VA Disability Rating for Lung Nodules
A lung nodules VA rating must be accompanied by another condition rating or your symptoms must closely match another respiratory illness to receive monthly disability compensation and access to some VA programs. You must proactively ask for medical tests and other evidence that helps VA claims examiners match your conditions and symptoms to a disability that correctly reflects how your military service has affected your civilian life.
Lung nodules are noncancerous growths made up of muscle and tissue that result from damage to your lungs from infections, scarring, and other medical conditions. Lung nodules with no accompanying symptoms or other illnesses are not compensable under the VA Ratings Schedule for Disabilities. Other conditions that cause lung nodules include asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other respiratory illnesses that can result from toxic exposure during military service. Veterans diagnosed with lung nodules must ask for tests for other conditions and to measure their lung function and capacity.
Department of Veterans Affairs claims examiners use this evidence, in conjunction with your military records, to decide if your condition is related to your military service and determine how much it affects your ability to work. They may assign you a rating based on another diagnosis with lung nodules as a secondary condition, or they may choose a rating for the condition that most closely matches your symptoms.
Veterans and Lung Nodules
Lung nodules are abnormal growths in your lungs, sometimes called coin nodules. They are usually benign and could indicate an old infection or scar tissue. If you have lung nodules, your health care provider will likely want to run tests to determine what caused them and to rule out cancer.
Some symptoms of lung nodules include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Unexplained weight loss
Lung nodules are linked to other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, and several respiratory conditions. These conditions, and thus lung nodules, may be caused by environmental factors that affect military personnel, such as exposure to radiation, asbestos, or burn pits.
Service Connection for Lung Nodules
To get a VA disability rating, you must show that you have an active condition incurred during or due to your military service. Lung nodules have various causes, and you are most likely to be able to show a connection to your service through your symptoms and other conditions you may have. For example, if you have trouble breathing, pain, and coughing consistent with asthma, you may have a service connection from exposure to burn pits.
To establish a service connection to your symptoms, get a copy of your military records showing when you may have been exposed to toxins or chemicals known to cause respiratory problems. Try to get statements from people you served with who can attest to your symptoms starting while you were serving or from people who have similar symptoms and were stationed at the same exposure site.
How Does the VA Rate Lung Nodules?
The VA uses diagnostic code 6820 in rating lung nodules. It does not assign disability ratings directly for lung nodules but instructs claims reviewers to assign a disability rating using an appropriate analogous respiratory condition. In effect, the VA has determined that lung nodules with no symptoms and no impact on your ability to work are not compensable.
If you have been diagnosed with lung nodules with symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting a firm diagnosis of the condition that caused the nodules. Barring that, ask that they keep track of your symptoms and fill out the VA Disability Benefits Questionnaire for respiratory illnesses.
The Disability Benefits Questionnaire paints a complete picture of your symptoms, testing, and diagnoses and asks the doctor if your respiratory condition impacts your ability to work. It notes ongoing treatments, examinations, and whether your nodules are stable or changing.
The VA claims examiner will review your evidence and assign a rating. That rating will depend on whether you have another condition, how severe your symptoms are, and how much they affect your overall health and ability to carry out daily activities. Depending on your other conditions, you could get a disability rating of anywhere from 0 percent to 100 percent.
Lung Nodules as a Secondary Disability
To receive a VA rating for lung nodules, they must be accompanied by or have symptoms similar to a respiratory condition for which the VA can give a disability rating. Several conditions rated from 10 percent to 100 percent may be related to your lung nodules, such as the following:
- Asthma, rated under diagnostic code 6602
- Asbestosis, rated under diagnostic code 6833
- Chronic bronchitis, rated under diagnostic code 6600
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, rated under diagnostic code 6604
The key to getting a lung nodules VA rating is the quality of evidence you have showing your symptoms interfere with your ability to work. This is best accomplished through another diagnosis or if you have well-documented symptoms that resemble other pulmonary disorders so that the claims examiner can choose an appropriate rating.
Total Disability Individual Unemployability and Lung Nodules
Some veterans with disability ratings of less than 100 percent are still unable to work due to their disabilities. The VA Total Disability Individual Unemployability program, or TDIU, is designed to help. Even with a lower rating, the program can grant you a 100 percent disability rating if you meet one of two conditions:
- A disability rated 60 percent or higher
- Multiple disabilities, with one rated at least 40 percent and a combined rating of at least 70 percent
For example, if you have lung nodules rated at 60 percent based on symptoms that most closely resemble asthma at that level, you are eligible to apply for Total Disability Individual Unemployability. To get 100 percent compensation, you must provide strong evidence that you cannot work.
To apply for these benefits, you must fill out the Total Disability Individual Unemployability application and the request for employment information. Include evidence that you cannot work to support your claim that you deserve 100 percent benefits even with a lower disability rating.
How to Obtain VA Compensation for Lung Nodules
If you have lung nodules and believe the symptoms are disabling, take a proactive approach to get the correct VA rating. Because lung nodules don’t have a separate compensable rating, your compensation will depend on how closely your symptoms resemble other conditions. Be sure to ask for a forced expiratory volume test and other pulmonary function tests, as the results play a significant role in VA ratings for respiratory conditions.
Keep track of missed work days. For instance, you may have to call out because you can’t catch your breath or stop coughing long enough to drive safely. Get statements from your fellow employees and employer noting times you had to leave early or symptoms that affected your ability to complete tasks.
Ask the VA for help if you need assistance gathering other information for your claim. The VA has a duty to assist you in getting VA and private medical records, military service files, and other federal records.
Once you have the information you need, there are three ways to apply:
- Complete the online disability benefits application.
- Mail VA Form 21-626EZ to the VA Claims Intake Center.
- Bring your form to the nearest VA regional office.
If you want more information regarding a lung nodules VA rating or have other questions about VA disability compensation and programs, contact the experts at Veterans Guide.