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Benefits more accessible for veterans with lung disease

For those who suffer debilitating injury or illness, documenting and obtaining Social Security disability benefits can often be a challenge. In a move by the Social Security Administration, many veterans will find it easier to collect benefits for a certain lung disease that has been affecting hundreds of combat soldiers. The agency has added to its "compassionate allowances list" the rare lung disease that has been contracted by veteran's exposed to burn pits and fires in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The lung disease, known as constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis, has been added to the list, making benefits easier to obtain and more accessible for veterans in California and nationwide. The disease is irreversible and caused by a scarring of fibrous tissue, which also results in narrowing of the lung's smallest airways, known as the bronchioles. The amended list also included 51 other diseases and became effective on August 11, 2012.

Victims of the disease may find it difficult to breath or walk, leaving them unable to work. The disease has affected hundreds of combat veterans who were exposed to smoke in sulfur mine fires or living and working near open air pits used for waste disposal.

To obtain benefits, applicants are approved with a physician's recommendation and a test confirming the diagnosis. The "compassionate allowances" list allows those with medical problems "so serious that they obviously meet disability standards" to obtain benefits without delay.

There are dozens of confirmed cases, however it is likely that more will be reported. If you or someone you love was exposed to toxic smoke in Iraq or Afghanistan, you may be entitled to Social Security disability benefits. An experienced attorney can help you document your injury and file a claim.

Source: Army Times, "Lung disease put on list for faster benefits," Patricia Kime, August 11, 2012.

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