Do you experience coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath when you exercise? If so, you could be like hundreds of other veterans that suffer from exercise induced asthma.
Veterans with these symptoms would be eligible to receive VA disability benefits. As you prepare to apply, it helps to understand as much as possible about this condition, as well as ways to prove a service connection.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at what exercise induced asthma entails, ways you can manage it, and how to apply for the VA disability rating you deserve.
In this article about exercise induced asthma VA benefits:
- What is Exercise-Induced Asthma?
- Common Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction
- The Importance of Exercise for Veterans
- Proving a Service Connection for Exercise-Induced Asthma
- Applying to Receive VA Benefits for Exercise-Induced Asthma
- Proving Your Case for Exercise-Induced Asthma
What is Exercise-Induced Asthma?
Exercise-induced asthma is a health condition that causes the airways in your lungs to narrow as you perform strenuous exercise.
The technical term for the affliction is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Medical professionals will often use this language, as it more accurately describes what happens when you’re in the throes of an exercise-induced asthma attack. It’s good to know this because that’s the phrase to look for on your C-file while you prepare your VA disability application.
Bronchoconstriction describes the action of your airways narrowing through exercise, though it’s important to note that working out isn’t typically the root cause of asthma. However, if you do suffer from pre-existing asthma, exercise is one of many different factors that can make it more difficult to breathe.
While several biological factors can trigger this condition, doctors do know that it causes inflammation in sufferers. You may also experience excessive mucus buildup when you exercise.
Common Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction
Did you just push yourself a little too hard or do you have exercise-induced asthma? A few of the most common conditions to look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- Excessive fatigue during exercise
Most people begin experiencing these symptoms during their workout, or very soon thereafter. If left untreated, they can persist for up to an hour or longer. The severity of the symptoms is a key factor that separates this condition from simply being winded.
If these symptoms sound familiar, you may also notice that they occur more severely during certain times. Factors that can trigger or exacerbate exercise-induced asthma include:
- Dry air
- Cold air
- Polluted air
- The presence of certain chemicals, including chlorine
- Activities that require continuous deep breathing (e.g. long-distance running)
The Importance of Exercise for Veterans
If exercising is difficult for you for any reason, you might be tempted to avoid it altogether. This is especially the case if working out triggers an episode of exercise-induced asthma.
However, it’s important to remember that regular physical activity delivers a range of whole-body benefits.
Physically, exercise helps:
- Lower your risk of heart attack
- Reduce your blood cholesterol level
- Stabilize your blood pressure
- Lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
- Strengthen your bones, muscles, and joints
- Support healthy weight management
In addition, breaking a sweat can also help you effectively manage your mental health. Working out helps:
- Reduce anxiety
- Reduce depression
- Lower your stress levels
- Improve mental clarity
- Increase flexibility and agility
- Improve focus and concentration
- Boost your self-esteem
Why do these benefits matter? Serving in the military can lead to both physical and mental trauma that lasts long after you’re discharged. Many of these conditions are eased and soothed by regular, consistent exercise. If the lack of exercise causes other problems to get worse, you can even claim them as secondary conditions.
Here one of our VA disability lawyers goes over the questions Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm, is often asked about veterans’ disability claims and appeals.
Exercise and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Research shows that many veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Specifically, this condition affects up to 30% of Vietnam veterans, 12% of Gulf War veterans, and 10% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF).
A few of the most common signs of PTSD among veterans include:
Often, physicians and therapists will recommend relaxation techniques to help alleviate these symptoms. In addition to deep breathing, meditation, and massage, regular exercise is also key.
Studies reveal that veterans with PTSD who do not work out consistently not only suffer mentally but are also at a higher risk of developing other health issues. These include:
In one study, researchers assigned a 12-week exercise program to veterans suffering from PTSD. In addition to daily walking, the program consisted of three 30-minute resistance training sessions per week. At the end of the study, they found that the veterans’ PTSD symptoms and depression significantly decreased, while their sleep quality markedly improved.
Asthma and Sleep Apnea
If you’re a veteran who currently suffers from sleep apnea, regular exercise is equally important.
This is a serious sleep disorder in which your breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you sleep. In general, it is separated into two main types. These include obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type. It occurs when your throat muscles relax to such an extent that they fully or partially obstruct your airway while you sleep.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is less common. It occurs when your brain fails to send the right signals to your muscles to breathe while you sleep.
Physicians explain that exercise helps patients with OSA by:
- Aiding in weight loss
- Reducing the severity of their condition
- Reducing their amount of daytime sleepiness
- Boosting their sleep efficiency
- Maximizing their oxygen consumption
If you want to claim VA disability asthma and sleep apnea, it’s important to understand how the condition is rated.
We discuss all the details in this post, including how VA secondary conditions to asthma (including sleep apnea) can raise your overall rating. Instead of piecing together data from various online sources or scouring Reddit for other veterans with different conditions, give us a call and let’s discuss your specific case.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866)232-5777
Asthma and Respiratory Conditions
There are certain conditions that can be made worse by an episode of exercise induced asthma.
For instance, if you’re already suffering from an upper respiratory condition, such as bronchitis, an asthmatic event could make your existing symptoms even more uncomfortable. Key symptoms of bronchitis include:
- Coughing (with or without mucus)
- Tightness or soreness in the chest
- Body aches
- Sore throat
While bronchitis can occur independently of asthma, the latter can harm the former. In fact, asthma can even lead to bronchitis if left untreated. Asthma constricts the vessels in your lungs, which can irritate and inflame them.
When this happens, your airways produce mucus, as your body thinks there’s an infection present and it needs to flush it out. In reality, this mucus blocks and damages your airways even more.
From that point on, anything that enters your airways (including bacteria) will become trapped if you experience an asthma attack. If you have exercise-induced asthma and have these attacks often, it can lead to build-up and residue in your lungs. This can damage your lung tissue and increase your risk of developing bronchitis.
We discuss the VA disability rating for bronchitis in greater detail here.
Proving a Service Connection for Exercise-Induced Asthma
Understanding that you have exercise-induced asthma is one thing. However, providing evidence and proving your condition to the VA is another. Then, there’s the requirement to link your condition to your time in service.
While these steps might sound daunting, they’re doable.
It’s also easy to say to yourself, “Well, just don’t exercise,” but we’ve already addressed why that answer won’t do.
This case describes a veteran who received a 30% disability rating for exercise-induced asthma, an increase from the originally granted 10%.
What catalyzed the increase?
Results from the veteran’s VA disability pulmonary function test (PFT) were recalculated. Let’s take a look at how this test works.
VA Disability Pulmonary Function Test
The PFT is the chief factor in not only proving that you have exercise-induced asthma but showing that it impacts your quality of life. This test measures two main metrics:
- Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV)
- Forced Vital Capacity (FVC)
In short, FEV measures the amount of air that a person can exhale during one forced breath. Usually, these tests measure this amount exhaled for a few seconds. The results are recorded as FEV-1 (first second), FEV-2 (second second), and FEV-3 (third second).
Then, FVC measures the cumulative total of all of the seconds. It describes the full amount of air exhaled during the individual during the FEV test.
Other Documentation Affecting Your Rating
In addition to the results from your pulmonary function test, you’ll also need to present the VA with data that documents when your condition began, as well as any treatment that you sought for it. These can include:
- Service treatment records
- VA examination records
- Outpatient treatment records
- Medications prescribed and taken
In this case, the veteran could prove that exercise-induced asthma began during their time in active service. There were also records of a VA examination that occurred during the veteran’s service, in which they complained of shortness of breath that worsened with exercise.
Although the veteran did not have outpatient treatment records to supply, results from the PFT were significant enough to warrant the initial rating, as well as the eventual rating increase.
Details are crucial here.
If you’re taking any medication or have taken medication in the past to help treat any form of asthma, be sure to note it. For instance, this veteran received a 10% rating for allergy-induced asthma, in part because her physician could prove that her condition was so severe it required a trial of Xolair, an anti-inflammatory prescribed to treat asthmatic symptoms.
While there isn’t a dedicated Xolair VA disability rating, the knowledge that the veteran took it, along with their PFT results, was enough to serve as viable evidence. In this case, the rating was supplied under VASRD 6600 through 6604: Diseases of the Trachea and Bronchi.
Learn more in this video about the VA Rating for Asthma.
Applying to Receive VA Benefits for Exercise-Induced Asthma
In the case of the above veteran, the VA explains that the case was decided under VA Diagnostic Code 6602: Ratings and Benefits for Asthma. This code rates asthma based on FEV-1 and FVC.
Our post on the Asthma VA Rating for Disability Benefits describes how this code works, including how different FEV-1 and FVC values affect your rating. Understanding that the case we’re examining also utilized VASRD Code 6602, it’s anticipated that this is the code used for both ongoing and exercise-induced asthma.
While the VA is the only entity that can ultimately determine the level of benefits you receive, you can conduct an estimate using our online VA disability calculator. Here, you’ll also find other resources, tips, and tricks that can help you navigate your next steps.
If you haven’t completed a PFT in service, you’ll need one to prove your condition and get a diagnosis. Then, it’s time to complete your application and gather your supporting evidence.
In addition to your DD-214 (Report of Separation), it’s also important to include any treatment records and medical evidence in your application. This information will help the VA form a timeline that follows when your exercise induced asthma began, any action you took to help it, and how it’s affected your overall health.
How to Appeal a VA Disability Decision
Was your VA asthma claim denied? If so, you have recourse.
Our team can help you through every part of the appeals process, starting with an initial review of your Statement of the Case. We’ll also be on hand to help you file your Substantive Appeal and make sure your voice gets heard. We help thousands of veterans with their appeals and can explain to you exactly why the VA denied your claim. The phone call is free, so you don’t have anything to lose by calling us.
A behind the scenes look at who works for you at Woods and Woods, The Veteran’s Firm.
Proving Your Case for Exercise-Induced Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma can impact almost every aspect of your quality of life. If you’re a veteran suffering from this condition, it’s worth taking the time to see if you’re eligible to receive VA disability benefits.
We know the process can be overwhelming, and we’re here to help. We’ve been adding staff and lawyers during the Covid pandemic to better serve disabled veterans in difficult times.
Call us today to discuss your VA disability appeal or your first application. The call is free and we won’t charge you a single fee until we win your case. We even pay for the postage for all of the documentation you send to our office. You can look for a VA disability attorney near you or call us and join the thousands of veterans living off of VA disability thanks to Woods and Woods.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, if your Asthma is rated at 60% or higher or if you have another disability rated higher than 60%. TDIU combinations can get a little tricky, but Asthma can definitely be a contributing factor for your TDIU application.
Hay fever is a form of asthma caused by allergens and poor air quality. If your lungs are weakened or you developed an allergy during active duty, you may be entitled to service-connected disability benefits. Just because it only affects you in the fall doesn’t matter. Talk to a good lawyer about your claim.