What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes just starting with a barely noticeable tremor in one hand. In the early stages, an individual’s face may show little or no expression, arms may not swing while walking, and speech may become soft or slurred. Typically, symptoms worsen as your condition progresses over time.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s are generally classified as motor symptoms or non-motor symptoms.
Motor symptoms include:
- Delayed movement
- Poor balance
Non-motor symptoms include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Urinary dysfunction
- Swallowing problems
- Mood disorders
- Cognitive deficits
VA Disability Rating for Parkinson’s Disease
The VA rates Parkinson’s Disease under the rating for Neurological Conditions and Convulsive Disorders. This code assigns an automatic 30 percent rating for the condition, but does not take into account the symptoms associated with it.
After beginning with the minimum 30 percent rating the VA should continue rating as follows:
- Evaluate each of the veteran’s symptoms/residuals associated with the disease
- Calculate the combined disability rating for those symptoms
- Assign the higher evaluation – either the minimum 30% rating OR the combined rated of symptoms
Parkinson’s Disease and Agent Orange Exposure
In 2009 the VA added Parkinson’s Disease to its list of presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure. This means that veterans who served in the following locations during the specified time periods and later developed it do not have to prove that their condition is related to service:
- Veterans with “boots on the ground”, those serving on inland waterways in Vietnam, and “blue water” Navy veterans between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975;
- Veterans who flew or worked in C-123 aircraft during the Vietnam War era; and
- Veterans who served along the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971.
Parkinson’s and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs when brain function is disrupted by a traumatic event such as an IED blast, gunshot, car accident, etc. There has been a substantial increase in TBIs among service members since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The VA diagnoses a TBI as mild, moderate, or severe based on the severity of their symptoms.
If Parkinson’s Disease develops at any point following a moderate or severe TBI, the veteran will be presumptively service-connected for it.
Camp Lejeune Contaminated Water Exposure and Parkinson’s Disease
The VA has established a list of presumptive conditions which includes Parkinson’s Disease, for service members that served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days from August 1, 1953 through December 31, 1987. This means that Camp Lejeune veterans do not need to prove that their condition is connected to their military service.
TDIU and SMC for Parkinson’s Disease
Because Parkinson’s Disease is such a disabling condition that affects daily functioning, veterans may qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC). SMC is a monthly benefit for veterans who have service-connected conditions that result in severe impairment.
Further, total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) may be an option if a veteran’s condition prevents them from securing and/or holding gainful employment. With TDIU veterans will be paid at the 100% rating regardless of their combined disability ratings.
Bosley & Bratch have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you or a loved one served, and suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, we are here to help. Call Bosley & Bratch at (727) 274-9227 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.