woman applying for ssd benefits in macomb county

Case Spotlight – November 2022

A veteran came to Disability Law Group for assistance after the Department of Veterans Affairs had denied his claim for Parkinson’s disease based on Agent Orange exposure. Parkinson’s disease is a presumptive condition of Agent Orange exposure if:

  • The Veteran served between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 in the Republic of Vietnam, OR
  • The Veteran served aboard a U.S. military vessel that operated in the inland waterways of Vietnam, OR
  • The Veteran served on a vessel operating no more than 12 nautical miles seaward from the demarcation line of the waters of Vietnam and Cambodia, among certain other locations.

Here, our client had been sent to Vietnam in the fall of 1968 to treat for a back injury he incurred while deployed to Thailand. The VA denied his claim for Parkinson’s disease based on their determination that there was no evidence in the Veteran’s service records that the Veteran was in Vietnam during the presumptive period. The Veteran provided a detailed statement that described his back injury and his treatment in Vietnam. His service treatment records documented his back injury, but did not contain the treatment records from his time in Vietnam.

Attorney Bridget Drop knew that finding evidence that showed the Veteran was in Vietnam was crucial to winning his case and getting the VA to grant his claim for service connected compensation. She began with a thorough review of his VA claims file, knowing that the VA can overlook documents, as the claims file is thousands of pages long. In her detailed review of the Veteran’s file, Bridget found a treatment progress report that documented the Veteran was received in Cam Ranh Bay Vietnam on November 2, 1968.

Because this evidence was already in the Veteran’s claims file, Attorney Bridget Drop filed a Higher Level Review appeal. At the informal conference she explained to the Decision Review Officer the evidence that documented his time in Vietnam. The VA granted his claim for service connection for Parkinson’s Disease based on Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.

In her review of the Veteran’s file, Bridget noted that the Veteran was denied service connection for his claim for coronary artery disease (ischemic heart disease) due to Agent Orange exposure in 2011. Coronary artery disease is another presumptive condition of Agent Orange exposure. She filed a supplemental claim to re-open the previously denied claim for coronary artery disease due to Agent Orange exposure, now that there was evidence of the Veteran’s time in Vietnam during the presumptive period.

In the end, the VA granted service connection for the Veteran’s claim of coronary artery disese based on Agent Orange exposure at 60%. What’s more, under the special effective date rules as a result of the Nehmer v. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs class-action lawsuit, the effective date went back to August 2010! We are thrilled to be able to provide such life-changing result for our clients, especially Veterans who deserve it most.

If you have any questions about your case, and whether you should be entitled to a rating – whether you have never filed or are looking to appeal – we can help. Call us today for your free consultation.

Author: Erika A. Riggs

Attorney Erika A. Riggs, a partner at Disability Law Group, is a renowned legal advocate and community leader. A graduate of Wayne State University Law School, Erika co-founded The 313 Project, a non-profit providing scholarships and pro-bono legal advice for at-risk youth. She actively contributes to community well-being as a board member and community activist, spearheading pro bono events and volunteer initiatives. Erika specializes in Social Security Disability and Veterans’ disability benefits. Recognized for her outstanding contributions, Erika has received accolades such as the ‘Oakland Together 40 Under 40’ Class of 2023, 2022 ABA On the Rise Top 40 Young Lawyer award, eight consecutive Avvo’s Client Choice awards, and the esteemed 2023 Rising Star award for the sixth consecutive year by Super Lawyers (extended to less than 2.5% of attorneys practicing in Michigan). Her multifaceted achievements showcase her commitment to excellence, community service, and advocacy for those in need.