Was Your VA Disability Claim for COPD Denied?

Almost 30% of all disability claims are denied by Veterans Affairs (VA) every year. Worse yet, nearly 60% of these denials are in error. These are staggering statistics for veterans who have been waiting for months to get the money they need for their medical care — especially when this medical care is for serious diseases such as COPD, which can cause life-long issues, irreversible lung damage, and extensive breathing problems. VA disability for COPD is crucial for veterans with this disease to cover their expenses.

Although these situations can be incredibly overwhelming and stressful, you do not have to take on this challenging ordeal on your own. With an experienced Veteran Disability attorney on your side, you can have the legal representation you need advocating on your behalf, fighting for the compensation you deserve, and providing you the legal assistance you require during this difficult time in your life.

Veterans’ disability claims for COPD can be denied for numerous reasons. However, some of the more common denials tend to stem from the following situations:

  • There was not enough evidence submitted to prove a disability
  • The doctor did not provide enough detailed and specific evidence regarding the COPD diagnosis
  • The wrong forms were filled out
  • The disability ratings did not qualify you for benefits
  • The deadline for filing for benefits was missed
  • The COPD condition was not considered service-connected

However, even if your claim was denied, it does not mean that it is the end of the road for your case. In these situations, it is important to retain experienced legal counsel that can help you overcome these barriers and convince the VA to approve your claim.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is generally defined as a chronic inflammatory disease of the lungs that causes obstructed airflow. Symptoms of this disease often include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Mucus production
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive coughing

This disease is typically caused by long-term exposure to certain matter such as dust or sand or irritating gases such as cigarette smoke. Plus, it can also cause an increased risk of developing other serious diseases such as heart disease and lung cancer.


The VA rates COPD based on the results of various respiratory functioning tests. These tests include:

  • The FEV-1: This test measures the maximum amount of air that an individual can breathe out in one second.
  • The FCV: This test measures the total amount of air that an individual can exhale after taking a full breath in.
  • The DLCO (SB): This test measures the ability of an individual’s lungs to transfer gas from the air that is inhaled to their red blood cells.
  • Exercise Testing: These tests determine how much oxygen an individual’s blood uses when functioning at a maximum capacity.

Once the tests are completed, the VA rates an individual’s COPD under the regulations and the ratings that result can range anywhere from 10 to 100% disabling. These percentages are then used to compensate veterans for the lack of earning capacity that is caused by their COPD condition. For example, if a veteran receives a rating of less than 10%, the veteran will not qualify for compensation, resulting in the VA denying their COPD disability claim.


COPD can result from numerous causes, including long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, fumes, dust, and even chemicals. However, when it comes to service-related COPD, this disease tends to develop from:

  • Exposure to burn pits and open-air pits used on bases to burn waste
  • Exposure to harmful gases and chemicals released from these burn pits
  • Exposure to toxic air such as Agent Orange in the Vietnam War

Generally, those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely than others to file for VA disability benefits, as many of these veterans have been exposed to conditions that can often lead to service-related COPD.


If you are filing for disability based on your service-related COPD, you will first need to provide several pieces of documents and evidence not only proving your condition but also showing how there is a connection between the disease and your military service.

Typically, these documents include the following:

  • A detailed description indicating how you came to be exposed to chemicals or situations that caused you to develop COPD
  • A report from a qualified medical care professional detailing your diagnosis of COPD
  • A medical nexus letter from a qualified medical care professional confirming that your COPD was directly related to you being in the service

Remember, you do not need to show that your COPD was caused because of a direct military order. For instance, even if you were not ordered to work in the burn pits but still developed COPD because you slept near them, this is often enough to be able to file for disability.

Matthew  White


Appellate Attorney Matthew White represents veterans before the Board of Veterans Appeals and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Brendan Garcia


Owner and Lead Attorney Brendan Garcia represents veterans in all 50 states with their VA Disability Appeals, in all stages of the VA Appeals process.

Contact a VA Disability Lawyer Today

A VA Disability Lawyer’s role is to assist you throughout the confusing and often frustrating appeals process if you have been denied benefits for your service-connected COPD. Generally, you need to be denied at least once before an attorney can assist, but once a lawyer is involved they will often be able to quickly determine what needs to be done in order to prove entitlement.

If your VA disability claim for COPD has been denied, be sure to contact the VA Accredited Attorneys at VetLaw right away to help make sure you get the entitlement you deserve.

The rating a veteran will receive for COPD greatly depends on the severity of their condition and how badly the veteran’s COPD impacts their day-to-day life. Based on these factors, COPD could result in a rating anywhere from 10% to 100%.

The 6-minute walk test is an exercise test that measures the impact of COPD on a patient’s oxygen levels. During this test, the patient will walk at a normal pace for 6 minutes, and afterward, their oxygen levels and other biometrics will be compared with their levels at the beginning of the test.

Proving service connection for COPD is not as difficult as with some other conditions. There are certain causes (such as Agent Orange) that have already been documented to cause COPD, so if you can prove your interaction with these substances that might be enough.

Our Team Is Eager To Hear About Your Case!

Please fill out the form below, or give us a call, and we will get back to you as soon as possible. The more detail you can provide, the better we can determine if we can help you. (And even if we can’t take your case, we will do our best to offer other options, and point you in the best direction we can!)

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