If you have a runny nose and sinus headaches that put you on your back more than a couple of times a year, you might be eligible for VA disability for chronic sinusitis. Veterans that can show a service-connected cause for sinus congestion, headaches, pain and tenderness around your sinuses, ongoing snot, and crusting can get up to a 50% rating which at the current level is $1,041.82 per month.
How the VA ratings for chronic sinusitis work
When it comes to getting the VA to approve your service connection for sinus problems, it helps to show a few different types of evidence. If you can show repeated visits to the doc for a runny nose or sinus headaches, that will show this isn’t just a cold. You have to show that you have sinus problems a few times a year for an extended period each time. A week of hay fever in the spring won’t be enough to convince the VA that you have a chronic sinus problem.
Chronic sinusitis is diagnosed when you have symptoms for over 3 months. Your symptoms may change in severity, but if they persist for 3 months, you might be considered chronic. Symptoms of sinusitis can also be confused for other illnesses, so look for them together in light of other health issues you may have.
In this article about VA disability for chronic sinusitis:
- How the VA ratings for chronic sinusitis work
- Typical symptoms of chronic sinusitis
- How to prove your illness is service-connected
- How sinusitis fits with other ratings
- Chronic sinusitis can be incapacitating
- Additional issues that can be discovered in your sinuses
- Explaining your sinusitis to the VA
- How the VA Rates All Types of Sinusitis
Typical symptoms of chronic sinusitis
The symptoms of chronic sinusitis might start as a cold or allergy-induced runny nose. You might have a sore throat from all of the nasal discharge and a reduced sense of taste and smell. Difficulty breathing because of your stopped-up nose and pain around your eyes, nose, eyes, and forehead can be enough to put you in bed for days. Most of those symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter cold medicine.
A cold might just affect your throat and nose, but sinusitis affects your sinus cavities. These are open regions in your face that keep your head from being solid bone. As these chambers in your cheeks, behind your eyes, and in your forehead hold an infection, they become inflamed and fill up with fluid. That pressure is what turns into headaches and tenderness. While those kinds of symptoms can heal over time, you should see your doctor if they persist for more than 10 days.
In this video, one of our certified VA disability lawyers talks about burn pit exposure and your VA ratings.
How to prove your illness is service-connected
Of course, no matter what illness or condition you have, you can’t get money from the VA for it unless you can prove that it was service-connected. Sinusitis can be caused by many things that veterans may experience while deployed or even stateside.
- It can be brought on by a sinus infection and not go away
- Allergens and pollutants can irritate the nasal cavity and make your more susceptible to sinus infections
- Complications from facial or oral surgery
- Facial injuries that cause a deviated septum
- Scar tissue in the sinus passages from injuries
- Immune system-related sickness that causes buildup in your nose
- Inhaling asbestos in construction materials and garbage
Many of these things may be traced to an incident in the service like an injury or being exposed to pollutants in the air. If you contracted an illness, developed an auto-immune condition, contracted HIV or cystic fibrosis while in the service, you may be able to get a chronic sinusitis rating as a secondary-condition. This wouldn’t diminish your rating any and may be a better course to take instead of being denied by the VA over and over again.
Documents that can help your case are repeated records of seeing a doctor for cold symptoms, prescription records for antihistamines or decongestants, or a letter from a former employer about how many times you had to call in sick. We can even help your husband or wife write a letter explaining how long they have heard you have trouble sleeping at night, snoring loudly, or showing other cold symptoms. The more evidence you can show of this long-term struggle, the better.
In certain cases, you may not have the burden of proving your chronic sinusitis is service connected. Specifically, for Gulf War and post-9/11 era veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits during their service, there is a presumed condition for chronic sinusitis. This means the VA has established a link between sinusitis and burn pit exposure, so the veteran does not need to prove the connection if they qualify.
How sinusitis fits with other ratings
Since sinusitis could be blown off by the VA as a cold, there are a lot of other ratings that might cause sinusitis or aggravate your sinuses enough to pay attention over the coming years. For instance, if you had an injury to your nose, you might get a 10% rating for having a deviated septum after your injury. That means that one of your nostrils is bigger than the other. That condition increases your chances of getting chronic sinusitis.
If your nose is injured further, you might increase to a 30% rating if your nostrils are disfigured and exposed. Again, this would increase your risk for chronic sinusitis, so your combined rating of 30% for your nose injury and 30% for mid-level chronic sinusitis would add up to a 50% combined rating. (Welcome to VA math.) Since you can’t get more than 30% for a severe nose injury and you can’t get more than 50% VA disability for sinusitis, you’ll need to group these to get the biggest check possible.
You may have rhinitis written down on your medical records somewhere. That simply means that you had a runny nose. Chronic rhinitis can be a separate VA rating from sinusitis, even though they travel together. Unlike the conditions of the lungs that can’t be stacked on top of one another, you can get a combined rating with chronic rhinitis and chronic sinusitis. It won’t be much unless you get a specific diagnosis for Wegener’s granulomatosis, lethal midline granuloma, which is a type of cancer. Otherwise, rhinitis will only get you up to a 50% rating at its worst.
Chronic sinusitis can be incapacitating
There are several ways that sinusitis can knock you down. The pain of sinus inflammation can cause severe headaches all around the eyes. Sometimes the swelling can even affect your vision. Your runny nose can be a nuisance but eventually lead to skin irritation and a very sore throat. The medicines prescribed or taken over the counter don’t always help your condition either as they make you extremely sleepy or unable to drive a car. If your sinusitis and the medicine you take for it keep you from holding down a job, you are getting into TDIU territory with your disability.
Even if you don’t get TDIU because you are sick with a sinus infection all of the time, you might qualify for SMC benefits to help you drive to the store for groceries, clean your house, or other daily living struggles. Aid and Attendance entitlements might also be required depending on how you live with your disability. In all these claims, our disability lawyers paint a full picture for the VA so they can see the impact your service-connected disability has on your daily life. If your service to your country caused your disability, your country should be helping to support you in the years to follow.
Additional issues that can be discovered in your sinuses
You should talk to a doctor if any of the symptoms listed so far last more than 10 days. At that point, your body is having trouble kicking the bug naturally and you’ll need an antibiotic, decongestants, pain killers, or more. As you see the doctor, they may find polyps in your sinuses. This type of condition makes the sinuses smaller so any inflammation is that much worse. Sinus polyps can irritate sinusitis and warrant an even higher VA rating or surgery.
If you require surgery on your sinuses, your recovery is the part that affects your VA rating. How you recover and the follow-up treatments are what get you into the 50% VA rating zone. 50% is the highest rating you can get for chronic sinusitis because it also involves multiple surgeries and continuing symptoms.
You will probably see an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist during your application exams. You’ll have to go to a standard C&P exam first for diagnosis, then be referred to an ENT. If they discover polyps, a bacterial infection like Rhinoscleroma or cancer like Granulomatous, you are no longer looking for a VA rating for chronic sinusitis. We work with a lot of veterans that change their case over time as their conditions change and as the VA law changes. Talking to a professional for help with your claim has never become more important or beneficial for veterans.
Explaining your sinusitis to the VA
When you apply for chronic sinusitis VA benefits, the doctor will probably want to know exactly which sinuses are causing you the most trouble. You don’t have to have a medical degree to file for disability, but it might help you in the conversation if you know what the doctors and documents are talking about.
You have 4 different pairs of sinuses.
- Frontal, right above your eyes. These are where the killer headaches come from. Your eyebrows and forehead can even hurt to the touch when they are inflamed.
- Ethmoid, right between your eyes on the edges of your nose
- Maxillary, below your eyes in your cheeks. These are above your top teeth and can make your jaws hurt. These can also get infected when you have your wisdom teeth taken out.
- Sphenoid, in the sides of your head and behind your eyes. These are the ones that can hurt so bad your eyes hurt.
You can also be diagnosed with pansinusitis, which just means you’ve got sinusitis all over the place. You can’t double up on diagnoses or get a higher rating for one over another. The VA can grant you disability even if only one of your sinuses is messed up, which is a good thing.
How the VA Rates All Types of Sinusitis
|1-2 incapacitating* episodes a year with 4-6 weeks of antibiotics each time, or 3-6 episodes that aren’t incapacitating but still painful with symptoms||10% VA rating for chronic sinusitis|
$165.92 per month
|3 or more incapacitating* episodes a year, again with 4-6 weeks of antibiotics each or more than 6 of the episodes that allow you to still function with headache, runny nose, etc.||30% VA rating for chronic sinusitis|
$508.05 per month
|If you’ve had radical surgery or constant pain, discharge, and headaches after surgeries.||50% VA rating for chronic sinusitis|
$1,041.82 per month
Frequently asked questions about chronic sinusitis VA disability
No, you can’t get 100% for sinusitis alone. The highest rating awarded for any type of chronic sinusitis is 50%. You’d have to combine it with other ratings such as PTSD, sleep apnea, or asthma to increase your rating.
As you get older, service-connected disabilities that didn’t show up in your 30s might start showing up. It’s never too late to apply for VA benefits. Your spouse can even apply after you’re dead. Contact an experienced VA lawyer to see if you have a case.
If you want a higher rating, you’ll have to prove that you have a different condition such as a permanent bacterial infection in your sinuses or cancer. At its worst, the VA still won’t give more than 50% for your sinuses. Use a VA disability calculator to see what other conditions would do to your monthly entitlement.
If you served in the Persian Gulf theater and you have chronic sinusitis symptoms, you might be eligible for a lot more than just sinusitis. Gulf War Illness is still being investigated so you would want to apply for disability for Gulf War Illness.