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Respiratory Conditions and Asthma

Asthma and other respiratory conditions are common health challenges many veterans suffer when they return from service. They frequently are exposed to toxic and hazardous environments while defending their country. The VA may offer disability benefits to veterans with asthma or respiratory conditions.

While trying to defend their country, the brave members of our military are constantly living in or are exposed to toxic and hazardous conditions that can harm their respiratory system. These environmental toxins can cause the member to develop respiratory conditions, like asthma, making it harder for them to breathe or conduct normal daily tasks.

The United States Veterans Administration (VA) may offer disability benefits to veterans with asthma or other respiratory health conditions due to military service. Benefits usually include monthly compensation, which can range in amounts depending on the severity of the condition and the number of dependents the veteran has. When filing for benefits, you will receive a VA asthma disability rating or a VA rating for respiratory problems. These ratings will help determine the severity of your condition and the monthly amount you will receive in benefits.

Filing a claim with the VA to see if you are eligible to receive VA respiratory disability benefits is easy, but you must make sure you understand everything that you need to submit a strong claim.

What Kind of Respiratory Conditions Can Military Service Result In?

The most common types of respiratory conditions that military members and veterans develop from toxic exposure during their service include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Lung Cancer
  • Sleep apnea
  • Mesothelioma

Asthma is the most common respiratory condition in veterans. A recent study found that veterans deployed overseas are 24 to 30 percent more likely to develop asthma than those not deployed.

Asthma is a respiratory condition that can make breathing difficult or certain activities harder to do. Asthma can also involve mild attacks where your ability to breathe is significantly harder. In some cases, asthma can involve life-threatening issues within your respiratory system that could lead to more long-term problems.

The VA asthma disability rating will help determine the severity of your asthma condition and how much you may be eligible for in benefits.

Why Do Veterans Experience Respiratory Issues?

While serving in the military, you likely experienced hazardous living conditions that could have exposed you to several environmental toxins. You may have been exposed to hazards, such as fumes from aircraft exhaust, burn pits, sandstorms, Agent Orange, or other infectious agents or airborne environmental hazards.

Other toxins, such as exposure to desert dust, toxins from garbage burning, and asbestos-containing materials, can also cause respiratory issues or asthma. Each of these toxins has excessive particles that can cause blockages and damage throughout your respiratory system.

Veterans who were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or other desert locations for a longer tour of duty were frequently exposed to dust and sand from the environment and burn pits from trash burning. Consequently, these servicemen and women are more likely to develop asthma.

Are People with Respiratory Conditions Eligible for VA Disability?

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides veterans suffering from illness or injuries caused by their military service or made worse by their military service with monthly tax-free disability compensation payments. The VA has specific eligibility criteria for veterans to determine their eligibility for these benefits.

If you have a respiratory condition caused or exacerbated by your military service, you could be eligible for VA disability benefits. Respiratory conditions or other breathing problems caused by a current lung condition or lung disease are eligible for VA disability.

PACT Act

In 2022, the United States Congress passed the PACT Act. The new law expands VA disability benefits for veterans exposed to burn pits, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances during their service.

man with breathing issues

How Does a Veteran Qualify for Respiratory Disability Benefits

If you believe you qualify for VA respiratory disability benefits, you are encouraged to gather as much evidence as you can to help support your claim.

When reviewing your claim, the VA will look for:

  • A physical or mental disability or damage to your body or mind that makes you partially or fully unable to conduct daily tasks
  • An event, injury, or illness that occurred while you were serving in the military that caused the disability

The VA also requires you to submit specific documents with your claim. These include:

  • Your DD214 or other separation documents
  • Your service treatment records
  • Any medical evidence related to your illness or injury (like doctor’s reports, X-rays, and medical test results)

You can also include written supporting statements from family members, friends, professionals, or other military members you served with that can tell the VA more about your claimed condition, how it happened, when it happened, or how it got worse.

Depending on the type of claim you file, you can gather the supporting documents yourself or ask the VA to help you gather evidence.

VA Respiratory Conditions and Asthma Disability Rating

If you are approved for VA respiratory disability benefits, you will be assigned a disability rating. The rating will be based on the severity of your service-related condition.

If you have multiple disabilities, the VA will calculate your combined VA disability rating. These ratings are expressed as a percentage that represents the degree to which your disability decreases your overall health and ability to function.

Disability ratings determine your disability compensation rate, which sets how much money you will receive from the VA each month. The rating can also determine your eligibility for other benefits, such as VA health care. 

Disability ratings vary from 10 percent to 100 percent. The higher the percentage, the more you will receive in disability compensation each month. Other factors, such as having a spouse, children, parents, or other dependents, can increase your monthly compensation if your disability rating is 30 percent or more. If you are approved for a disability rate under 30 percent, you are not eligible for additional compensation for having dependents.

The minimum amount you can receive in disability compensation is $165.92 per month. The most you can receive in disability compensation per month is $4,295.92. This amount applies to veterans with a 100 percent disability rating who have a spouse, one child, and two parents.

If you’re curious about what your VA rating for respiratory problems or other disabilities might be, you can go on the VA’s website to calculate it.

doctors examining lungs

VA Asthma Disability Rating

Depending on the severity of your asthma condition, your disability rating can be anywhere from 10 percent to 100 percent. The VA will look at several factors of your asthma condition to determine the rating. These factors will include:

  • The amount of air you can forcefully exhale in a single second
  • The need for intermittent or daily inhalational or oral bronchodilator therapy
  • A need for inhalational anti-inflammatory medication
  • Visits to a physician at least once a month for care of symptoms
  • Frequency of asthma attacks

The more severe your asthma condition is, the higher your disability rating will likely be.

File a VA Disability Claim

If you’re ready to file your VA disability claim, you can do so online through the VA website, by mail, or by visiting a VA regional office near you. 

To file your disability claim online, you can click here.  

Once you file your claim, the VA will contact you if they need more information, such as scheduling an exam. If no additional information is needed from you, it can take around 100 days before the VA decides on your claim.

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