Allergic rhinitis occurs when there is inflammation inside the nose that is caused by exposure to an allergen. Allergens that cause allergic rhinitis range from dander from animals to dust, mold, pollen, and other sources. Veterans with allergic rhinitis may be able to claim benefits even if they have a history of seasonal allergies.
VA Disability Ratings for Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis is a condition that creates symptoms that affect the nose. The symptoms are more pronounced after breathing in something that you’re allergic to, like pollen, dust, debris from burn pits or animal dander.
Related disabilities may include chronic sinusitis, a deviated septum, allergic asthma, and other respiratory conditions. It’s common for allergic rhinitis to run in families, so it may be a preexisting condition prior to trigger exposure. Allergies and hay fever are directly linked to this condition.
Common Symptoms of allergic rhinitis
- An itchy nose, mouth, skin, eyes, throat or other area
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Laryngeal spasms
- Polyps in the nasal passage
- Trouble with smell
- Nasal congestion
- Clogged ears
- Sore throat
- Puffiness under the eyes
- Related respiratory conditions caused by allergens
This short YouTube video goes over what allergic rhinitis is and how it may affect you.
Service Connection for Allergic Rhinitis
If you develop allergic rhinitis while in the military, you may be able to obtain disability compensation for it with a VA disability claim. You will need to meet the three required elements for a successful service connection for your VA disability claim, including:
- A current diagnosis of allergic rhinitis
- An in-service occurrence (or incident) that caused or aggravated your condition, such as exposure to dust or sand
- Medical nexus connecting the current, diagnosed allergic rhinitis to the in-service occurrence (or incident)
Here is an example. If you were working in the Southwest Asia theater of operations, Syria, Djibouti, Uzbekistan or Afghanistan and were exposed to particulate matter or allergens, then you may have a service connection for the diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. People working in Iraq, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, for example, may have been exposed to dust and debris that creates a greater risk of developing allergic rhinitis.
Even those working in the airspace above these places may have been exposed to particulate matter, which means that they may have a link to their service if they develop allergic rhinitis over the years that follow.
Secondary Service Connection for Allergic Rhinitis
Allergic rhinitis may arise as a secondary service connection. This kind of connection is made when a disability or condition arises from a primary illness or disability linked to service. For example, if you suffer an injury that results in a deviated septum, it may be more likely to go on to develop allergic rhinitis and sinusitis in the future. Service-connected illness or injuries may aggravate a secondary condition enough that it becomes its own issue.
To show that allergic rhinitis is a secondary service condition, you would need to have a primary diagnosis that is service connected. Then, you need to show that the treatment for that diagnosis was performed but that the secondary illness developed as a result of the initial condition. This should not be a progression of previously diagnosed rhinitis, for example, because that would fall into another category, service connection by aggravation, which relates to aggravated health issues that may have been preexisting.
Service Connection by Aggravation
It is possible for allergic rhinitis to be shown as a service connection through aggravation. For example, if a veteran has mild rhinitis and is exposed to many allergies while working in the military, chronic allergic rhinitis may develop. Allergic rhinitis may also go on to cause other aggravated conditions, like sinusitis. Even if a veteran had allergic rhinitis in the past, an aggravation of the condition may make the case compensable. Aggravations of preexisting conditions may not have been directly caused by service, but they are problematic as a result of it.
Compensation & Pension Exams for Allergic Rhinitis
Veterans who want to make a claim for allergic rhinitis will need to go through a C&P exam.
During this exam, the medical provider won’t be treating the illness. Instead, they will be gathering information on the severity of your illness to send to the VA. The VA will make a determination of benefits eligibility based on this examination.
During the exam, the doctor may:
- Review the claim with you
- Ask you questions found on the Disability Benefits Questionnaire
- Go through a basic physical exam with you
- Order tests, like X-rays, to get a better idea of the illness’s severity
To be successful during this stage, you may want to consider these tips:
- Send copies of all relevant medical paperwork and medical records to the doctor’s office in advance
- Come to the va examination on time
- Be truthful about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Don’t make them sound less serious than they are; now is the time to be clear about what you’re dealing with and the impairment they cause
- Be prepared for multiple claim examinations if you have more than one disability leading to unemployability
How VA Rates Allergic Rhinitis
VA rates respiratory conditions like allergic rhinitis under 38 CFR section 4.97; the rating criteria for allergic rhinitis are as follows:
- Rhinitis with polyps (growths) is rated at a 30 percent rating.
- Rhinitis without polyps but with at least 50% obstruction of the nasal passages or one side completely obstructed is rated at 10%
The greatest difference in the rating will depend on if there is the presence of polyps (nasal growths). Usually, only these two ratings are possible for those with allergic rhinitis, however, if your case doesn’t seem to be accurately reflected by those ratings.
The full literature on the respiratory system and how the VA system rates it is available in section 4.97 of the 38 CFR Book C, Schedule for Rating Disabilities. VA disabilities benefits available and diagnostic code information are available based on condition in CFR Book C.
TDIU for Allergic Rhinitis
While it’s uncommon to get a total disability rating for just allergic rhinitis after military service, it may be possible through extra scheduler ratings to get a higher compensable rating for the condition. If you have more than one condition and those add up to 100%, you may also qualify for TDIU with allergic rhinitis in combination with another condition. You will likely get partial disability for anything under 100% TDIU, and it is difficult to qualify for the full 100%.
Allergic rhinitis is compensable under the VA disability ratings. Most ratings qualify at the 10% or 30% level unless they meet the requirements of the extra scheduler category or multiple conditions combine to reach TDIU as set by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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