Allergic rhinitis is a common medical condition caused by nose and mucus membrane inflammation. It causes cold-like symptoms and can be triggered by seasonal allergens and household irritants, from pollen and dust mites to pet hair and animal dander. Although it’s not life-threatening, allergic rhinitis can make everyday life difficult for veterans. In the past, receiving a disability rating for allergic rhinitis was difficult. However, recent legislative changes have recategorized this condition as presumptive. This means veterans no longer have to show that their rhinitis was most likely caused by the time they spent in the United States military.
Nonetheless, navigating the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs bureaucracy is often challenging. Relief can take a long time to arrive, frustrating even the most patient veterans. In many cases, claims that should be guaranteed are delayed or denied without explanation.
Sean Kendall, attorney at law, has spent decades fighting for veterans’ rights. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, you could be entitled to physical disability benefits under the recently passed PACT Act. Our experienced team of attorneys will help you explore eligibility for compensation, ensuring that you receive the support you need and the resources your service deserves.
How the PACT Act Affects Benefits
The recent passage of the PACT Act changed how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) treats many common conditions. The Act introduced critical changes to longstanding policy, including:
- An expansion of health care benefits to veterans whose military service puts them at risk for toxic chemical exposures.
- The addition of more than 20 new presumptive conditions, including allergic rhinitis.
- The creation of an Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.
- Free toxin screenings for most veterans.
Under the PACT ACT, veterans no longer have to establish a service connection to receive benefits for conditions like allergic rhinitis. Instead, they must only provide records showing that they meet certain eligibility criteria, such as deployment in a particular conflict or theater of operations.
Toxic Chemical Exposure and Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is a medical diagnosis associated with cold-like symptoms, including a runny nose, coughing, and recurring headaches. It’s typically caused by exposure to different types of allergens, like pollen or dust. Exposure can either trigger an allergic reaction or worsen existing symptoms.
For many Americans, allergic rhinitis is their body’s natural reaction to changing seasons. If their immune system treats a certain allergen like a viral infection, protective cells inside their nose release chemicals that cause inflammation and other unpleasant side effects.
However, compelling evidence suggests that an individual’s lifetime risk of allergic rhinitis can be influenced by occupational hazards. Among veterans, even short-term exposure to toxins could cause allergic rhinitis in people without any history of seasonal allergies. Some studies indicate that Vietnam War-era veterans who worked with or around Agent Orange report rhinitis-related complaints at a higher-than-expected rate.
In more recent conflicts, the widespread use of burn pits has also been linked to a range of serious health conditions. Some of these conditions, like allergic rhinitis, aren’t life-threatening but can take a long-term toll on veterans’ physical and mental well-being.
Understanding the Impact of an Allergic Rhinitis Diagnosis
Allergic rhinitis affects people differently. For some veterans, rhinitis-related symptoms are seasonal, typically occurring in spring, summer, or early autumn. This type of rhinitis—seasonal allergic rhinitis—is triggered by sensitivity to mold spores and pollen. It can be treated with over-the-counter medication, but makes going outdoors on otherwise pleasant days a distinctly unpleasant activity.
For other people complaints are perennial. This means symptoms occur year-round, usually after contact with dust mites, pet hair, or animal dander.
Seasonal and perennial allergic rhinitis share many of the same symptoms. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Coughing fits
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Itchy nose, eyes, mouth, and throat
- Puffy and swollen eyelids
Allergic rhinitis causes other complications, too. Some people with seasonal or perennial rhinitis become irritable or suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia. These complications aren’t always easy to treat and make it difficult for veterans to go to work or spend time with friends and family.
So, even if allergic rhinitis is rarely life-threatening, it can still force veterans to change their lifestyles and habits. Avid fishermen may not be able to take to the water in spring, while hunters might have to delay early-season expeditions. In many cases, former service men and women must make difficult decisions about pet ownership, potentially forgoing the privilege of a four-legged companion to protect their physical health and mental well-being.
Department of Veterans Affairs Ratings for Allergic Rhinitis
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides ratings and benefits for allergic rhinitis, listed under 38 CFR § 4.97, Schedule of Ratings (Respiratory system). Its diagnostic code is 6522. Disability ratings for allergic rhinitis fall into two categories:
- If an allergic rhinitis diagnosis involves polyps in the nose, the VA provides a disability rating of 30 percent.
- If an allergic rhinitis diagnosis doesn’t involve polyps in the nose but causes nasal obstruction greater than 50 percent, the VA provides a disability rating of 10 percent.
Some individuals could also be entitled to additional benefits—up to and including TDIU—if their allergic rhinitis is accompanied by serious secondary conditions.
PACT Act Options for Allergic Rhinitis Compensation
In the past, veterans suffering from allergic rhinitis had to prove their condition was service-connected. This meant obtaining diagnoses from the right providers, digging through service records, and combining different types of evidence to establish that their rhinitis was most likely caused by military service.
However, the PACT Act recategorizes allergic rhinitis as a presumptive condition. If the VA considers a condition presumptive, it doesn’t require veterans to give evidence of a service connection. However, allergic rhinitis claims can still be denied—sometimes for reasons that can be difficult to understand.
At Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, we can help you explore your options for maximum compensation by taking the following steps:
- Filing the right paperwork for a PACT Act allergic rhinitis claim.
- Re-submitting a supplemental claim if an earlier request for allergic rhinitis benefits was denied before the passage of the PACT Act.
- Reviewing your medical history and determining whether you could be eligible for an extra-schedular rating.
- Exploring whether an allergic rhinitis rating could make you eligible for TDIU when combined with ratings for other disabilities and secondary conditions.
- Providing aggressive and effective representation if your case is rejected or you receive a lower-than-expected rating.