dr. Newsome was not observed during the VA examination. The regional office granted Lynch’s claim with a 30% disability rating. Lynch filed a Notice of Disagreement and submitted two additional psychological evaluations conducted by a private psychiatrist, Dr. Jabbour. He underwent a second VA PTSD examination. The examiner found some of Jabbour’s conclusions “more extreme than what was supported by available evidence.”
The Veterans Court rejected Lynch’s argument that the Board misapplied 38 U.S.C. 5107(b) and wrongly found that he was not entitled to the “benefit of the doubt.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. The benefit of the doubt rule is inapplicable when the preponderance of the evidence is found to be against the claimant.