The Department of Veteran Affairs has recognized three respiratory conditions —asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis— as presumptive conditions in relation to particulate matter pollution for vets who served in Southwest Asia and other specific regions. Nationwide VA attorney Brendan Garcia explains the impact this change has on veterans’ disability claims.
After a newly formed internal VA process was conducted to review scientific evidence, the proceeding recommendations were to add presumptions of service connection for some chronic respiratory conditions.
Asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis are now identified as presumptive conditions.
The VA’s review concluded that there was sufficient evidence to presume exposure to particulate matter with these veterans:
Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, says, “Through this process, I determined that the evidence provided was sufficient to establish presumptions of service connection for these three respiratory conditions. This is the right decision, and VA will continue to use a holistic approach in determining toxic exposure presumptives moving forward.”
Particulate matter in the air can be present for many reasons. The causes can be either man-made or naturally occurring causes of this pollution.
Oil Well Fires – During the gulf war, hundreds of oil wells were set on fire. Toxic black smoke filled the region polluting the air, water, and food sources.
Burn Pits – The military often used burn pits to dispose of waste that releases harmful substances into the air.
Sandstorms – In Southwest Asia, particulate matter is significantly higher because of the dry, desert environments.
In particulate matter pollution – Small particles enter through the airways that can spread to other parts of the body (i.e., lungs, heart.) These particles carry toxins that are difficult for a body to filter out completely. They can affect several different body systems and cause serious health problems:
The impacts of particulate matter pollution are virtually incalculable.
As you can see… there are A LOT of other conditions that can be caused by particulate matter exposure. Many of them are not related to the chronic respiratory conditions that are now presumptive.
Since the VA has conceded that all Gulf vets were presumptively exposed to particulate matter pollution, veterans now have greater leverage when applying for benefits —even if it’s not a presumptive condition.
It’s finally been acknowledged that particulate matter pollution was not only present during service, but that it can lead to serious chronic conditions that show up later in life.
Whether or not your disability is a presumptive condition —if you’re living with a disability, you are entitled to benefits for your time spent in service. Look for an experienced veterans claims lawyer to help you. VetLaw is committed to helping veterans nationwide appeal denied claims and earn the highest disability rating.