For veterans grappling with Parkinson's disease, it's essential to grasp how this condition can impact their VA disability benefits. The VA assigns disability ratings to determine the compensation provided to individual veterans, and additional disabilities like Parkinson's can influence these ratings.
Parkinson's Disease And Recognition By The VA
Parkinson's disease is among the many disabilities officially recognized by the VA. Regardless of whether a veteran is already receiving disability benefits for any condition, understanding how Parkinson's disease can alter these benefits is invaluable knowledge. Many veterans heavily rely on VA disability benefits, making it crucial to understand what modifications they can anticipate from the VA about their Parkinson's disease.
Parkinson's Disease: A Neurodegenerative Disease
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that profoundly affects the brain. Specifically, it impairs the brain's capacity to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine plays a pivotal role in various functions, including movement, balance, concentration, and mood regulation. Sadly, there is no known cure for Parkinson's disease, justifying its classification as a disability by the federal government. The VA (Department of Veterans Affairs), SSA (Social Security Administration), and U.S. DOL (Department of Labor) all recognize Parkinson's disease as a covered disability under their respective programs.
Proving The Connection Between Parkinson's Disease And Military Service
Researchers have identified specific external factors associated with Parkinson's disease. Notably, exposure to these factors significantly heightens the risk of developing the condition. Many of these factors are herbicidal chemicals used in agricultural settings, with certain consumer-grade herbicides linked to an increased risk of Parkinson's disease.
One such herbicide is Agent Orange, employed by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Used to eliminate vegetation, Agent Orange was sprayed over forests and fields for better enemy identification. It often led to the exposure of U.S. forces and enemy combatants alike to the chemical. Post-Vietnam War, researchers uncovered severe health issues associated with Agent Orange exposure, including specific types of cancer and Parkinson's disease.
These health problems, including Parkinson's disease, fall under the VA's category of "presumptive conditions." This classification means that veterans with a history of exposure to
Agent Orange, during their service, is presumed to have acquired certain medical conditions due to this exposure, simplifying the process of establishing service connections and securing VA disability benefits.
What Are VA Disability Ratings For Parkinson's Disease?
Many veterans wonder if Parkinson's disease qualifies for a 100% compensation disability from the VA. While the VA Parkinson's disability rating can indeed reach 100%, it's not the default rating.
The starting point for the Parkinson's VA disability rating is 30%. When veterans apply for Parkinson's disability benefits, the VA evaluates their individual disability rating using a specific formula. It then compares this rating to the default rating for Parkinson's disease, which is 30%. If the individual rating surpasses 30%, that becomes the disability rating.
Consequently, it is possible to attain a 100% disability rating if the individual rating reflects such severity. Conversely, if the personal disability rating falls below 30%, veterans will receive a combined rating of 30%.
VA Recognizing Parkinson's-Like Symptoms In Veterans For Disability Benefits
In 2021, the VA expanded its list of presumptive conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to encompass Parkinson's-like symptoms as a form of atypical Parkinsonism. Atypical Parkinsonism is characterized by symptoms and adverse effects similar to Parkinson's disease but does not respond well to conventional Parkinson's treatments.
The VA faced a challenge because these Parkinson's-like symptoms closely resembled actual Parkinson's disease. In the eyes of the VA, excluding affected service members from disability benefits would be unjust. As a result, veterans presenting Parkinson's-like symptoms can also seek VA disability compensation ratings, recognizing the significance of these symptoms in their lives.