If you served any time in the US military and have breathing problems, a nagging cough, or get out of breath after climbing stairs, you might have a service-connected lung disability. Damage to your respiratory system can come in many ways. The modern soldier has more safety gear than any of his or her predecessors but is subjected to some of the nastiest and most dangerous pollutants ever known.
In this Ultimate Guide to Veterans’ Lung Disabilities, you’ll find answers to many of your questions about your breathing problems and what the VA can do about them. If there is anything we don’t cover, please use the form below to ask or call us at 1-866-232-5777 and we’ll try to help you out.
In this article about VA disability for lung conditions:
Asthma VA Disability Benefits
Asthma is often the first symptom or disability that people feel when they are suffering from a service-connected lung condition. Symptoms of asthma can be tightness in your chest and lungs, difficulty getting air and feeling like you can’t breathe, or taking a long time to catch your breath after climbing stairs or other moderately strenuous activities. This last symptom is called “dyspnea on exertion,” and it doesn’t have to be very debilitating for you to qualify for minimal VA disability benefits.
Chronic Bronchitis VA Disability Benefits
Another common symptom of lung disease is persistent coughing. Many times this points to chronic bronchitis. Beyond a cold or sore throat, chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of your windpipe (or trachea) which leads to a build-up of phlegm and mucus. Your trachea can be irritated by pollutants like whatever is in burn pits or even dust and sand. If you served in the Persian Gulf, you will have an easier time getting benefits as the VA begins to recognize Gulf War Syndrome as a real thing. Learn more about chronic bronchitis if you are consistently coughing and hacking up stuff.
COPD VA Disability Benefits
COPD is related to and in the same family as Chronic Bronchitis. Some doctors use the two terms interchangeably, and sometimes the VA does too. The point about COPD is that it doesn’t get better. Unlike Asthma, which can be treated and not be rated permanent, COPD is a declining health diagnosis. Burn pit exposure could have caused it as likely as smoking cigarettes. If you can prove that you were around pollutants that made a bad thing worse, you are closer to proving your service-connected disabilities wouldn’t have happened if you wouldn’t have served. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a chronic disease and deserves a permanent VA rating, unlike some of these other conditions.
Sleep Apnea VA Disability Benefits
Sleep apnea is to blame in many Americans that were in bed all night but didn’t get a good sleep. “Can I get VA Benefits for Sleep Apnea” is one of the most common questions our team is asked. The answer is yes, but make sure you get a full diagnosis. Sleep apnea can point to chronic bronchitis, obesity, PTSD, and many other disabilities that can also get a VA rating. You want to make sure you tell the VA about everything you’re struggling with to get the highest rating.
Sleep apnea can also lead to other conditions that can be rated as secondary service-connected disabilities such as heart disease and diabetes. It’s important that you are properly diagnosed for these ailments and pay attention to the other illnesses that they can aggravate. Sleep apnea can be treated by a CPAP machine but you won’t lose your benefits. Just because you are receiving treatment doesn’t mean the VA will stop paying you for the disability.
Chronic Sinusitis VA Disability Benefits
Service-connected sinus conditions are grouped in with lung functions because they are going to affect all of the things on this list in the same way. Sinus damage or perpetual sinus infections can affect your breathing and your airway as bad as mild bronchitis. The infections can cause drainage that hurts your throat and causes a cough as bad as COPD. If you’ve had multiple sinus infections almost continuously over the past year, you should talk to your VA disability lawyer about applying to get a rating for your chronic sinusitis.
Tuberculosis VA Disability Benefits
No matter what branch of the service you were in, you could have been in some pretty tough situations. If you were exposed to tuberculosis or even exposed to people that were exposed, you have a risk of carrying it for the rest of your life. It may stay in a latent state and not bother you with any symptoms. When you start to cough, have chest pains, have a fever or chills, and even cough up blood, your tuberculosis has turned active and you need to seek medical help right away.
VA Rates All Lung Disabilities with The Spirometry Test
When you go for your C&P Exam, they may recommend you to another ear nose, and throat specialist or to a lab for a spirometry test. While the purpose of a C&P exam is strictly to diagnose and record your disabilities, if you are not doing well, they will send you to a doctor for treatment. Part of your diagnosis or your treatment will surely be a spirometry test.
The spirometry test will require you to take a deep breath and then blow it out as hard and fast as you can. Make sure you don’t try to cheat and blow softly to make it look like your lungs don’t work! The result is not just a number, but it is interpreted by the doctor watching you take the test. Depending on how fast, how much, and the quality of the air that you blow, you’ll receive an FEV-1/FVC score that corresponds to the following rating schedule.
|FEV-1/FVC Level||VA Disability Rating for Asthma|
|71%-80% of what is expected||10% VA Rating|
|56%-70% of what is expected||30% VA Rating|
|40%-55% or max oxygen consumption of 15-20 ml/kg/min||60% VA Rating|
|Less than 40% or a bunch of other issues are listed below||100% VA Rating|
This test is used to diagnose COPD, bronchitis, asthma, and even lung cancer. You’ll get three tries and your results will be averaged out. It may not be part of your overall C&P exam since a specific spirometry tech may need to administer the test.
Remember, your overall VA rating for lung disabilities is riding on this test, so ask for one if they don’t give it to you, and do your genuine best at it.
You can get VA disability for one of those conditions but not both. When it comes to the lungs, the VA will only rate you for one condition, but they’ll rate you for whatever is the worst so you get the highest rating.
Yes, you can get a VA rating for both of those. Since sleep apnea isn’t considered a lung condition, you can combine it with your Asthma rating. Remember, VA math is weird, so use a VA Disability Calculator for accuracy.
Yes, you can. Your rating will be reviewed every 5 years unless you are given a permanent rating. Talk to your doctor or your VA disability lawyer if you might be better rated for permanent COPD benefits.
Hay fever is a form of asthma caused by allergens and poor air quality. If your lungs were weakened or you developed an allergy during active duty, you might 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.
Yes, if you can prove a service connection, you can get rated for COPD which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The rating will vary depending on what your FEV-1/FVC Level is. Check out this chart to see where your FEV-1 level lines up.
Yes and No. You can get VA disability for one of those diagnoses, but not both. The VA is required to give you whichever rating is higher, so if you have both, make sure you get the higher rating of the two.