Matthew Hill: Hi. I’m Matthew Hill with Carol Ponton and we’re on the Hill and Ponton Video Blog. And today we want to talk to you about Blue Water Veterans filing claims. And the question of should you hire an attorney at this point? And my answer is it depends. If you are filing a first claim, I don’t think you should hire an attorney at all. If you’re filing a claim where you feel like you have all the evidence, meaning showing exactly where your ship was, the extent of your disability. I mean, if you have heart disease showing your mets, I don’t think you need an attorney. I think you should file those cases yourself or through someone you trust, a veteran service officer, and see what happens.
Matthew Hill: Now, I will say this, the depends part. Once you actually get a decision, you need to figure out did they give you full benefits. And by that I mean did they give you 100% rating if you deserve it? And an example there would be if a person had Parkinson’s and they could barely walk and they could barely talk and they were given a 30% rating because they had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s an nothing else, that rating’s not correct.
Carol Ponton: No, it’s not.
Matthew Hill: Or if they … Carol and I are of the persuasion that if you filed these claims before, presumptive claims for Agent Orange before, and the appeal period died, let’s say, 10 years ago, we think those cases should go all the way back.
Carol Ponton: Exactly.
Matthew Hill: And so those are cases where you’re gonna want to look at … And as I tell my veterans, you don’t want to win the battle of service connection but lose the war of complete benefits. And so those are the cases that … Frankly, those are the cases we handle every day. And those are the cases where you might want someone to look at.
Carol Ponton: To look at. The sad thing is, someone is telling veterans that if you get a 30% rating for Parkinson’s, that’s good. That’s not good. That’s not good at all. Parkinson’s, you should have a rating for each one of the areas of your body that’s affected. Not just 30%. These are high benefit things your looking at-
Matthew Hill: The Agent Orange [crosstalk 00:02:05]
Carol Ponton: Agent Orange is high because you usually got your heart, high blood pressure, different types of cancer. And all of these things cost usually more than 100%, which is what a lot of our veterans don’t realize. You can get more … A lot more than 100%. So you ought to have somebody look at this. It doesn’t cost anything to have somebody look at it.
Matthew Hill: Being most attorneys operate to where if they don’t get you anymore benefits, they don’t pay-
Carol Ponton: They don’t charge you anything. So it doesn’t hurt you to have someone who knows what they’re doing to look it over and see, hey, you’re entitled to a lot more than this. And I see that all the time that they have been told, “Don’t touch this. You may lose it.” That doesn’t happen. It is very, very rare. And usually we get the clients their benefits back.
Matthew Hill: And so I mean, again, if you are filing an initial claim or you’re reopening a claim and you have the evidence but you feel like you do want more help, you can certainly hire an attorney at that time. But I also think it’s important to know that now that Blue Water Veterans or those within the 12 mile territorial seas are considered Vietnam Veterans, there are a lot of presumptions in your favor to where it makes it harder for the VA to get wrong. Let’s put it that way-
Carol Ponton: Not that they won’t make up.
Matthew Hill: There’s still that potential. But what is important on that is that you make sure not only you get the service connection, but you get the right rating and the right effective day as well.
Carol Ponton: Exactly.
Matthew Hill: Well, thank you for joining us today and have a wonderful rest of your day.