Matthew Hill: Hello, this is Matthew Hill with Carol Ponton. We’re here in the Hill and Ponton VA video blog and today, we want to talk to you about filing claims. When you should file claims, how to file claims, what claims to file. What do you say, Carol?
Carol Ponton: Well, when someone comes to me, often they come, they have a rating decision and the rating may be denial service connection for PTSD and the first thing I ask them is, “Are there other things that you think you should be entitled to that you haven’t filed for or that are not pending right now?” And what I want to do is make sure … the VA takes so long to process these cases that it’s important that all the that claims you think you might be entitled to are filed right away. The VA is very strange.
Carol Ponton: Sometimes they will give you service connection for something that you thought it would be very hard to prove and meanwhile, deny the one that you think is very clear. So I think it’s important for veterans not to go in and file for every problem they have right now but to think about, what problems do I think were caused by my service to the military?
Carol Ponton: Either, I was injured in the military and I hurt my knee or because of having to deal with a bum knee all these years, my back now hurts me. They need to think about all of the things that happened in the service or were caused by the service and file them all.
Matthew Hill: So I take it a bit differently on that in that I look to file so we have the claim, okay let’s say there’s a back claim. And the veteran comes to us and I say, “Well, what else do you have going on?” If the veteran tells me he has tinnitus or his toes got injured in service and they kind of hurt and there’s no real diagnosis now or residual, I’m not gonna file that. I’m gonna file what I consider to be the big claims. The claims that are … well, the VA what they’re looking for is to rate a veteran to the amount that the veteran’s disabilities prohibit working. So the greater the disability, in theory, the greater that the veteran’s rating should be.
Matthew Hill: And so, I’m looking for disabilities that help that. So back to the back example, the veteran comes with a bad back and I see he’s terribly depressed because his daily life has benefit destroyed by it-
Carol Ponton: Exactly.
Matthew Hill: Well that’s a claim I want to file, because if not for his back, he wouldn’t be depressed, he’d be able to be up and doing what he feels he can do in his life.
Carol Ponton: Exactly.
Matthew Hill: So I don’t file every claim but if there is a significant claim out there that he has not filed, I’m with Carol because it will be years before that first one subsided so you might as well see are there other issues that can be helped.
Carol Ponton: Well I think one of the problems is, what I see is, most veterans, the first thing they file for is hearing loss and tinnitus and tinnitus, the most you’re gonna get is 10%.
Matthew Hill: Right.
Carol Ponton: For one or for both ears, 10%, that’s all you get. Hearing loss, unless you are really, really impaired-
Matthew Hill: As in you can’t hear us right now.
Carol Ponton: Right. You’re not gonna get much of a rating at all. And so, it’s sad to me that they aren’t thinking about the other issues, that as Matt said, have really disabled them, have kept them from worked or have decreased their earnings. So I want to know about those things and I really want to get them filed.
Matthew Hill: Right. And we see cases coming on appeal. We don’t take new cases, the way the law’s written, the veteran can’t retain an attorney for a fee contract until they’ve actually been denied so we see cases that are coming to us, like Carol said, you’ve got a guy who’s got a denial of hearing loss and tinnitus and we’re looking at his file and he got fired from the last eight of his jobs because he couldn’t help but yell at his incompetent bosses and he has bad PTSD and we ask him about it and he said, “Oh yeah, it’s really bad,” but he hadn’t filed.
Matthew Hill: So those are the cases where we’re saying, “Wow, we need to focus on that.” But this isn’t at the initial. I would say at an initial claim, this goes back to what Carol said where if you’re filing that first claim, everything that keeps you disabled, not every entry you have to see- [crosstalk 00:04:00]
Carol Ponton: Right, the important things.
Matthew Hill: Yeah, well thank you very much, and we hope you have a wonderful day.