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Defense Base Act (DBA), Military and (JAG), VA Expert Witness, Combat Zone

Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

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Curriculum Vitae

By Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.

I have served as an expert witness in military venues and cases involving combat-related facts on numerous occasions.   Increasingly I am called about cases involving private contractors alleging injuries in a military zone (e.g. Defense Base Act aka DBA cases).  Obviously, combat and alleged combat-related injuries, are sometimes psychiatric.

My experience dates back to 1969-1970 when I was stationed at 5 USA Headquarters as the psychiatric consultant to the Surgeon of 5USA.  One assignment was to consult, and, if necessary, testify as the psychiatry expert witness for the Judge Advocate General. In that first case, in 1970, a man went to the Induction Board to be sworn in. He took the oath but couldn’t or wouldn’t step over the line as requested. Was it draft evasion or impaired mental health? In recent years I increasingly find myself asked to opine and testify in cases where private sector employees work in combat zones and suffer injuries in which there is a mental health issue (claim of emotional distress or PTSD caused by alleged employer acts, to name a few). Unprecedented numbers of cases of PTSD and other mental health disorders are being reported by veterans returning from combat in the Middle East.  Most recently, the VA released statistics about increased diagnoses of PTSD, related disorders, and even suicide, among soldiers who have served in Afghanistan.   Proper diagnosis, treatment and prognosis of the such illnesses by a trained physician–psychiatrist–is essential to any assessment.  (My article on PTSD addresses this in greater detail).  I have opined in Defense Base Act cases, and in issues arising out of disputes over VA benefits and insurance liability regarding non-combat employees, to name a few.  As an objective examiner, I am sensitive to issues of both malingering and, contrastly, the individual who is downplaying the severity of their symptoms–not surprising in a personality type hardened from battle.

I recently received a very kind and gratifying response regarding a VA case:

“A former soldier’s lifetime battle with PTSD and Veterans Administration failed claims for compensation ended in suicide. Was this a service injury? His widow was left with a battle for benefits. The VA Appeals Board was able to rely on your opinion to better understand the psychiatric factors, perhaps the most significant question at issue. His widow’s claim has been granted, his suicide acknowledged as an injury in the service of his country, and she is now receiving Dependents Indemnity Compensation. She (and I) are deeply grateful for your expertise, and support. -Col. Ralph B. Kelly, Retired”

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this website does not constitute legal or medical advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel or physician for the most current information and to obtain professional legal advice or medical advice before acting on any of the information presented.

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