Making a Florida Veterans’ Disability Claim for Parkinson’s Disease
Veterans who were injured, sick, developed a mental health condition, or were exposed to environmental toxins while serving in the military could be entitled to veterans’ disability benefits. Even if your condition didn’t appear until years later, you could still receive benefits provided you can establish the condition is service connected. In some cases, you can show diseases like Parkinson’s are service connected. To learn more, speak with an experienced Orlando veterans’ disability attorney who can help.
At the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A., we have years of experience helping clients just like you get the veterans’ benefits they are entitled to. Connecting Parkinson’s Disease is not easy or an option for every veteran, which is why you need the assistance of an experienced attorney.
WHAT IS PARKINSON’S DISEASE?
You served your country in the military and now you’re fighting an entirely new battle with Parkinson’s disease. You may be wondering if you qualify for disability benefits from the VA.
Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative movement disorder that happens when some people age. It affects the nerve cells responsible for producing dopamine, the chemical that affects coordination and movements. As the disease progresses, your dopamine levels decrease further, and you cannot control your movements naturally.
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, affecting nearly 1% of people over the age of 60 and 2-3% over 70. It shares many symptoms with other diseases like Alzheimer’s or Multiple Sclerosis, but there are some distinctive symptoms that can help distinguish it from these conditions. Parkinson’s sufferers will find more involuntary movements such as tremors and freezing in severe cases. Advanced symptoms include cognitive problems which could make performing daily tasks difficult.
When Parkinson’s starts, some symptoms include:
- Slow movements (Bradykinesia)
- Resting tremors
- Unstable when standing upright
- Inflexibility or stiffness of neck, limbs, and trunk
- Changes to your facial expressions and posture
As Parkinson’s Disease progresses, sufferers will find more involuntary movements and freezing, a sensation like your feet are glued to the floor. Advanced symptoms include cognitive problems, and sufferers are unable to live alone. The person may use a wheelchair or be in bed and will require assistance with all daily activities.
This is tough for anyone who has served their country as a soldier in war zones where conditions can lead to PTSD, which could further complicate things for veterans with Parkinson’s disease seeking disability benefits from the VA.
Parkinson’s disease is impossible to diagnose without tests and scans – but if the person has already been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, then they are not eligible for disability benefits from the VA because it’s more than likely that they’re going to die before they reach 70 years old, which is the VA’s own disability definitions of “disability.”
This means that many people with Parkinson’s may never qualify for benefits from the VA – not because they don’t have a diagnosable condition but because they are not considered to be sufficiently disabled.
Having an experienced veterans’ disability benefits attorney working for you to assist you with your claims is critical.
Presumptive Service Connection to Parkinson’s Disease
When the VA creates a presumption for a condition, it’s a way of making an exception for the usual requirements you need to prove. This exception is sometimes used for toxic exposure that affected many veterans. Presumptive conditions can be assumed to be linked to certain toxins (like Agent Orange). If a veteran was in a certain place during a certain time, there’s a presumption that the condition is linked to that exposure. Parkinson’s Disease is categorized as a presumptive condition for veterans who:
- Served in Vietnam (including on a ship in an inland waterway) for any amount of time between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975; or
- Served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone for any amount of time between April 1, 1968, and August 31, 1971; or
- Was stationed at Camp Lejeune for a minimum of 30 days between August 1953 and December 1987.
Parkinson’s Disease Without the Presumptive Service Connection
If you don’t meet the presumptive service connection qualifications, you could still be eligible for benefits. You will need to provide evidence showing what your exposure was and how it links to your condition. A medical professional needs to submit a report confirming your diagnosis and state that it’s their expert medical opinion that your Parkinson’s Disease was caused by exposure. Exposure to herbicide agents, burn pits, or ones who suffer a traumatic brain injury might qualify.
You could still be eligible for benefits if:
- You have a history of exposures associated with increased risk of PD; OR
- The evidence shows an association between inflammation in the brain or nervous system and Parkinson’s disease, OR
- Your PD symptoms started soon after one of these conditions: trauma (e.g., a fall, car accident or blast injury), major surgery, stroke, a brain infection (e.g., encephalitis or meningitis) inflammation of the brain and nervous system– such as multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease or other tick-borne diseases.
Contact an Orlando Veterans’ Disability Benefits Lawyer
If you’re a veteran with Parkinson’s disease, or another disability, and need help with filing for benefits, contact the Law Offices of Shea A. Fugate, P.A. We can help you file your initial claim and fight for the benefits you deserve.