What Is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs. Symptoms include breathing difficulty, mucus production, coughing, and wheezing. It’s typically caused by long term exposure to irritating gases or particulate matter, which is why it’s such a common condition among veterans. The nature of military life exposes service members to explosions (which produce hazardous airborne particulates), burn pits, and airborne environmental toxins more than the average population, leading to an increased risk of developing conditions like COPD. According to a recent VA study, around 14 percent of veterans from the Gulf War era have some kind of respiratory condition, with one of the most common being COPD. 

How The VA Rates COPD

Under 38 CFR § 4.97, the VA determines the schedular disability rating for COPD as follows:

Diagnostic Code 6604: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • 100 – FEV-1 less than 40 percent of predicted value, or; the ratio of Forced Expiratory Volume in one second to Forced Vital Capacity (FEV-1/FVC) less than 40 percent, or; Diffusion Capacity of the Lung for Carbon Monoxide by the Single Breath Method (DLCO (SB)) less than 40-percent predicted, or; maximum exercise capacity less than 15 ml/kg/min oxygen consumption (with cardiac or respiratory limitation), or; cor pulmonale (right heart failure), or; right ventricular hypertrophy, or; pulmonary hypertension (shown by Echo or cardiac catheterization), or; episode(s) of acute respiratory failure, or; requires outpatient oxygen therapy.
  • 60 – FEV-1 of 40- to 55-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 40 to 55 percent, or; DLCO (SB) of 40- to 55-percent predicted, or; maximum oxygen consumption of 15 to 20 ml/kg/min (with cardiorespiratory limit)
  • 30 – FEV-1 of 56- to 70-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 56 to 70 percent, or; DLCO (SB) 56- to 65-percent predicted
  • 10 – FEV-1 of 71- to 80-percent predicted, or; FEV-1/FVC of 71 to 80 percent, or; DLCO (SB) 66- to 80-percent predicted

Veterans with COPD who are unable to work due to their condition are eligible for a total disability based on individual unemployability (TDIU) rating, regardless of their total schedular disability rating. This rating provides veterans with disability compensation at the 100 percent rate as long as the veteran is unable to follow a substantially gainful occupation due to their COPD.

Get Help With Your COPD VA Claim

If you or someone you know is a veteran with COPD who is looking for assistance with their veterans claim, our experienced veterans disability lawyers are ready to help. Please contact our office today for a free claim evaluation. We can help you get the compensation you deserve.