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VA Expands disability benefits for toxic exposure from past 30 years

Veterans PTSD
Posted at 10:23 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 17:33:35-05

There's a new benefit available for millions of veterans who served overseas and developed health problems after coming home.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will now approve claims that stem from respiratory problems, in an estimated 3.5-million veterans who served in the past 30 years.

The change happened in August, when the VA started to process disability claims for asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis related to exposure to what’s known as “toxic particulate matter.”

That can include anything from exposure to burning fuels and other materials - to airborne sand.

“Rather than focus on what folks were exposed to we're just trying to make it easier for them to qualify for benefits and health care,” said Beth Murphy, the executive director of compensation service for the Veterans Benefits Administration. “If you developed one of these three respiratory conditions that we are presuming to be attributable to your service there, we're making it easier for you to qualify for benefits.”

Veterans deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the first Gulf War, from August 2, 1990 to the present are now eligible to have those three conditions covered. The change also applies to veterans who served in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, or Djibouti beginning Sept. 19, 2001 to the present.

Veterans who believe they may be eligible are encouraged to apply for those benefits. That includes some who may have applied for these conditions to be covered before, and had the claim denied.

“We’re here to help you through the process. If you’ve been previously denied for one of these conditions we’re also reaching out, encouraging folks to re-apply for these benefits because now they are available on this presumptive basis,” Murphy said.

Last year, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reported that those respiratory issues can be caused by exposure to toxic particulate matter. That led to a work group at the VA, and eventually the change to the VA’s policy on those claims, in August.

For more information about VA benefits and eligibility, or how to file a claim, veterans and survivors can visit VA’s website or call toll-free at 1-800-827-1000.