What is the VA Rating for Dyspnea? How to Get Veterans Disability Benefits for Breathing Problems

Many veterans experience breathing difficulties, which can significantly impact their daily lives. Veterans Affairs (VA) recognizes these challenges and provides disability ratings for conditions like dyspnea, or shortness of breath. This system helps determine the support and compensation veterans receive. Understanding the dyspnea VA rating involves recognizing the criteria used and how they relate to other respiratory problems. Grasping this information empowers veterans to navigate the benefits process effectively, ensuring they receive the support they deserve.

Getting Veterans Disability for Breathing Issues: Key Takeaways

  • Documentation Is Key: Keep thorough records of medical tests and treatments, especially pulmonary function tests and specialist consultations.
  • Understand VA Ratings: Learn how the VA rates breathing issues based on pulmonary function and daily activity impact.
  • Evidence of Service Connection: Demonstrate a link between military service and respiratory issues, highlighting exposure to harmful substances.
  • Consult VA-Accredited Representatives: Work with experts who can help navigate the VA claims process effectively.
  • Prepare for C&P Exams: Familiarize yourself with what to expect during these medical evaluations as they play a crucial role in determining your disability rating.

What is Dyspnea? Symptoms and Side Effects

Dyspnea, also known as shortness of breath, is the feeling of not getting enough air or breathing insufficiently. It can be acute or chronic and varies in intensity based on its cause.

Symptoms of Dyspnea:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Wheezing or noisy breathing
  • Anxiety and increased heart rate

Causes: Common causes include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, anemia, and anxiety disorders.

Side Effects and Complications: Dyspnea can decrease quality of life, cause sleep disturbances, worsen anxiety, and lead to physical debilitation and increased hospitalization risk if untreated.

Diagnosis and Treatment: Diagnosis involves a medical history review, physical examination, and tests such as chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include medications, oxygen therapy, lifestyle changes, and sometimes surgery.

How Military Service Can Cause Breathing Problems

Military service members often experience breathing problems (like chronic bronchitis, sleep apnea and bronchiolitis) that continue after leaving active duty. Exposure to airborne toxins during deployment means some veterans will develop severe respiratory illnesses with chronic symptoms after returning home.

Airborne toxins that cause long-term physical damage are not uncommon for service members to encounter while on active duty, including:

  • Pollution (dust storm particles, particles released from industrial processing facilities)
  • Smoke from fires
  • Chemicals (sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, industrial pollutants)
  • Other hazards (Agent Orange, sarin gas, other tactical herbicides and pesticides)

In addition, excessive radiation exposure is also likely, which can lead to various respiratory cancers. Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange are highly likely to develop breathing problems symptomatic of life-threatening health conditions, including:

A 2015 study reviewing U.S. military respiratory infections found “ARDs (Acute respiratory diseases) have been particularly problematic in recruit and other military training environments, where close and crowded living conditions, physical and psychological stresses, environmental challenges, and demanding physical training lead to more intense exposure as well as a state of relative immune compromise.”

If you currently have breathing problems, several different respiratory illnesses may qualify you for monthly disability compensation from the VA. In order to qualify, you’ll need to establish a direct connection between your active military service and current respiratory illness.

Disability Criteria From Veterans Affairs

Veterans Affairs assesses respiratory disabilities by examining how breathing issues impact a veteran’s daily life and activities. The VA uses a detailed rating schedule to determine disability levels, focusing on symptoms like cough, breathlessness during exertion, and the need for oxygen therapy. Pulmonary function tests that measure lung capacity and airflow are crucial, as they provide objective data to guide the severity assessment and corresponding disability rating. This approach ensures that veterans receive a fair evaluation based on the actual impact of their respiratory conditions.

Are Breathing Issues Considered a Disability by the VA?

Yes, breathing issues are recognized as disabilities by the VA when they significantly impair a veteran’s ability to work or perform daily activities. Conditions such as dyspnea, chronic bronchitis, and asthma are evaluated for their impact on the veteran’s health and lifestyle. The severity of the condition, as evidenced by medical documentation and testing, determines the level of disability compensation awarded. This recognition ensures that veterans with significant respiratory ailments receive the necessary support and compensation.

Which Respiratory Illnesses Can Receive a VA Disability Rating?

Below are some common respiratory illnesses and other breathing problems listed in the VA disability rating schedule’s guidelines:

  • Sinusitis
  • Deviated septum
  • Sleep apnea
  • Laryngitis
  • Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  • Aphonia (trouble talking above a whisper or speaking at all)
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Bronchitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Pulmonary vascular disease (this condition causes shortness of breath)
  • Bacterial lung infections
  • Cancer
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Asthma

Depending on what’s causing your breathing problems, the VA will rate your respiratory illness according to:

  • Your medical diagnosis
  • How seriously your breathing problems impact your quality of life and daily activities

Here’s an example: The VA assigns a disability rating for your chronic bronchitis after conducting air-flow tests on your lungs. You can receive a 10%, 30%, 60% or 100% disability rating from the VA, which determines your monthly benefit amount. The higher your VA disability rating, the bigger your monthly benefits    payment. That’s because your disability rating indicates how much your condition affects your ability to complete work tasks and function socially.

The VA makes an exception to the disability rating rule for cancer patients with breathing problems. If you have cancer, the VA always assigns a 100% disability rating during treatment and for six months after completion. Once you’ve completed your cancer treatment, the VA will reexamine you and potentially assign you a lower VA disability rating. If your cancer resurges and you need additional treatment, the VA automatically reassigns your claim a 100% disability rating.

What is the Dyspnea VA Rating?

The VA rates dyspnea based on the severity of the breathing impairment and its impact on the veteran’s daily life and work capabilities. Ratings are determined by objective measurements taken during pulmonary function tests, specifically looking at the Forced Expiratory Volume (FEV1) and Forced Vital Capacity (FVC) ratio. The ratings for respiratory conditions are assigned as follows:

  • 0% Rating: Assigned when there is minimal or no significant impact on breathing.
  • 10% Rating: For mild breathing difficulties with some impact on daily activities.
  • 30% Rating: Indicated for moderate breathing challenges that affect physical exertion.
  • 60% Rating: For severe respiratory restrictions impacting daily function and requiring occasional assistance.
  • 100% Rating: Reserved for the most severe cases where the individual is unable to engage in any physical activity without assistance and has regular hospitalizations or continuous medication.

This structured rating system ensures that veterans receive compensation proportional to how significantly dyspnea affects their quality of life and ability to work.

What is My VA Disability Rating Worth?

The dyspnea VA rating may vary depending on the severity of your condition, but once you know your VA rating, the payouts are standard. A 10% dyspnea VA rating will garner $171.23 monthly, while a 100% VA rating for dyspnea will earn you $3,737.85 for your monthly payment.

Below is a table of monthly payments based on VA rating for if you have no dependents:

  • 0% disability rating: $0.00 per month
  • 10% disability rating: $171.23 per month
  • 20% disability rating: $338.49 per month
  • 30% disability rating: $524.31 per month
  • 40% disability rating: $755.28 per month
  • 50% disability rating: $1,075.16 per month
  • 60% disability rating: $1,361.88 per month
  • 70% disability rating: $1,716.28 per month
  • 80% disability rating: $1,995.01 per month
  • 90% disability rating: $2,241.91 per month
  • 100% disability rating: $3,737.85 per month

Other Medical Conditions & Comorbidities That May Increase Your Dyspnea VA Disability Rating

When assessing the VA disability rating for dyspnea, the impact of service-caused comorbidities is crucial as they can exacerbate the respiratory condition and increase the overall impairment:

  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Heart conditions like heart failure or coronary artery disease, often linked to service-related stress or exposures, can worsen dyspnea and lead to higher disability ratings due to their severe impact on overall health and breathing.
  • Psychological Conditions: Service-related anxiety and depression can intensify the perception of dyspnea and complicate its management, potentially influencing the evaluation for a higher disability rating.
  • Chronic Respiratory Conditions: Conditions like COPD and asthma, if linked to exposures to harmful substances during military service (e.g., burn pits, chemical agents), can significantly impact lung function and compound the severity of dyspnea.

These comorbidities must be clearly linked to military service to affect the dyspnea VA disability rating. Accurate documentation and medical evidence connecting these conditions to service are essential for ensuring veterans receive the correct compensation reflecting their total service-related health challenges.

Medical Evidence You’ll Need for Your Shortness of Breath VA Disability Claim

To secure VA disability benefits for dyspnea, comprehensive medical evidence is crucial. This evidence must support both the condition itself and its connection to military service.

Medical Records

Include detailed records from healthcare providers that document the diagnosis, treatment, and progression of dyspnea. Essential documents are clinical evaluations, pulmonary function tests, and other diagnostic tests that measure lung capacity and breathing difficulties.

Medical Evidence of Service Connection

Provide evidence that links dyspnea directly to service. This could include medical opinions connecting specific incidents during service to respiratory issues, or records of exposure to harmful substances known to affect respiratory health.

Evidence that Work Triggers Symptoms

If certain work-related activities or environments exacerbate dyspnea symptoms, documentation or statements detailing these triggers are necessary. This is particularly relevant if the symptoms are linked to exposures during service.

Proof of Service Connection

Submit direct evidence of incidents during military service that led to dyspnea, or support a presumptive service connection based on the veteran’s service history and duties. This includes demonstrating that the condition arose during or was aggravated by the period of service.

Organizing this evidence clearly and comprehensively is essential for demonstrating the severity of the condition and its connection to military service, helping to secure the appropriate VA disability rating.

Establishing A Direct Service Connection for Your Breathing Problems

When you apply for veterans disability benefits, you must prove that your active military service directly caused your respiratory illness. Since respiratory illness can also occur after you’re discharged from duty, that link is absolutely essential to your claim’s eligibility. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A current respiratory illness diagnosis from your treating physician
  • Evidence that your illness developed due to an event that occurred while on duty
  • Medical evidence linking your current respiratory condition to the active-duty event that occurred

Most often, the VA will require your doctor’s opinion about whether or not a service-related event caused your respiratory illness. Your doctor must submit documentation that explains why your breathing problems should make you eligible for service-related disability compensation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs then rates your respiratory illness according to the VA Schedule of Ratings Disabilities. (Respiratory illnesses are rated under Section 4.97, with diagnostic codes 6502 through 6847.)

Getting a Presumptive Service Connection for Disability Benefits

In certain cases, you won’t need to provide actual proof that your active service directly caused your breathing problems. The VA calls this a “presumptive service connection,” and you need at least 90 days of continuous service to qualify. The VA lists several respiratory illnesses eligible for a presumptive service connection, such as tuberculosis, lung cancer, and bronchiectasis. (See a full list of diseases that qualify for a presumptive service connection.)

You’ll also get a presumptive service connection if excessive radiation exposure caused your cancer of the pharynx or bronchiolo-alveolar carcinoma. Veterans face higher radiation exposure risks than civilians do for several reasons, including:

  • The military’s close proximity to nuclear weapons testing
  • Exposure to depleted uranium
  • Other chemical weapons that may disperse radioactive isotopes

Vietnam veterans who develop respiratory cancers after exposure to either Agent Orange or other herbicides don’t need proof. Instead, they should qualify for full VA health care and disability benefits automatically.

How to Apply for Dyspnea VA Disability Benefits

Filing a VA disability claim is a critical step for veterans seeking compensation for breathing issues related to their military service. Here’s a concise guide to help you navigate the process efficiently and effectively.

  • Preparation Steps: Begin by verifying your eligibility for VA disability compensation. Ensure your claim is thorough, incorporating all relevant documents. Essential evidence includes both VA and private medical records, hospital reports related to your condition, and supportive statements from acquaintances who are familiar with your situation. This comprehensive approach expedites the process.
  • Filing Process: Claims can be filed online for immediate processing. Alternatively, you can submit your application via mail, in person at a VA regional office, by fax, or with assistance from an accredited professional. Detailed instructions and necessary forms are available on the VA’s website.
  • Support and Resources: It’s beneficial to submit evidence upfront, although it’s not mandatory. However, lack of evidence might necessitate a claim exam to evaluate your condition. After filing, the average processing time is approximately 155.5 days as of April 2024. For additional guidance, watch our instructional video on filing claims, accessible on YouTube.
  • Post-Submission: After submission, monitor your claim’s status online. If additional information or appearances at examinations are required, prompt compliance is crucial for claim advancement.

Work With a Disability Lawyer to Improve Your Odds of Approval

If you have a respiratory illness you believe is service-connected, then you may qualify for VA disability benefits. You can also consult a VA-accredited attorney who’ll answer your claim questions for free.

Ready to see if you may qualify? Click the button below to start your free online benefits evaluation now!

Get Your Free Benefits Evaluation

Shay Fleming is the SEO Content Manager at LeadingResponse. A proud graduate of Texas State University, she has been based in Austin since 2016, where she lives with her dog. Shay has contributed extensively to various domains, writing and publishing articles about real estate, investing, disability, and urban living.