If you're a veteran who worked in close proximity to open air burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan or other countries in the Southwest Asia theater of operations, you may have returned home with symptoms of respiratory illness, or been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis or a rare illnesses known as constrictive bronchiolitis. Many veterans of the Vietnam War who were exposed to Agent Orange developed different types of respiratory cancers. If you suffer from one of  these respiratory conditions or one of many other similar illnesses you may be eligible for disability benefits from the VA.

However, obtaining VA benefits for respiratory illnesses isn’t always easy, and there are only a few respiratory medical conditions that have been given a presumptive service connection. Presumptive service connection means that the VA has ruled that an impairment is automatically considered to be service-connected, no matter when the condition first appeared.

Veterans who have tuberculosis or a few other specific diseases may be eligible for a presumptive service connection, as well as personnel exposed to excessive radiation during their service who developed lung cancer or cancer of the pharynx. Additionally, vets who were exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides that have resulted in cancer of the trachea, lung, bronchus, or larynx are eligible for benefits.

For most other respiratory illnesses, veterans must prove a service connection—that is that an event took place during your time in the military which caused the injury or illness you suffer from now. This is why it’s important to have an experienced disability lawyer to help you. Because the VA looks at each claim individually, working with a disability lawyer can improve your chances of getting your claim approved.

The VA ratings for the respiratory system are based on three main things: how well the lungs take in air, how well the lungs absorb oxygen into the blood and how the lungs exhale leftover gasses. To make determinations in these three areas, the VA requires an individual to go through pulmonary function tests—PFTs—to show if the lungs are functioning properly and how the body is affected. Because the lungs provide oxygen into the blood stream, if you have a severe lung condition, it can affect the heart, so various heart tests are included as part of the PFTs.

If you're a veteran suffering from a respiratory illness you believe is service related, particularly if you worked near open burn pits during your tour of duty, call us Cuddigan Law for a free evaluation of your case. At Cuddigan Law you have a team of professionals in your corner who will fight for your rights.



Sean D. Cuddigan
Connect with me
SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska