Can I Claim VA Disability Benefits for Respiratory Disease?

Man using oxygen

VA disability lawyers represent many Veterans who suffer respiratory illnesses and disabilities connected to their military service and understand how vital it is for their families to receive the crucial benefits they deserve.

Veterans can experience a variety of exposures to chemicals, pollutants, and other airborne hazards that lead to respiratory disabilities of the nose, throat, lungs, sinuses, larynx, windpipe, bronchi and bronchioles, lung tissue, and chest cage respiratory muscles.

In addition to existing service conditions that can lead to disabilities like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and certain types of cancer, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many active members of the military and Veterans and their families.

Department of Defense (DoD) statistics as recent as February 23, 2022, show that:

  •       385,855 military service members have been infected with the virus.
  •       2,540 have been hospitalized.

The silver lining is that DoD reports 1,637,259 service members having now been fully vaccinated, and many who’ve contracted the disease went on to later recover.

Yet, researchers are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections. Veterans infected with the virus may go on to develop lasting health conditions from long-haul covid.  

The VA’s view of service-connected respiratory disabilities is evolving, but there’s still no guarantee that Veterans with respiratory conditions won’t be denied or receive a too-low disability rating.

That’s why Veterans can benefit from stopping to ask themselves, “How can VA disability lawyers near me help?”

The right attorney can advocate for you when applying for VA disability benefits or facing potential appeals of an unfavorable decision.

Here’s what you need to know about VA disability benefits and respiratory disease.

Table of Contents:

  1.     What Does the VA Consider a Respiratory Disability?
  2.     Does My Condition Qualify Me for Benefits?
  3.     How Can I Find the Best VA Disability Lawyers Near Me?

What Does the VA Consider a Respiratory Disability?

Veterans can suffer a host of different respiratory diseases connected to their military service. According to the VA, some common causes of these conditions can include mechanical exhaust fumes such as from aircraft, burn pits, sand storms, and carcinogenic chemicals such as Agent Orange.

These are listed by the VA in their Schedule of Rating Disabilities under Section 4.97 for respiratory system disabilities.

Some of the respiratory diseases the VA considers potentially disabling include:

  •       Asthma
  •       Traumatic deviation of the septum
  •       Loss of part of or other disfigurements of the nose
  •       Sleep apnea
  •       Emphysema
  •       Chronic bronchitis
  •       Chronic laryngitis
  •       Tuberculosis
  •       Lung cancer
  •       Pulmonary vascular disease
  •       Pneumonia

These are only a few of the conditions which could be caused or worsened by service. Veterans should discuss their specific condition with a VA disability attorney to learn what level of disability rating they may receive when applying for benefits.

As mentioned, though the VA does not yet consider COVID-19 a disability in and of itself, the long-term impacts of the disease can lead to respiratory conditions that may qualify you for benefits.

Does My Condition Qualify Me for Benefits?

Qualifying for benefits depends largely on the nature of your condition, its severity, and whether you can prove a connection to your military service.

The VA defines a service-connected disability as one of the following:

  •       Direct Service Connection: You became ill or were injured while serving and can link your current condition to the illness or injury, or you suffer a chronic condition that began during service and later developed into a current disability.

Example: You developed COPD as a result of exposure to open-air burn pits or other airborne hazards.

  •       Secondary Service Connection: Secondary disabilities are those caused or aggravated by an existing service-connected disability.

Example: You develop heart disease or diabetes caused by service-connected sleep apnea.

  •       Aggravated Disability: You had an illness or injury before you joined the military, and serving worsened the condition. You may have to prove the worsening of the condition is connected to your military service and not caused by the natural progression of the disease.

Example: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may aggravate an existing sleep apnea condition.

To prove your disability, you’ll need medical evidence and service records, as well as a “Nexus letter” from a doctor establishing a service connection. You may need to file additional paperwork and undergo a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam as well.

Presumptive Respiratory Disabilities

Presumptive disabilities are those which the VA automatically presumes have a  service connection. Those who qualify usually have served under special conditions or in certain historical theaters such as Vietnam.

Some examples of presumptive respiratory disabilities include:

  •       Mycobacterium Tuberculosis was developed by certain Gulf War Veterans.
  •       Asthma, Rhinitis, or Sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis developed by certain Gulf War Veterans.
  •       Respiratory cancers developed as a result of radiation exposure
  •       Respiratory cancers developed due to Agent Orange exposure

Talk to your attorney to learn more about qualifying for a presumptive respiratory disability.

How Can I Find the Best VA Disability Lawyers Near Me?

The best VA disability lawyers advocate for Veterans throughout the process of their benefits case, whether you’re suffering a respiratory disease or any other type of service disability.

Attorneys can advise you and help you file appeals, assist you with proper and complete documentation, and can guide you through each step of a potentially long and complicated process.

Attorneys can act as an advocate on your behalf when seeking a higher rating.

A case consultation provides a great opportunity for a “first meeting” with a VA disability lawyer. It’s a time to ask questions and present your case to see if an attorney meets your expectations and is the right fit for your claim.

At Affleck & Gordon, our Veteran clients do not pay attorney fees unless their case is won. Additionally,  an initial consultation with attorneys at Affleck & Gordon is completely free.

If your VA Disability claim was denied, or you’re thinking about filing and don’t know where to start, Affleck & Gordon can help. We’ve been helping people in Georgia just like you for decades. Sign up for a free case evaluation here, or call us at (404) 990-3945.

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