|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton VA Video Blog. I’m Matthew Hill.|
|Carol Ponton:||I’m Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||Today we want to talk to you about a certain kind of widow’s benefits, called DIC benefits. There are several ways to get this benefit, and essentially the benefit is an ongoing monthly stipend, monthly pension, that the widow, the survivor …|
|Carol Ponton:||The widower.|
|Matthew Hill:||The widower would get if the veteran died due to one of several reasons. We’re going to focus today on the primary reason people get it, and that’s a service-connected death. That means the veteran died due to a service-connected disability. The way that’s most obvious is, if you will, if the veteran’s service-connected disability was the primary cause of death. If there veteran’s hurt, service-connected, and he dies of a heart attack, then that widow, widower, would be entitled to service-connected compensation for that.|
|One area where we find that survivors get pushed into the cracks, if you will, by the VA, is the other way of showing that it’s a service-connected death, and that their service-connected disability contribute to the death.|
|Carol Ponton:||It doesn’t have to be the main cause. It can be a contribution to the death. I think of one where the veteran was service-connected for PTSD, but he died of a heart attack. His treating psychiatrist said that because of his PTSD and his anxiety, that they think that contributed to the problem with his heart. His widow as given DIC benefits for that.|
|Matthew Hill:||Basically what she’s saying is the PTSD didn’t cause the heart attack, but it contributed to the heart problem, which did. There are other ones. If a veteran has diabetes, and let’s say it’s a Vietnam veteran, and then has a heart disease, which is not coronary artery disease, which would be presumptive service-connected, but a different kind of heart disease, an arrhythmia. He dies of the heart disease. That’s another issue where the diabetes would contribute to the approximate cause of that death, because it affected or worsened, I guess you could say, the heart disease.|
|Carol Ponton:||Exactly. I think we actually had one where the arthritis was so bad that it … The pain that that contributed to the heart disease. There are a number of things that can contribute it. You really shouldn’t just disregard this great benefit just because it wasn’t exactly what’s on the death certificate. If you can show that it contributed to the death, then you’re entitled to benefits.|
|You always want to also just throw in the one about if you’ve been 100% disabled for ten years, it doesn’t matter what you die of. He can be hit by a car. You’re covered. That’s something always to keep in the back of your mind. If the veteran has been 100% disabled for ten years or more, the widow or the widower is covered.|
|Matthew Hill:||What she said is two totally unrelated things. 100% for PTSD, again, yet has cancer, which is completely unrelated, then they would be … The widow would be able to get DIC benefits.|
|Back to the service-connected death, and the proximate cause, as Carol said, these could be so outside the box. We won a claim recently where the veteran died of liver disease, and was service-connected 100% for PTSD. There was no connection between the two, except there was a note from his doctor saying that he was eligible for a transplant, but for his PTSD made him so wild, and so illogical, that it was not worth the risk, it was not worth the hospital to give him the liver. But for his PTSD, he would have had a new liver. If he would have had a new liver, her would not have died.|
|Carol Ponton:||Just look into this. This is a great benefit, and it’s missed by so many people that are entitled to this benefit. We’re not just talking about widows. There are dependents that could be getting this benefit, and the benefit can be very significant.|
|Matthew Hill:||Dependent children, and dependent parents.|
|Matthew Hill:||Thanks for listening in, and we look forward to seeing you next time on the Hill and Ponton Video Blog.|
|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to the Hill and Ponton video blog. I’m Mathew Hill.|
|Carol Ponton:||I’m Carol Ponton.|
|Matthew Hill:||Today we’re going to talk to you about Agent Orange and peripheral neuropathy. This is actually a pretty tricky one. Well, first of all, let’s back up. With Agent Orange, the VA has admitted that there are 14, 15 diseases that are related to Agent Orange. If you can show that you were exposed, the easiest way is if you were serving in Vietnam, they assume you were exposed. The will presume that any of these 14, 15 disabilities are service connected, and you don’t have to show that link in between. Big ones we always see, diabetes …|
|Carol Ponton:||Diabetes, prostate cancer, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s, a number of cancers.|
|Matthew Hill:||If you have one of these then there’s no fight from the VA on the service connection. The rating is a whole other story. If you have something that’s off the list, or there’s a temporal part of it, then that gets difficult. If it’s not in the perimeters of the list, the VA is going to deny you flat-out and just not give you time of day frankly on it.|
|Matthew Hill:||We talked about it being presumptively service connected. Even is something is presumptively service connected, the VA has to do the analysis of a direct service connection. Meaning, did something happened in service? Is there a current disability? Is there a link between the 2? In this case, you’d have something happened in service as far as Agent Orange exposure, current disability. We talked about kidney cancer before, and then is there a medical link? VA will never do that. They’ll just say, “Nope, not on the list.”|
|Matthew Hill:||We’re going to talk about 1 in particular today.|
|Carol Ponton:||It’s peripheral neuropathy which is actually on the list, but it says you have to develop it within 2 years, and then they assume it will … Of service, of exposure, and then they assume it will go away. We’re finding that there are many thousands of veterans who have developed this peripheral neuropathy much later in life. It could be 30 or 40 years. What they have is they have numbness, no feeling in their hands, their feet, their legs. It’s a terribly crippling disease, and the VA is denying all these. At the same time, they’re given free treatment at the VA because the medical realizes there’s a link between them. You can win these cases. We’ve won a lot of these cases.|
|Matthew Hill:||We should say there are a whole host of veterans who have Agent Orange exposure and are service connected peripheral neuropathy because of diabetes.|
|Carol Ponton:||Right, but this is different.|
|Matthew Hill:||Right. You’ll see that. People have diabetes and then they develop this, but this is a case where there is no diabetes at all.|
|Carol Ponton:||No diabetes. I can think of a person who, his blood sugar was fine, but he had peripheral neuropathy. He was a Seal in Vietnam. He was back in the jungle where they had a tremendous amount of this Agent Orange. I guess he was in his 60s where he had no feeling in his hands, his feet. He had foot drop. He couldn’t pick up his foot. He couldn’t zip up his pants. He couldn’t do anything. He actually went to private doctors and they did pretty much the same thing that the VA is doing. They have them come in every 3, 4, 5, 6 weeks. They actually have an infusion that takes all day long. They have to put in this medication that goes in, and they they’re almost back to normal.|
|They still have some problems, but they usually walk and use their hands. This is the peripheral neuropathy I’m talking about. I have veterans that say when they go into the VA, the VA in Gainesville in Florida, they’ll be a huge circle where they’re all sitting around having infusion together. They’re all for peripheral neuropathy, all Vietnam veterans. The VA has been turning these cases down, but you can win them. You’re probably not going to win them at the regional office, but the BVA, the Board of Veterans Appeal, which is where you go after your first 2 times at the regional office, they are approving these cases.|
|You’re going to need a medical opinion. You’re going to need a doctor who’s qualified. We have one that I’m thinking of in particular that she actually worked with the military for a while. She investigated toxins and their affect on the soldiers. To do an opinion that the exposure to Agent Orange is what has caused his peripheral neuropathy. Most of these diseases are totally disabling. This is something that I urge you to pursue. You can definitely win this.|
|Matthew Hill:||That’s all we have today, but thank you so much for joining us, and we hope to see you again on this space soon.|
|Matthew Hill:||Hello, and welcome to the Hill and Ponton VA video blog. I’m Matthew Hill.
|Carol Ponton:||I’m Carol Ponton.
|Matthew Hill:||Today we want to talk about a question we get all the time, and it doesn’t seem there’s much information out there about it, and that is, “What is the difference between 100% and individual unemployability?”
|Carol Ponton:||The 100% is when you add all of your VA ratings up, and using VA math you get to 100%. Just so you know how VA math works, VA math says if you have a 60% rating, only 40% of your body is left, so the next time you get a rating, say it’s 20%, instead of adding 20 to 60 you say it’s 20% of the 40% left, which is 8%, which gives you a 10% additional rating, not the 20%.
|Matthew Hill:||It goes on and on like that. Essentially the closer you get to 100%, the harder it is to get 100%.
|Carol Ponton:||If you have 90%, you have to get another 50% rating to get 100%, so it’s really hard to get that knock, but you can, but it is. The VA- Go ahead.
|Matthew Hill:||I was going to say, as a side note, if you’re trying to put together your ratings, we have a disability rating calculator now on our website on the homepage under the VA Law. Check that out, because I spent the first five years of my career being utterly confused on how they put one thing and another together. Back to what you’re saying.
|Carol Ponton:||The VA realized it’s very hard to get 100%, and there are many veterans who cannot work because of their service-connected problems, so they have unemployability. This is identical to the 100% except for the veteran is not working and their rating doesn’t reach 100%. In order to qualify for unemployability, you have to be not working because of a service-connected problem and have one rating of 60% or more or a combined rating of 70% or more.
|Matthew Hill:||With one of those combined ratings being 40%.
|Carol Ponton:||Right. If you have that, then the VA should consider whether you are 100% disabled because of your service-connected problems. If they find that, they give you unemployability. You get the same benefits, everything is identical, except one thing: You can’t work. Every year they’re going to send you a form, “I find you 100%, permanently, and totally disabled under unemployability,” but there’s a catch. Every year you have to fill out the form they send you that says, “I haven’t worked.” If you don’t fill the form out-
|Matthew Hill:||Well, it asks if you’ve worked or not, and another thing people don’t realize sometimes is you can work. You can work and make up to the poverty line.
|Carol Ponton:||Well, the closer you get to the poverty line, the more I’d be concerned.
|Matthew Hill:||This is theory. I’m speaking in theory.
|Carol Ponton:||In theory, because remember, there’s no firm law as to exactly what working means as far as dollars. They say the poverty line, but I’ve seen people brought back in and questioned when it’s significantly less than that. I’m just saying, you can’t work, you make 2, 3, 4 thousand, I don’t think you’re going to have a problem, but if you get close to $12,000 a year, I would be concerned.
|Regardless, every year you have to report to the VA. When they send you the form, send it back showing whether you’ve worked, how much you’ve worked. If you do that, your benefits continue if you haven’t worked. If you don’t, you’re going to get a letter saying, “We are proposing to reduce your benefits because you didn’t complete the form.” You don’t want to do that, because sometimes it takes two or three months for the VA to get the evidence that you’re sending in, and they’re going to go ahead and reduce you while they’re waiting, so send the form in.
|Matthew Hill:||Yeah, and this applies for the rest of your life if you never work again. You need to fill that out, say, “I’m not working.” You either do this online on their system, or you send it in certified mail, because as Carol said, this is terribly inconvenient.
|Carol Ponton:||It’s a real easy form. You pretty much just have to give them, if you haven’t worked, sign your name, and send it back, but the two types of … 100% and unemployability are utterly the same except for that.
|Matthew Hill:||As long as you’re permanent and total. Thank you for joining us today, and we look forward to seeing you on this space again soon.
|Matthew Hill:||Hello and welcome to the Hill and Ponton video blog. I am Matthew Hill, here with …
|Carol Ponton:||Carol Ponton.
|Matthew Hill:||Today we want to talk with you about one of the side benefits about being 100% service connected, permanent and total. A lot of people know about being able to go to the commissary on the local base or getting tax benefits, either tax waived or significantly reduced for a real estate property or the tags for their vehicle, but there is another one that, unfortunately, a lot of people do not know about and that’s student loans.
|Carol Ponton:||Right. If you’re 100% service connected, then you’re entitled to have your federal student loans waived, all of them, but you have to ask. You need to get the paperwork that says, “This certifies that you are 100% service connected veteran.” You send it in and request that all your federal loans be waive because you are disabled. They will do that. That’s an incredible benefit because, as you know, there’s no other way to get rid of them.
|Matthew Hill:||Right, those loans follow you to death and, unfortunately …
|Carol Ponton:||And beyond.
|Matthew Hill:||Right, if somebody cosigned, like a parent or a wife, then it follows that person until they’re paid. It’s a huge benefit. The question we would get here most often would be, “What if I’m not 100% service connected but I’m unemployability, or I have unemploy …”
|Carol Ponton:||Unemployability is the same thing because you’re 100% service connected disabled.
|Matthew Hill:||The key is with either 100% or unemployability, you have to show that it’s permanent and total. If you have that permanent and total status, then you’re eligible for this benefit.
|Carol Ponton:||Right, and you have to ask.
|Matthew Hill:||Yeah, that’s … It’s unfortunate. This isn’t one they advertise, but it is a big benefit. Thank you for tuning in and we look forward to seeing you next time.
|Matthew Hill:||Hi, this is Matthew Hill, with Carol Ponton on the Hill & Ponton video blog. Today we’re here to talk to you about lost evidence by the VA. A lot of the veterans we represent have a fear, almost paranoia that the VA either threw away their evidence or shredded it or purposely didn’t put it in their file. We actually have an incident now where the VA is admitting that. They’re admitting that they didn’t put evidence in the veteran’s file.|
|Carol Ponton:||They’re admitting they didn’t get it.|
|Matthew Hill:||Ah, They’re admitting they didn’t get it.|
|Carol Ponton:||Whether the fax machine didn’t work, what the … Now that it’s paperless, it’s supposed to automatically go into the veteran’s file. Whatever happened, they’re admitting they didn’t get it, so you really need to re-submit it.|
|Matthew Hill:||And they’re admitting it from?|
|Carol Ponton:||August of 2015 through December. I can tell you, in doing our work, we get a lot of criticism because we send in duplicates, but then we find they don’t have what we sent in. During that period-|
|Matthew Hill:||Criticism from the VA.|
|Carol Ponton:||From the VA.|
|Matthew Hill:||That they call us and say that you’re purposely over stuffing the file to make it complicated.|
|Carol Ponton:||We try not to do that, but then we’re finding over and over again that the crucial evidence was missing, and it had been submitted numerous times. The VA is admitting that specifically the time August of 2015 through December, that a lot of evidence did not end up in the file. They’re sending veterans letters saying, look, if you’ve already gotten a decision, we can reopen this. We’re going to take you all the way back to that claim if you want and maybe you can get benefits because evidence was missing, so don’t miss this opportunity. Whatever evidence that you sent in, or that you thought went in, take them up on it. Re-submit it. Figure out what it is. This also re-opens your case. Say you didn’t get around to appealing it, or you thought they had evidence and they denied you, don’t count on that. You need to send in the evidence and make sure they have it, and make them make another decision.|
|Matthew Hill:||I would suggest sending that evidence in, even if they don’t contact you. Be assertive, pro-active on your case. Another way you can tell if they had the evidence is if you look at the rating decision. In that, they’ll tell you what the issues are, and the next thing they’ll tell you is the evidence reviewed. That’s a quick way to scan what evidence they used. I would look at that even if your evidence was not in the August 2015 to December 2015 time period, because if they don’t have a crucial piece of evidence, like Carol said, they don’t do with us time and again, then that’s important to re-submit and get them to look at it.|
|Matthew Hill:||Thank you for joining us today. We look forward to hopefully seeing you soon.|
Matt Hill: Hi, thank you for joining us on our VA Hill and Ponton video blog. This is Carol Ponton and I’m Matthew Hill. Today we want to talk to about a question we recently received about whether a veteran has to stop working once they receive their disability benefits. This question was about a veteran who was a 100%.
There are 2 ways to get a 100%. There’s when one disability or all your disabilities combine to a 100% on their rating schedule, or if you are in receipt of what’s called total disability due to individual unemployability. Which essentially individual unemployability, or IU is what it’s typically know as, but that’s essentially where your service connected disability doesn’t combine or add up to a 100% but it keeps you from working. You get paid the same rate at a 100%.
Carol Ponton: Right. The only things is you can’t work.
Matt Hill: Well, yeah. That goes back to the question, can I work if I get a 100%? There’s 2 parts to that. With a 100% you don’t have to worry about that at all.
Carol Ponton: Schedular 100%.
Matt Hill: Schedular 100% you’re fine you can work, if you work. With the unemployability it’s not that straight forward. You actually can work and earn under, if you earn up to or under the poverty threshold which I think is $11,000 or $12,000 or so. Then that’s considered to not be full employment and you can still receive the total disability due to individual unemployability.
I would say that if you do that there’s a potential though that the VA’s going to review you to see if you are better. As the law is written you can work.
Carol Ponton: Right, that’s how it’s written, but that is scary with the VA. Ever year if you have a schedular 100% the VA doesn’t bother and you’re permanent until they don’t bother with you again. If you have a 100% due to unemployability every year they will send you a form and say, “Have you worked in the last year?” If you don’t send that form in they will cut you off. If you send the form in and show earnings depending on the earnings then they cut you off.
Matt Hill: Right. Well regardless if you had earnings or not it’s imperative to send in that form. We’ve had several veterans who just had their benefits cut off and they didn’t understand why, and they hadn’t submitted that form. That needs to go in.
Carol Ponton: They were confused, they thought well I’m permanent and total. I’ve been found a 100% why should I have to send that in. Because that’s the 100% under unemployability is based on not working. That’s the only thing you have to do is once a year prove that you’re not working by submitting the form.
Matt Hill: Of course, I mean if you did work you do show that. That’s the main difference between a 100% on the schedule and then unemployability. Otherwise you’re paid the same. All the other … If you’re permanent and total for each you get all the same benefits. The work issue you need to be aware of.
Carol Ponton: Right.
Matt Hill: Thanks for joining us today.
Matt Hill: Hello and welcome to another Hill & Ponton video blog. I’m Matthew Hill, here with Carol Ponton. Today we want to answer a question we received recently from one of our veterans and one we get often and that’s regarding survivor’s benefits. The question we get is, what will happen when I die? Will my wife still get benefits? What happens to my claim when I died? Is she eligible for those benefits?
It’s a pretty complicated question, but it’s one where the short answer would be, yes, she could…
Carol Ponton: If.
Matt Hill: Well yes “if”, right. There’s two sets of benefits at issue here. The first set is what are called accrued benefits, meaning the benefits that you have accrued by being in the system. If you’ve watched any of our videos on time frames, you appreciate, and if you’ve been in the system, that it can take anywhere from a year to seven years to get your benefits. If you were to die at some point in that process, your wife could substitute in.
I recently had a wife substitute in on a case where the veteran had been appealing for six years and he actually finally won and then died. She substituted in to take the case back from the Board of Veterans’ Appeals to the regional office to get that case implemented.
The other real quick area is what’s called DIC benefits. It’s a survivor’s plan, basically a monthly payment to where, if a veteran died due to a service-connected disability, then that survivor would get those benefits.
Carol Ponton: The two things that would qualify a widow or widower for that is if the veteran had been totally disabled, 100% disabled for 10 years or more, or if the cause of death was a service-connected problem or if that service-connected problem contributed to the cause of death.
Matt Hill: The short answer is, and we tell all our veterans that we’re not leaving until they or their spouses or even their young children, get the benefits they deserve. Yes, there are opportunities both to get the benefits that the veteran himself was fighting for during that claim and then a continuation of that through the DIC benefits if that disability caused the veteran to pass away. Thank you for joining us.
Matt Hill: Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton video blog. I’m Matthew Hill.
Carol Ponton: I’m Carol Ponton.
Matt Hill: And today we want to talk to you about a question we’ve gotten recently, which is a veteran asking us “if I have my own copy of my claims file, why do you have to go get one from the VA?” I think, first thing to discuss with this, is what is the claims file? The claims file is the form the VA benefits section keeps on you, not the VA health administration which has all of your medical records. The benefits section keeps a file that has any and every claim you filed since discharge and all the information and evidence that was included to go through those claims. It’s in the order in which those claims were filed.
Carol Ponton: I’ve had many veterans say “well, I have a copy of my claim file.” Sometimes, what they have is what they sent to the VA and what the VA sent back to them. That’s not a copy of their claim file, there would be a lot more evidence in there, compensation pension exams, the VA’s thinking on what they, why they did what they did with the case. Other times they do have, they have been sent a copy of the claim file but it’s been changed. As Matt said, there is a great significance in the order in which things are placed. What happens is when a veteran files a claim, you have the 526 that’s put in there, and then you have everything that is put in the file after that. But, they’re all put in in the date they’re received, there’s no organization, there’s no particular order. That allows us to see whether or not, for instance, there are old claims that are available to be reopened, it tells us a lot of things that allows us to get the maximum benefit for the veteran. If the claim file is mixed up, then we can’t be sure of what actually happened in the procedure from the day you first filed a claim to now. That is a real problem.
Matt Hill: When we represent veterans, our job is to do a competent and professional job, and so when our vets get frustrated on this note, you know, a claim is going to last, in all likelihood, anywhere from 18 months to 3 years, just on the way the VA’s processing cases. From the get-go we want to have the basis on which the VA is making their decisions and have made all past decisions. It’s a matter of just doing the job competently and professionally from day one.
Carol Ponton: A lot of times our veterans will say “I was in Vietnam, I have Diabetes, why aren’t they recognizing that? I keep showing them I was in Vietnam.” Once we get in to the claim file, we realize, the VA is not saying you weren’t in Vietnam, they’re saying “we don’t have a diagnosis of Diabetes.” Or “we don’t have a diagnosis of the Peripheral Myopathy or Heart Disease.” And so that tells me what the VA needs to win. I’ve had this happen so often with my clients, it’s really hard to figure out sometimes what the VA wants, and once you get that to them, then you win your case. But, you have to read the claim file. If we need an independent medical exam, we need to have our doctors, have read the important parts of the claim file. If they haven’t then the VA, when they get this opinion, is going to disregard it in most times, they’re going to say “our compensation and pension examiner read the claim file, your doctor didn’t, so this doctor, the VA doctor knows better than yours.” We don’t want that to happen, and we found when we get the claim file, and we have our doctor review that, that’s very hard most of the time for the VA to refute.
Matt Hill: Thank you for joining us today.
Matt Hill: Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton video blog. I’m Matthew Hill here with Carol Ponton. Today we would like to talk to you about the intersection of the 2 areas of law we practice. VA Disability benefits and Social Security Disability benefits. All the time we’re asked is there an offset of one benefit from the other, meaning if you received social security benefits is it offset by VA, you have to reduce one or the other. The answer is …
Carol Ponton: It’s somewhat confusing but …
Matt Hill: It depends.
Carol Ponton: It depends. There is regular social security disability that you’re granted benefits because you’re disabled and because you worked and paid social security disability benefits. There is no offset. If that’s what you get. There are VA benefits that you get that are for service connected problems. It’s not a pension, it’s not given to you because you’re disabled and you don’t have much income. It’s given to because these conditions are related to what happened to you in service. Those 2 types, there’s no offset.
There are other types, there’s a social security it’s called supplemental security income and there’s a VA pension. Those are both related to your income as well as disability. If that’s what you have, yes there could be an offset. The majority of people are getting regular social security disability benefits, either through the disability program or retirement program. Those are not offset with regular VA disability benefits that are related to something that happened to you in the service. A lot of times people are hesitant to file for one or the other, thinking they’re going to be offset. That is normally not the case. You should check both of them out.
Matt Hill: That being said, if you have supplemental security income, SSI or non service connected pension you need to be aware when you get benefits from the other. If you had SSI and then you had service connected benefits, if the social security administration finds that out and keeps on paying you the SSI, there will be an over payment which they will come and try to collect from you. Same thing from the other side. If you’re receiving a non service connected pension and you win social security disability benefits, the VA probably won’t find that out.
Carol Ponton: When they do, they will. When they find it out.
Matt Hill: Years later. They’ll come back and want all that money back. That is something to be aware of.
Carol Ponton: You ask, how can they take it back? They just stop paying you.
Matt Hill: Yeah. That’s something to be aware of, but I agree with Carol, service connected disability compensation and social security disability income. Those are benefits that you have earned, earned through representing our country with the service connected compensation. Then the social security disability income through paying into the system. You definitely want to collect on both of those when you’re eligible.
Carol Ponton: Right.
Matt Hill: Evidence from one can help the other, as far as proving your claim.
Carol Ponton: When the VA decides whether you’re entitled to unemployability, they want to see whether you’re on social security disability. That’s very important to them in deciding whether you are unemployable.
Matt Hill: Thank you for joining us today on this question.
Matt Hill: Hello and welcome to another Hill and Ponton Disabilities Blog. I’m Matthew Hill here with Carol Ponton. Today we’d like to talk to you about Parkinson’s disease and specifically Parkinson’s ratings. Over the last four or five years, after the VA finally conceded that it was related to Agent Orange, we’ve handled dozens of these cases. Where we see major mess ups are on the rating. The way the VA rates cases is two fold. They either rate the diagnosis or they rate the symptoms of the disability. With Parkinson’s, the way the diagnosis is rates is that its given a flat 30%. If you have Parkinson’s and your service connected, the minimum of which they must pay is you 3%. It doesn’t stop there and that’s the problem we see because a lot of times they don’t rate the symptoms.
Carol Ponton: You’re right. They don’t rate the symptoms so I think it’s a 30% minimum if you have Parkinson’s but then Parkinson’s causes problems in every area. If you have tremors and you can’t use your hands, remember then they should rate both arms, both hands. It’s can you use your hands? Are you able to use your arms at all? Same with your legs. Can you walk? Can you use your feet? Are you in a wheelchair? All of these areas, if you have problems, you get to be rated but it’s more than that. Parkinson’s will unfortunately sometimes affect your bladder and bowel control. You’re entitled to a separate rating for each one of these problems. Speech. Swallowing. Parkinson’s unfortunately can affect so many of the areas of the body and sometimes people can’t even use their hands or feet any more. That’s a separate rating. That’s called an SMC, a Special Monthly Compensation and you can get a lot more money a month if you’ve lost the ability to use your hands and your feet. Mood. Thinking. Parkinson’s can really destroy that. That’s a separate rating right there. You could get 10% just for the mood and the affect on the mood for Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s should be giving you a very high rating. If you aren’t getting that, you need to look and make sure each one of the problems that you have is being rated by the VA.
Matt Hill: Right. As Carol was saying, Parkinson’s is a central nervous system disorder so that it doesn’t affect just one areas of the body but it can affect, as she said, things as different as speech and use of tongue to not being able to properly step with your foot causing loss of balance. It is important when you are looking at you’re Parkinson’s case, and a lot of times it’s so difficult because you are fighting to get service connected, to get the VA to recognize that it’s actually related to service. Once that happens, you need to make sure the rating is correct. It’s as Carol said, it’s almost as if you need to do a full inventory of problems with your body and make sure everything is noted.
Carol Ponton: There can be a 60% rating for bladder or urinary control. Those are separate ratings as well. Unfortunately what we see is, we usually see a very low rating for Parkinson’s when in fact it should be, sometimes mostly, 100% or more.
Matt Hill: Carol alludes to or more. We’ve also seen plenty of cases where it’s 100%. Just recently I was able to get benefits for a veteran who had been at 100% and get significant special monthly compensation. Just to use round numbers here, 100% is about $3000. We took that veteran from $3000 to $7500 because …
Carol Ponton: A month.
Matt Hill: A month because the loss of use he had of both his arms and his legs was so extreme. That’s the thing with this disability. You want to make sure that not only is it rated solely on the diagnosis itself, but all aspects are accounted for. Again, if you get to a point where you can’t really pick up a fork, or can’t walk properly without holding on to something, those are areas where you really need to probably look into pushing a case up and above 100%.
Carol Ponton: Right. Remember. Veterans are afraid of … Be careful, you’ll lose what you have. With the disabilities we see with our Parkinson’s clients, they aren’t going to lose that. In fact, they’re losing very important benefits. Aid and attendants. It just goes on and on. If you can’t see the problems, because sometimes people who have these problems are trying to just get on with it and not dwell on it. Ask your partner, ask your wife, ask whoever helps you. They are going to be able to tell you, yes, these are areas that have been affected because of the Parkinson’s.
Matt Hill: Thank you for joining us and if you want more information on Parkinson’s disease, please look at our blog. We have quite a few entries on this and take care and have a nice day.
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