Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system which causes uncontrolled movements and difficulties with balance and coordination. The disease builds up slowly and then worsens over time, starting with barely noticeable symptoms like small tremors that can soon lead to more shaking, or conversely, stiffness, as well as difficulty walking and talking. It’s mainly caused by the impairment or destruction of dopamine-producing neurons in the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that controls movement.
Eligible veterans who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease should be aware that the condition is linked to numerous instances of toxic exposure at military installations or theaters of operations in the recent past. Due to this, Parkinson’s disease is listed by VA as a presumptive condition for Agent Orange exposure, as well as exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found at U.S. Marine Corp Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. This presumption of service connection takes the burden off of eligible veterans to provide a medical nexus linking their active diagnosis with their service record. Additionally, evidence suggests a link between Parkinson’s disease and exposure to burn pits, but VA does not currently recognize a presumption of service connection for exposure to burn pits.
Background on Camp Lejeune Toxic Exposure
Service members and their family members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for a certain period of time between the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s may have been exposed to several dangerous toxins in the local drinking supply. Such toxins include trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl chloride, which were either improperly stored or disposed of on or nearby the base.
Veterans who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and were on active duty for a period of no fewer than 30 days at Camp Lejeune between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 may be eligible for additional healthcare benefits and compensation from VA. VA established a complete list of presumptive conditions so that veterans with certain diagnoses do not need to provide a medical nexus linking an active diagnosis to their service record. Some healthcare benefits also extend to affected family members of service members.
For more information on presumptive conditions related to toxic exposure at Camp Lejeune, you can read the following blogs:
- TCE exposure benefits
- Immune Disorders
- Aplastic anemia
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Multiple Myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
- Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS)
- All types of respiratory cancer
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Treatment
Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease may not be noticeable at first, but common ones include:
- Muscle stiffness or rigidity
- Slowed movement
- Impaired posture, balance, and coordination
- Loss of automatic movement
- Changes to speech and writing
Though it’s understood that a shortage of dopamine in the brain leads to Parkinson’s disease, its exact cause is unknown. Certain risk factors appear to heighten your chance to develop Parkinson’s disease, however. These include increased age (with most people developing it in their 60s), family history, being male, and exposure to certain toxins, particularly herbicides and pesticides.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are a number of treatment options for symptoms, such as medications, surgery, and different types of therapy. Certain medications can help increase the production of dopamine, and other can reduce the amount of uncontrolled movement or rigidity. Deep brain stimulation is a surgical treatment which implants electrodes in the brain to stimulate parts of the brain responsible for movement.
VA Disability Ratings for Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is rated under Diagnostic Code 8004 in 38 CFR § 4.124a – Schedule of Ratings, Neurological Conditions, and Convulsive Disorders. VA assigns an automatic 30% disability rating for the condition being present. This initial rating does not take symptoms into account. VA will assess the severity of your symptoms and calculate a new disability rating based on those. Out of these two numbers—the 30% rating and combined rating from your symptoms—VA will choose the higher rating.
Parkinson’s disease may also be responsible for other serious medical conditions for which you can get a secondary service connection. Also, if your Parkinson’s disease is severe enough that you are unable to work, you may be eligible for total disability individual unemployability (TDIU).
Assistance With Your Claim
The Camp Lejeune Act of 2012 and the Honoring Our Pact Act of 2022 have increased the benefits available to veterans and affected family members. Because of this, veterans are more eager than ever to collect the compensation due to them. And if family members have been affected, it also requires filling out a separate form: VA Form 10-10068: Camp Lejeune Family Member Program Application.
For assistance with your claim for Parkinson’s disease disability benefits, you can contact VA Disability Group PLLC at 844-VET-LAWS.