Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that leads to recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. It is caused by environmental factors, such as allergens and smoke, and by genetic factors.
Some Veterans often experience asthma symptoms after returning from service. Service-related exposures, such as exposure to toxins or pollen, are thought to be a cause of this increased risk. The Veterans Health Administration recommends monitoring Veterans for asthma and addressing any underlying health conditions.
Symptoms and Prevalence of Asthma in Veterans
The prevalence of asthma among Veterans is higher than in the general population, and the disease disproportionately affects Veterans who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is because smoke or burn pits were used extensively during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The pits served to dispose of trash, as the fires would incinerate it.
The Different Types of VA Ratings
There are several types of VA ratings, which correspond to the percentage of a Veteran's disability. The most common ratings are 10%, 30%, 50%, 70%, and 100%. Veterans with a rating of 10% or less are considered to have a minor disability, while those with a rating of 100% are considered totally disabled.
A 30% rating is for a disability that is not so minor, while a 70% rating is for a disability that is severe. A 50% rating is in between the two.
As shown, the percentage assigned to a particular disability indicates the degree to which the Veteran is impaired because of their military service.
The VA Rating System for Asthma
The VA Rating System for Asthma is a five-tier rating system that rates the severity of a Veteran's asthma. The first tier (0 percent) is for Veterans with no symptoms, the second tier (10 percent) is for Veterans with occasional symptoms, the third tier (30 percent) is for Veterans with frequent symptoms, the fourth tier (60 percent) is for Veterans with severe symptoms, and the fifth tier (100 percent) is for Veterans with very severe symptoms. Veterans are placed in the appropriate tier based on their symptoms and how often they occur.
Forced expiratory volume-1 (FEV-1) and forced vital capacity-2 (FVC-2) are the key elements determining your rating.
FEV-1 is a measure of how much air you can forcibly exhale in a second. It is calculated as a percentage of what a typical individual would be able to exhale, according to VA. When it comes to FVC, the FVC is the maximum volume of air that a person can breathe in and breathe out normally per time.
According to the following standards, an asthma VA rating is given to a patient:
10 percent rating:
- FEV-1 - 71 to 80%;
- FEV-1/FVC - 71 to 80%;
- Bronchodilator treatment by inhalation or oral administration.
30 percent rating:
- FEV-1 - 56 to 70%;
- FEV-1/FVC - 56 to 70%;
- Treatment with bronchodilators, either inhalational or oral, on a daily basis;
- Anti-inflammatory inhalational drug treatment.
60 percent rating:
- FEV-1 - 40 to 55%;
- FEV-1/FVC - 40 to 55%;
- Intermittent (at least three times per year) treatments of systemic (parenteral or oral) corticosteroids for the treatment of exacerbations.
100 percent rating:
- FEV-1 - less than 40%;
- FEV-1/FVC - less than 40%;
- More than one respiratory failure event per week;
- Require daily use of high-dose systemic corticosteroids (oral or parenteral) or immunosuppressive drugs.
As can be seen, the ratings for pulmonary conditions are heavily based on the pulmonary function test results.
What Evidence Is Needed To Get a VA Asthma Rating?
The Veteran must have a current diagnosis of asthma and is most often required to provide evidence of the following:
- A current pulmonary function test showing FEV1 predicted levels,
- A history of exacerbations requiring treatments, prescriptions, or hospitalization,
- Medical records documenting treatment for asthma, including medications and dosages
- A medical "nexus" or relationship between the Veteran's asthma diagnosis and a service-related incident, injury, or symptom.
Benefits of Getting an Asthma VA Rating
The benefits of getting an asthma VA rating can be summed up in two words: financial security. Veterans with asthma who receive a 100% rating receive monthly cash payments, and additional benefits such as free healthcare. Veterans with asthma may be eligible for Service-Connected Disability Compensation, which can provide extra income to help cover the costs of living with a disability.
The Benefits of a Higher VA Rating
Generally, a Veteran with a higher VA rating will receive more benefits from the VA. VA benefits include compensation for service-connected disabilities, education benefits, health care, home loans, and burial benefits. The VA rating is based on the severity of the Veteran's service-connected disabilities, and the higher the rating, the more benefits the Veteran will receive.
How to Appeal a Low VA Rating
If you have been given a low VA rating, you may be wondering what your next steps are. First, it is important to understand that you have the right to appeal this rating. A qualified attorney can help at any stage, and with all of the steps of the process to ensure they are well done.