VA Disability Rating for Agent Orange and Parkinson's Disease
Many veterans were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. This exposure has caused various health problems, including Parkinson’s disease. If you are a veteran with a history of Agent Orange exposure and Parkinson’s disease, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. Veterans Guide can assist with filing your Agent Orange and Parkinson’s disease VA claim and help you get the compensation you deserve.
Agent Orange was a chemical used during the Vietnam War with drastic ecological and physiological effects. Many Vietnam veterans have developed serious symptoms after experiencing Agent Orange exposure, including Parkinson’s disease.
If you are a veteran exposed to Agent Orange and have Parkinson’s disease, you are probably eligible for VA disability benefits. The VA established presumptive service connections for many veterans, including those who served in Vietnam and the Korean Demilitarized Zone. Veterans Guide’s knowledgeable and compassionate advocates can help you obtain maximum compensation by identifying your Parkinson’s VA disability rating, determining whether you can claim a presumptive service connection, and assisting with the application and appeal processes.
Veterans and Agent Orange and Parkinson's Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder affecting the nervous system. Symptoms vary depending on the person and the severity of the condition. Mild and moderate signs of Parkinson’s disease include:
- Tremors (rhythmic shaking): As a Parkinson’s patient, you may experience tremors in your fingers and hands.
- Slowed movement (bradykinesia): Parkinson’s disease may slow your movements, making simple tasks such as getting out of a chair time-consuming and difficult.
- Impaired balance and posture: Your posture may hunch, and you may experience balance problems.
- Speech changes: You may hesitate before speaking and talk quickly, softly, or with a slur.
- Writing changes: You may have difficulty writing, and your handwriting may look small.
The United States Army used Agent Orange to defoliate shrubs and trees and kill crops that provided food and cover to opposition forces. However, it also had extreme effects on the human and animal population. Many veterans and opposition forces were exposed to Agent Orange on land and in some waterways.
One of the chemicals in Agent Orange is dioxin, which has been proven to cause severe health damage and congenital deformities. Research has shown that dioxin alters the complex chemical and cellular balances involved in reproductive processes and bodily functioning, leading to conditions like Parkinson’s disease. The VA has added Parkinson’s disease to a list of conditions presumed to result from Agent Orange exposure.
Advanced signs of Parkinson’s disease include the inability to live independently, difficulty walking, and cognitive issues, including delusions and hallucinations.
Parkinson’s disease happens when neurons in the brain gradually die or break down. The symptoms of Parkinson’s result from the loss of neurons that create dopamine, a chemical messenger in your brain that causes irregular brain activity when its levels decrease.
Is Parkinson’s Disease a Presumptive Condition for Veterans?
Yes, Parkinson’s disease is a presumptive condition for veterans. Presumptive conditions are exempt from the standard proof requirements for service connection. As such, if you have Parkinson’s disease and you were in the following locations during the specific timeframes, you will qualify for VA benefits:
- Vietnam: January 9, 1962, to May 7, 1975
- Korean Demilitarized Zone: April 1, 1968, to August 31, 1971
- Camp Lejeune: August 1953 to December 1987 (minimum of 30 days)
Veterans with Parkinson’s disease who did not serve in these locations and timeframes may still qualify for a service connection. However, they must provide medical proof linking their Parkinson’s diagnosis to toxic exposure during service. Examples of non-presumptive causes of Parkinson’s disease include traumatic brain injuries and burn pit exposure.
How Does the VA Rate Parkinson’s Disease, and What Are the Residuals of Parkinson’s Disease?
The VA uses diagnostic codes and ratings to identify disability types and severities. It also uses them to determine how much compensation veterans can receive for their illnesses.
Parkinson’s does not have its own diagnostic code under the VA’s schedule of disability ratings. Instead, the VA evaluates the condition based on its symptoms. Veterans with Parkinson’s are automatically rated under Diagnostic Code 8004 in 38 CFR § 4.124a – Schedule of Ratings, Neurological Conditions, and Convulsive Disorders and receive a minimum rating of 30 percent.
To grant a VA disability rating for Parkinson’s over 30 percent, the VA evaluates each residual separately. Residuals are lingering disabilities that arose in service. Examples of residuals of Parkinson’s disease include the following:
- Postural instability
- Bladder incontinence
- Speech problems
- Difficulty swallowing
- Facial muscle paralysis
- Cognitive disorders causing social or occupational impairment
Once the VA has granted each ascertainable residual a unique rating, it combines the residual ratings with the 30 percent minimum to create the overall rating.
For example, suppose you have a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis with its 30 percent rating and a residual rating of 60 percent for urinary incontinence. The VA will combine the residual rating with the 30 percent minimum, resulting in a 90 percent total rating.
A Veterans Guide advocate can evaluate your symptoms and help you determine your VA disability rating.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Parkinson's Disease
If your Parkinson’s disease is so severe that you cannot work, you may be eligible for Total Disability Individual Unemployability, or TDIU, benefits. This monthly payment is for veterans who cannot work due to service-connected or presumptive disabilities.
To receive TDIU benefits for Parkinson’s disease, you must meet the following criteria:
- You have at least one service-connected disability rated at least 60 percent disabling. Alternatively, you have multiple service-connected disabilities, with one rated at least 40 percent disabling and a combined rating of 70 percent or more.
- Due to your service-connected disability, you cannot sustain a steady job that supports you financially. Odd jobs do not count as steady employment.
What Is Special Monthly Compensation?
Special monthly compensation is given to veterans whose conditions are more debilitating and serious than those for which the 100 percent rating can compensate. For example, you may be eligible to receive it if your service-related Parkinson’s disease makes you bedbound.
Special monthly compensation is not a separate claim but part of the original claim. You should consider seeking TDIU at the same time.
Secondary Disabilities Caused by Parkinson's Disease
Your service-connected Parkinson’s disease could cause a secondary service-connected disability. Examples of conditions that may be considered secondary to Parkinson’s disease include:
- Heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Ischemic heart disease
- Injuries caused by falling
- Sleep problems
Since the VA already granted you a service connection to your Parkinson’s disease, you would not have to show that the secondary condition is connected to your service. You would only need to show that the condition was triggered or exacerbated by your Parkinson’s.
Contact Veterans Guide to learn more about the conditions the VA may consider secondary to Parkinson’s disease.
PACT Act and Toxic Exposure
The PACT Act is a recent law that expands VA benefits and health care for veterans exposed to Agent Orange, burn pits, and other toxic substances. It expands the list of health conditions the VA presumes are caused by exposure to certain substances.
Parkinson’s disease, among many other conditions, was already a presumptive condition before the passing of the PACT Act. The PACT Act did, however, add two new Agent Orange presumptive conditions:
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance
- High blood pressure, or hypertension
How To Obtain VA Disability Compensation for Parkinson's Disease
If you are a veteran with Parkinson’s disease, the government presumes Agent Orange and other toxins caused your condition if you served in Vietnam, the Korean Demilitarized Zone, and Camp Lejeune during certain timeframes. You may still qualify for a service connection if you were not stationed in these places. However, you must provide medical proof connecting your Parkinson’s diagnosis to toxic exposure during service, such as a doctor’s nexus letter.
When filing your claim, include as much evidence as possible. If you do not provide enough information, the VA may request that you submit more documents or undergo a compensation and pension, or C&P, exam. It will use the VA claim exam to determine whether you have a service-connected disability and rate your disability.
If you need help navigating the VA system, contact Veterans Guide today. We can determine your Agent Orange and Parkinson’s disease VA disability rating and help you get maximum benefits. Our veteran advocates will listen to your story and provide expert guidance.