Veterans may develop asthma from their exposure to harmful substances during active duty. Burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic exposures are common factors. In order to receive disability benefits for asthma, veterans must submit evidence showing that their asthma is linked to their military service. One exception, however, is the VA’s presumption that burn pits cause asthma.
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In this article about VA asthma ratings
Asthma varies in severity and can cause wide-ranging respiratory issues from wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing.
During an asthma attack, a person’s airways can become inflamed and narrowed, causing breathing difficulties. Triggers of asthma attacks depend on a person’s sensitivity to dust and other allergens. Environmental and mental health conditions can also prompt attacks, such as emotional stress, infections, and poor air quality. Certain conditions, such as pregnancy or undergoing surgery, can carry a higher risk of asthma attacks. Attacks can worsen with age.
Exercising caution to avoid triggering an asthma attack is a reality for many Americans who have the chronic lung disease. The exact cause of asthma in the general population remains unknown.
One study found deployed military personnel with combat experience were 24 percent to 30 percent more likely to develop asthma than their peers. For veterans, exposure to harmful substances during their military service could have caused or aggravated the onset of asthma.
In certain scenarios, VA policy acknowledges the link to veterans and the lung condition, especially for service members who were exposed to fumes created by open burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Exposure to pollutants, harmful substances, or physical exertion during deployment could lead to symptoms. Service members are also exposed to environmental hazards as part of their day-to-day schedule from operating in desert environments to working around high-exhaust military vehicles.
Asthma and burn pits
Asthma is one of three conditions that the VA recognizes is related to exposure to burn pits. That means veterans do not need to present evidence to the VA connecting their asthma with their military service. If a veteran was exposed to burn puts during service and has since been diagnosed with asthma, the VA should grant service connection for asthma.
Burn pits are open areas for burning solid waste that commonly emit harmful chemicals, including dioxins, furans, lead, mercury, and other toxins, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. They are increasingly thought to cause a wide range of respiratory health conditions from asthma to bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Acknowledging adverse health effects caused by burn pit exposure is gaining steam as the VA and Congress consider new rules and legislation to increase health care services and disability benefits for veterans with health problems related to toxic exposures.
Agent Orange and asthma
Service members exposed to the tactical herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam can also face a number of health-related issues including asthma. However, asthma is not yet on the list of presumptive conditions for Agent Orange.
Veterans who feel they’ve developed the condition as a result of Agent Orange exposure need to present evidence linking the illness to their time in the service. This evidence is typically medical evidence from a physician or a peer-reviewed article.
VA disability benefts for asthma
Veterans who have asthma may be eligible for VA disability compensation benefits with ratings of 10, 30, 60, and 100%. The rating depends on the severity of the illness and the frequency of asthma attacks, which is detailed under the respiratory system in the Schedule of Ratings (diagnostic code 6602).
Also factoring into the rating is the level of medication, such as corticosteroids, required to lower the risk of attacks. Veterans who need high-dose medicine could be eligible for a higher rating than veterans who suffer from occasional asthma attacks treated by standard anti-inflammatory treatments.
The rating scale also considers how often veterans may need to see a doctor to evaluate their condition. If asthma can’t be proven through a clinical exam, a veteran may need to present a record of asthma attacks to qualify for disability benefits.
|FEV-1/FVC less than 40%|
More than one attack per week with episodes of respiratory failure
Requires daily use of corticosteroids or immunosuppressive medications
|FEV-1/FVC of 40 to 55% |
At least monthly visits to a physician
At least three per year courses of corticosteroids
|FEV-1/FVC of 56 to 70%|
Daily inhalational or oral bronchodilator therapy inhalational anti-inflammatory medication
|FEV-1/FVC of 71 to 80%|
Intermittent inhalational or oral bronchodilator therapy
Filing a claim for VA asthma benefits
If you have been diagnosed with asthma and feel the condition is connected to your military service, you can file a claim for VA disability benefits. You may need to provide evidence linking the cause to your time in service. The exception is for burn pit exposure as the VA already presumes the condition was caused by military service.
If you would like help with your claim, contact the team at Woods and Woods for guidance. We never charge veterans for help filing the initial application. Our team works diligently to submit your application correctly, allowing you to avoid the lengthy VA disability appeals process.
Hiring a veterans benefits attorney
Hiring an experienced VA disability lawyer will help you avoid delays from improperly completed paperwork. The Woods and Woods team works hard to stay on top of disability benefit changes and develop innovative case strategies. We’re proud to have represented thousands of veterans with a comprehensive team of lawyers, case managers, and legal analysts.
Contact us and start your application today.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Veterans who have asthma may be eligible for VA disability compensation benefits with a rating of 10, 30, 60, or 100%. The rating depends on the severity of the illness and the frequency of asthma attacks. The type of medications prescribed and how often a veteran needs care from a physician are also factors.
Asthma is one of three presumptive conditions to burn pits. Other conditions are rhinitis and sinusitis. To become eligible for benefits, veterans must have developed the condition within 10 years of their active service. Open burn pits were common in Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict areas in Southwest Asia. Risk factors include types of waste burned, the extent of a service member’s exposure, wind direction, and other airborne hazards in the area.