I am often contacted by struggling Veterans who have significant health conditions and are seeking advice on if they would qualify for VA Disability Benefits. While it is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced VA Disability attorney, like those at Gold, Khourey & Turak, the answer to this question is never simple. Fortunately, the VA has recently announced a new set of rules for VA disability benefits for Veterans suffering from breathing issues.
As of August 2, 2021, the VA will begin assessing breathing related problems (asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis) for Veterans that served in certain areas and during certain timeframes on a presumptive basis. To learn more about these new presumptive conditions, read below.
If you are a Veteran and need assistance with VA Disability benefits, or you know a Veteran that needs assistance, contact our office at (304) 845-9750 for a free case review. We can also be reached online 24/7 through our Live Chat feature, or by completing our online form.
Who Qualifies for New VA Disability Benefits?
Particularly, the service areas and times frames covered are:
- Middle East: Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, and Uzbekistan for service during the time period of September 19, 2001, to the present day; and
- Southwest Asia: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, and the air space above these locations for Persian Gulf War service, which the VA is considering from August 2, 1990, to the present day.
Why the Change in Presumptive VA Disabilities?
This is due to a recent effort by the VA to begin using a new form of internal review that uses scientific data to create presumptive disabilities to better serve Veterans. Here, this new rulemaking procedure or process used studies done by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to adopt these new presumptive conditions.
Specifically, this study, and subsequently these presumptive conditions, are related to airborne hazards that Veterans were exposed to in these areas and during these time frames. Airborne hazards are any contaminate, toxic substance, or particulate matter a service member could have been exposed to and breathed. However, of particular concern here is exposure to:
- smoke and fumes from open burn pits frequently used in these areas.
- the constant sand, dust, and particulate matter common to these areas.
- the overall, general air pollution of certain areas.
- the fuel, exhaust, and other mechanical fumes service members were commonly exposed to.
- exposure to smoke from oil well fires.
The exact type of respiratory or breathing problems (or even other health conditions) depends greatly on what type of material you were exposed to, how much of it you were exposed to (either in proximity, time, or frequency), and other environmental factors of the area in which you served. The study showed, and the VA agreed, that across these areas and time frames the conditions of asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, as well as conditions falling under them, occurred frequently enough from these exposures that they should be presumptive conditions and VA disability benefits should be considered.
Generous Time Frames for Veterans’ Benefits!
The VA is allowing up to ten (10) years for these breathing issues to begin after the qualified military service ended. This is uncommon as the timeframe for consideration of VA disability benefits is typically shorter. The longer timeframe was established to provide as much eligibility as possible. Prior to the extended timeframe for VA disability benefits consideration, the VA had previously denied many VA disability claims under these conditions. To be considered for VA disability benefits, you “only” need to medically prove that you were experiencing medical difficulties with one of the qualified breathing conditions during the ten (10) year period following the end of your service.
Furthermore, it must also be noted that the VA is not mandating a length of service in a qualified area either. Generally, the VA will find that a Veteran is required to have served for a specified period of time (i.e., 10 months or more, etc.) before they qualified for disability benefits. This is not the case for this presumption. This is uncommon but reflects the varied nature of deployments in these areas. Thus, a Veteran is only required to show that, during their military service, they were deployed or served in these areas.
Why are Conditions Being Presumptive Important?
You may wonder why these conditions being presumptive is important. After all, even without a presumption you can prove and be awarded VA disability benefits. However, presumptive conditions are a big deal because it automatically links your health condition with your military service. Thus, you do not have the burden of proving your breathing problems are from your military service and not naturally occurring or occurring because you later worked at a chemical plant, etc. This basically removes a step of the process in the Veterans favor when applying for VA disability benefits.
Are You a Veteran? What Should You Do?
If you have a current, pending application or appeal for VA disability benefits that includes asthma, rhinitis, or sinusitis, then the VA should automatically review your claim under these new rules. If you do not have an active application or appeal, and you fall into the above categories, you should apply (even if you have been denied in the past) as the VA will look at your claim again under this new light.
In any case, don’t wait! If you or someone you know is seeking disability benefits, or struggling with Veterans or Survivors disability benefits, call our office today at (304) 845-9750 for a free review of your situation. You have honorably served our country, and it would be an honor for us to assist you in obtaining the VA disability benefits you are entitled to. Call us now at (304) 845-9750 or reach out to us online 24/7 through our Live Chat or by completing our no obligation online form. We look forward to hearing from you.