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.