Reactive Airway Disease

What Veterans Need to Know About Reactive Airway Disease

For many veterans, respiratory issues like reactive airway disease (RAD) are an ongoing concern. Numerous factors during military service can impact lung health, from environmental exposures to occupational hazards. If you developed RAD during or after service, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits. This guide provides an overview of reactive airway disease and how the VA rates it for compensation purposes.

Contact Us


What Is Reactive Airway Disease?

Reactive airway disease is a general term for conditions that cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath due to irritated and inflamed airways. The symptoms are similar to asthma, and the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, RAD usually refers to respiratory symptoms following a specific exposure or illness.

With reactive airway disease, the bronchial tubes overreact to an irritant or trigger, causing them to swell, narrow, and produce excess mucus. This makes it difficult to breathe efficiently. Common triggers include respiratory infections, cigarette smoke, air pollution, cold air, exercise, and airborne chemicals or dust. Symptoms may range from mild wheezing to severe difficulty breathing requiring emergency treatment.

Contact Us


RAD in Adults and Veterans

While reactive airway disease is more commonly diagnosed in children, it can occur in adults as well. Adults may develop RAD after exposure to high levels of irritants like smoke, chemical fumes, or pollution. Viral and bacterial respiratory infections can also lead to RAD.

Certain occupations carry a higher risk for lung damage and reactive airways. For veterans, some military jobs and deployment environments pose an increased risk of RAD and other respiratory conditions. Burn pits, dust and sand, chemical exposures, and other hazards can irritate and inflame the airways. Smoking is another major risk factor.

Diagnosis of RAD involves a physical exam, review of symptoms and exposures, and often breathing tests like spirometry. Treatment typically includes inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids to open the airways and reduce inflammation. Avoiding triggers is also key to managing RAD.

Causes and Triggers of Reactive Airway Disease

The exact cause of reactive airway disease is not always clear. Often it results from a combination of underlying risk factors and specific exposures or events. Common triggers for RAD symptoms include:

  • Respiratory infections like pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Inhaling smoke, chemical fumes, or other airborne irritants
  • Occupational exposures to dust, gases, or chemicals
  • Air pollution and smog
  • Tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke
  • Exercise, especially in cold air
  • Allergies to pollen, mold, animal dander, etc.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

For veterans, deployment locations and military jobs can increase the risk of harmful exposures. Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas may have been exposed to dust, sand, burn pits, and industrial pollutants. Certain occupational specialties like mechanics, firefighters, and construction also carry a higher risk of lung irritants.

Is RAD Permanent?

Reactive airway disease is usually a chronic condition, meaning symptoms can persist or recur over time. However, the severity and frequency of symptoms may improve with proper treatment and management of triggers.

Some people with RAD are able to maintain good control of their symptoms by using medications as needed and avoiding irritants. Others may require daily medications to prevent symptoms. In severe cases, RAD can significantly limit activities and even be life-threatening.

While there is no cure for reactive airway disease, it is often possible to minimize symptoms and their impact on daily life. Working closely with a doctor to find the right treatment plan and making lifestyle changes are important for achieving the best possible outcome.

Contact Us


VA Ratings for Reactive Airway Disease

Veterans with reactive airway disease related to their military service can apply for VA disability compensation. The VA rates RAD under the rating schedule for Asthma (Diagnostic Code 6602). Ratings are based on the severity and frequency of symptoms, response to treatment, and objective breathing test results.

The rating criteria for reactive airway disease are:

  • 10% - intermittent inhalational or oral bronchodilator therapy
  • 30% - daily inhalational or oral bronchodilator therapy, or inhalational anti-inflammatory medication
  • 60% - at least monthly visits to a physician for care of exacerbations, or intermittent (at least 3 per year) courses of systemic (oral or parenteral) corticosteroids
  • 100% - more than one attack per week with episodes of respiratory failure, or requires daily use of systemic (oral or parenteral) high dose corticosteroids or immuno-suppressive medications

To determine the appropriate rating, the VA will consider evidence such as treatment records, pulmonary function tests (PFTs), and lay statements. A PFT is required to support a rating of 10% or higher, unless the results would be inaccurate due to another condition.

Secondary conditions caused by reactive airway disease, such as cor pulmonale or sleep apnea, can also be rated separately. Additionally, the VA should consider any functional impairment from RAD when determining the overall disability picture.

Service Connection for RAD

To establish service connection for reactive airway disease on a direct basis, veterans must show that their RAD either began during service or was caused by an in-service event, injury, or illness. Relevant evidence may include:

  • Service treatment records showing symptoms or diagnosis of RAD
  • Records of exposure to airborne hazards during service
  • Medical opinion linking current RAD to in-service exposures or onset of symptoms
  • Lay statements describing in-service respiratory symptoms or exposures

Veterans can also establish service connection for RAD on a secondary basis. This means showing that an already service-connected condition caused or aggravated RAD. For example, a veteran with service-connected PTSD that led to smoking could argue the smoking caused their RAD.

Getting service connection often requires a combination of medical evidence, military records, and lay testimony. An experienced veterans advocate or attorney can help gather the necessary evidence and present the strongest case possible.

Contact Us


You Fought For Your Country, Let Us Fight for You.

If you're a veteran struggling with Reactive Airway Disease or other injury related conditions and your disability claim has been denied, don't lose hope. Appeals are common, and with the right support, you can successfully navigate the process to secure the benefits you deserve. At Veterans Disability Aid, our experienced team is dedicated to guiding you through every stage of the appeals journey. We understand the challenges you face and the importance of obtaining a fair disability rating that accurately reflects the impact of Reactive Airway Disease on your daily life. You fought for your country, let us fight for you.

Get Help For Your Appeal


Connect With Us

Request Help Today