VA Disability Benefits for Allergic Rhinitis
About Allergic Rhinitis
Generally speaking, allergic rhinitis is an allergic response to specific allergens (i.e., a substance that causes an allergic reaction). Specifically, symptoms tend to occur when you breathe in something you are allergic to, such as dust, animal dander, or pollen. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, nearly 8 percent of adults in the United States experience rhinitis of some kind. Furthermore, between 10 and 30 percent of the worldwide population may also have rhinitis. Common symptoms of rhinitis include:
- Runny/stuffy nose
- Sore/scratchy throat
- Itchy/watery eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Eczema-type symptoms (e.g., dry, itchy skin)
- Excessive fatigue
Onset of symptomatology usually occurs immediately after coming into contact with an allergen. However, some symptoms, such as recurrent headaches and fatigue, may only happen after long-term exposure to allergens.
Types of Rhinitis
Importantly, there are two types of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergies usually occur during the spring and fall seasons and are typically in response to outdoor allergens (e.g., pollen). On the other hand, perennial allergies can occur year-round, or at any time during the year in response to indoor allergens (e.g., dust mites, pet dander).
Diagnosis and Treatment
Healthcare providers will usually perform a physical examination and ask about your symptomatology to determine whether you have allergic rhinitis and if so, which type. Allergy testing, such as skin testing, may reveal the substances that trigger your symptoms. A complete blood count (CBC) test, called the eosinophil count, may also help diagnose allergies.
The best treatment for rhinitis is to avoid the pollens that cause your symptoms. However, you may also be prescribed medicine depending on your symptom and how severe they are. Medications for allergic rhinitis include: antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, sublingual immunotherapy treatment, and allergy shots.
Service Connection for Allergic Rhinitis
To receive service-connected compensation for allergic rhinitis, veterans must prove that their condition was caused or aggravated by their time in service. Typically, veterans will have to provide evidence of the following three elements of service connection:
- A current diagnosis
- An in-service event, injury, or illness
- A medical nexus linking your diagnosed allergic rhinitis
Veterans who are exposed to environmental hazards, such as open air burn pits may be at higher risk for developing allergic rhinitis. A range of toxins, including hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, dioxins, and furans were released into the air from these burn pits. The toxins released by the burn pits vary per military installation as it is unknown exactly what was being burned at each location at a given time. Nonetheless, such toxins may contribute to rhinitis and therefore warrant service connection.
How VA Rates Allergic Rhinitis
VA rates allergic rhinitis under 38 CFR § 4.97 – Schedule of Ratings, Respiratory System, Diagnostic Code (DC) 6522. The rating criteria includes 10 and 30 percent evaluations, based on the following symptomatology:
- 30% – with polyps
- 10% – without polyps, but with greater than 50 percent obstruction of nasal passage on both sides or complete obstruction on one side
If you believe the severity of your allergic rhinitis is not accurately reflected in the rating criteria, you may be eligible for an extraschedular rating. An extraschedular VA disability rating may be warranted for veterans who experience unique or especially severe symptoms of a service-connected condition. Again, to receive an extraschedular rating for rhinitis, the veteran’s symptoms must not already be contemplated (i.e., taken into account) in the rating criteria set forth under DC 6522. The criteria for an extraschedular rating fall under VA regulation 38 CFR § 3.321(b)(1).
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