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Veterans of Southwest Asia Service May Be Newly Eligible for VA Benefits

If you are a veteran with specific breathing or allergic conditions tied to service, you may now qualify for disability benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently established three new presumptive conditions for exposure to toxic substances during military service in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many surrounding areas. The three conditions covered are asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

This change in the law stems from efforts by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and other veterans service organizations (VSOs) to improve health care and benefits for veterans who suffered toxic exposures during their service.

What Is a Presumptive Disability?
VA presumes that military service in certain locations caused some specific medical conditions. This "presumptive disability" means that veterans who served in those locations do not have to prove that their service caused the illnesses. This presumption streamlines the disability claims process for them.

Who Qualifies for Benefits Under This Decision? 

• Those who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations (such as Iraq or Kuwait) beginning Aug. 2, 1990, and other areas like Afghanistan on or after Sept. 19, 2001, qualify. To view all eligible areas of service, check out the VA's announcement here.

• Generally speaking, qualified veterans will be eligible for benefits if symptoms surfaced within 10 years after separation.

• Symptoms of asthma include difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness, or coughing. A main symptom of sinusitis is a runny or stuffy nose and cough that lasts more than a week or two. Rhinitis is often indicated by allergic reactions like a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or itchy, watery eyes.  Learn more about living with toxic exposure.

How Do I File a Claim?

• If you already have a claim pending for one of these conditions, no action is needed right now.

• If you were previously denied or wish to submit a new claim for one of these conditions, you should contact a representative – WWP can help.

• It all starts with submitting VA form 21-526EZ, Claim for Service Connection, along with supporting medical evidence via your va.gov account.

• Need help? WWP Service Officers are here to help. Contact our Resource Center at 888.WWP.ALUM (997.2586) or 904.405.1213 or email us at resourcecenter@woundedwarriorproject.org.

Contact: Ed Frank — Public Relations, efrank@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.510.5504

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.