Matthew: Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Hill and Ponton Veterans video blog. I’m Matthew Hill.
Carol: I’m Carol Ponton.
Matthew: Today we’d like to talk to you about the importance of filing all the claims for all the issues you have. Carol and I see it all the time: a veteran files claim A that’s bad, and forgets claim B.
Carol: Right. I’ll have veterans who are service connected, say for PTSD, and maybe they’ve been service connected for years at a 30% rating. They also hurt their back, so they filed a claim for service connected for their back. But they don’t file for increased rating for the PTSD, even though it is much worse.
Veterans are so afraid of losing the benefits they have. You have to realize that this is not the problem that veterans have been told it is. We get our veterans much higher ratings on all of the issues. You have to know the ratings schedule.
Thirty percent for PTSD is not very bad PTSD. I have veterans who can’t be around other people, have terrible anger problems, and they’re still at 30% and have never asked for more because they’re afraid of losing 30%. Please don’t do that. That’s how you get your 100%. That’s how you get the benefits you’re entitled to.
I’ll have people that are service connected for orthopedic problems – terrible pain in their back or their legs – and it’s caused them to be depressed. They’ve withdrawn. They’re being treated for depression. Why didn’t you file a claim for it? Remember, if you’re service connected for something and it causes another problem, that problem is entitled to be service connected as well.
For some reason, the VA is very hard on orthopedic problems. They are very slow. To get more than a 40% rating for your back is very, very difficult – almost impossible. But to get service connection for the depression that your back has caused you is very easy. I’m talking about a 50% rating.
Matthew: Yes. The problem with the VA rating code, specifically with orthopedics, is they just care about your range of motion. They care how far forward you can bend, essentially, and where the pain starts. That has nothing to do with the functional impact of the disability on you.
We have veterans we represent for both VA and Social Security. They’ll have a 20% rating for their back and the VA is denying an increase. Yet, with the same evidence, they’ll be deemed by Social Security to be completely disabled and cannot work. The equivalent of that is that the veteran should be either 100% or unemployable in their regulations.
But as Carol was saying, for some reason, as bad as the orthopedic rating is, the rating for the mental claims is a lot more fair. It actually shows how depressed, how withdrawn the person is.
Carol: It really is. It’s amazing the difference. But some veterans are afraid to file this because they feel like, “I’m not crazy.”
This isn’t about being crazy. This is about dealing with the pain that you have because of the back problem or the leg that’s four inches shorter than the other leg, and how it’s affected your life. It’s a totally different thing. It is so much a part of your claim, and it makes it so easy to get 100%.
Matthew: Well, not easy, but you have a heck of a lot better chance.
Carol: Compared to where you are with the back, the VA is really hard on orthopedic problems. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go with them.
The other thing I would say is, with the orthopedic problems, a lot of times people are talking about their back. But because of the back, they have sciatica that goes down both legs. They fall. Their legs are in terrible pain. They might have foot drop because they can’t pick up their foot anymore.
Those are where you get the real extra benefits for a back problem. If you have these problems and you’re not getting benefits for them, you’re losing a significant part of your claim. That’s how we get veterans 100% for their back, because of the other problems that come from that.
Remember, the VA is supposed to look at that. Some of the new C&P exams actually talk about that, which is good. But you have to put them on notice. You have to tell them, “I’m filing a claim for my back and for the problems it causes, such as ___.”
This is your chance to let them know what’s going on with you. Not only when you file the claim, but when you go to the doctors, you need to make sure that they know these problems that are going on with you.
Matthew: Right. That starts with actually filing the appeal, making sure you file it and do a full-body system check. You know that your back is hurting you. You know that your back is service connected. But what secondary problems had that caused? The more you put down, then the more likely you’re going to get that rating you deserve.
Carol: There are just so many secondary service problems that the veterans aren’t seeing. You need to think about, “Are the problems I’m having related to my service-connected problem?” So many times they are, and you don’t even know that.
Matthew: Thank you for joining us today at the Veterans video blog. We look forward to seeing you next time.