Filing a VA Disability Claim for Parkinson’s
Published February 17, 2023
Are you one of the thousands of US veterans with Parkinson’s disease? Is your Parkinson’s connected to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War? It’s not too late to put in a claim for VA disability benefits, or to appeal a denial or underrating of a claim.
This article walks you through the VA disability process of getting tax-free, monthly payments for service-connected Parkinson’s VA disability.
The VA Disability Rating process
The VA disability claims process begins with filing an application form with the VA. You can do this yourself (the form is downloadable from the VA official website) or get assistance from a VSO (veteran service officer) near you. It is against the law for anyone (including attorneys or consultants) to charge a fee to a veteran for filing a VA disability claim.
The VA will then review the application, service records, and medical records. The VA may also request a C&P exam (Compensation & Pension Examination) so a medical professional designated by the VA can examine your condition.
If the VA finds that you have a current disability that is connected to your military service, the VA will grant your claim and assign a percentage rating number. If you have more than one condition, they will combine ratings into an overall disability rating. A disability rating will be a number between 0% and 100% (increments of 10). This overall rating number determines the dollar amount of monthly benefits.
If you disagree with the VA’s rating decision, you may appeal the rating decision. You probably will want to hire an experienced VA disability claim attorney to represent you in a VA disability rating dispute.
Was your Parkinson’s caused by your military service?
If you served during the Vietnam War, there’s a good chance you were exposed to Agent Orange, and the VA has acknowledged through a presumption that if you served in certain areas during certain dates, you were exposed to Agent Orange. If you were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the VA will grant a service connection. What that means is that you won’t have to search out a doctor who is able to connect the dots between your service and your diagnosis for a Parkinson’s VA disability claim; for most claims, you will only need to prove where and when you served, and the VA will automatically connect the two.
If you served in Vietnam anytime between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, including brief visits ashore or service aboard a ship that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam, or in or near the Korean demilitarized zone anytime between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971, the VA presumes that you were exposed to Agent Orange and that any subsequent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is connected to that exposure. Here are additional, newly added, timeframes and service locations with the same presumption:
- Any U.S. or Royal Thai military base in Thailand from January 9, 1962, through June 30, 1976
- Laos from December 1, 1965, through September 30, 1969
- Cambodia at Mimot or Krek, Kampong Cham Province from April 16, 1969, through April 30, 1969
- Guam or American Samoa or in the territorial waters off of Guam or American Samoa from January 9, 1962, through July 30, 1980
- Johnston Atoll or on a ship that called at Johnston Atoll from January 1, 1972, through September 30, 1977
Other veterans were exposed to Agent Orange too, even if not covered by this presumption. You can still present evidence to the VA that you were, in fact, exposed to herbicides during your military service. Some veterans served where herbicides were tested and stored outside of Vietnam. Some were crewmembers on C-123 planes flown after the Vietnam War and are known to have been exposed to Agent Orange. Some were veterans associated with Department of Defense (DoD) projects to test, dispose of, or store herbicides in the U.S.
What should you expect monetarily for Parkinson’s?
VA disability benefit payments are calculated on the basis of the rating percentage assigned to your client (a combined, overall VA disability rating) and, if the veteran has a spouse, dependent children, and/or dependent parents, higher payments will be paid. Per 2023 rates, a 10% rating equates to $165.92/mo and 20% rating equates to a $327.99/mo payment. These rates increase with higher ratings all the way up to $4,295.92/mo for a 100% rating for a veteran with a spouse, one dependent child, and two dependent parents.
Can you receive TDIU for Parkinson’s?
Total Disability Individual Unemployability (“TDIU”) is a finding that the VA can make for veterans meeting certain requirements relating to their inability to maintain gainful employment as a result of a service-connected disability. With TDIU, a veteran can get disability payments equivalent to 100% even though their disability doesn’t warrant it otherwise.
The easiest way to get a TDIU rating is if the veteran has a single service-connected disability rating of at least 60%, or a combined service-connected disability rating of at least 70%. However, a veteran can also qualify for a TDIU rating any time one or more of his or her service-connected disability[ies] prevents them from obtaining employment, regardless of the percentage of the disability rating through the process of requesting extra schedular consideration.
If you are struggling with maintaining employment as a result of your Parkinson’s or other service-connected conditions, it is worth checking out your options, not just for an initial claim, but to specifically request a TDIU rating. An experienced VA disability attorney can help you review your options.
How can you appeal your VA Disability rating?
If you do not like the decision that the VA has sent you on your VA disability benefits claim, you are not alone. According to VA statistical reporting, approximately 70% of initial claims are denied. However, many of the reasons for the denial are fixable on appeal. In fact, if you are represented by a private VA disability attorney for your VA disability appeal, there is an over 70% chance of getting at least a partially favorable decision on your appeal. A successful outcome may increase your VA disability rating.
There are three types of VA claim appeals that you can request: Higher Level Review (review by a more experienced VA rater), Supplemental Claim (allows you to add more information that may have kept your claim from being denied in the first place), or Board Review (allows you to have a live hearing with a judge, including the option of a video conference).
You have one year from the date of your Rating Decision to file your appeal.
Are you a veteran who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s? Are you dissatisfied with the decision the VA made on your Parkinson’s or another disability claim? Veterans Law Group has helped thousands of veterans to get the maximum VA disability benefits to which they are entitled. Get a free review of your case now.