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Parkinson’s and VA benefits

Are you a veteran who is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease affects over a million people in the United States.  Many of these individuals are veterans.  Recently, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) acknowledged that veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange can develop Parkinson’s.  As a result, the VA now pays service connected disability compensation to these veterans.

The VA is in the process of granting these claims for Parkinson’s.  Although the VA now concedes that  Parkinson’s is service connected for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, it does not always grant the proper rating.  The base disability rating for Parkinson’s is 30%.  In most cases where the veteran has active Parkinson’s, this rating is completely inadequate.

Parkinson’s affects nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle movement.  The symptoms of Parkinson’s vary greatly and may include  trembling, poor balance, and problems with depression.  It is important to understand that the VA does not rate a disease, but the symptoms of a disease.  In other words, the VA is not going to pay the veteran because he has a diagnosis of Parkinson’s; the VA will pay disability benefits for all of the problems that are caused by Parkinson’s.

We represent veterans around the nation with Parkinson’s and we are seeing them receive inadequate ratings for this disability.  When a veteran has Parkinson’s that is bad enough to interfere with his ability to work, then the minimum rating should be 100%.  However, since Parkinson’s is so disabling, many veterans qualify for special month compensation (SMC).  SMC benefits are benefits above and beyond the 100% disability compensation. The VA recognizes that the profound nature of some disabilities requires compensation beyond the normal cases.  The difference to the veteran is significant in that it can be thousands of dollars more a month.

Remember, that obtaining service connection for Parkinson’s is just the beginning of the battle.  It is important to make sure that the VA fully compensates you for all the symptoms that are caused by the Parkinson’s.  Parkinson’s can be a devastating disease.  The VA laws acknowledge this and are there to make sure that the veteran gets the full compensation.  Unfortunately, the VA does not always award the veteran the full compensation and the veteran must appeal the decision to make sure that the veteran receives all he is due.

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by Matthew Hill
January 14, 2011

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