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Lung Health

Taking a deep breath should be easy. If you are concerned about your breathing, or if you have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, talk with your VA health care provider.

Women are more likely than men to develop lung conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In fact, twice as many women than men have asthma and 80% of people with COPD who have never smoked are women. Additionally, women experience more severe symptoms, so staying on top of your lung health is especially important as a woman Veteran.

Your deployment location(s) and job-related functions in the military may increase your risk of lung and breathing conditions. For example, research has shown that exposures to particulate matter pollution from sand, dust, extreme temperatures, oil well fires, and burn pits during the Gulf War and post-9/11 eras are associated with the development of asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis.

How do I improve my lung health?

You may be able to improve your lung health by:

  • Avoiding smoking, vaping, and secondhand smoke*;
  • Avoiding air pollution, smog, dust, and industrial emissions;
  • Wearing protective gear, such as a mask, if you're exposed to dust, silica, allergens, chemical fumes, or other indoor or outdoor air pollution;
  • Staying physically active and maintain a healthy weight;
  • Getting regular check-ups and stay up-to-date on vaccinations; and
  • Managing your allergies.

*Women Veterans who smoke may experience difficulties getting pregnant or may be at risk for asthma, COPD, early menopause, osteoporosis, and cervical cancer.

What services does VA provide for lung health?

  • Smoking cessation resources. If you are a woman Veteran who smokes, you may experience difficulties getting pregnant or may be at-risk for early menopause, osteoporosis, and cervical and breast cancers. VA offers a variety of smoking cessation resources so that you and your loved ones can experience the benefits of becoming tobacco free.
  • Screening and treatment for lung conditions including lung cancer. For more information on symptoms of lung cancer, screening guidelines, and VA recommendations for screening, see the VA Screening for Lung Cancer fact sheet.
  • Toxic exposure screenings. Every Veteran enrolled in VA health care should receive an initial screening and a follow-up screening at least once every five years (at a VA health care facility or virtually). The screening takes 5-10 minutes and will be used to identify and document any potential exposures to toxins during your service, including open burn pits, radiation, contaminated water, and other airborne hazards and exposures.
  • Immunizations. Protecting your lungs means preventing infection. VA can help keep you up-to-date on the immunizations you need to prevent illnesses.
  • Adaptive Sports Program. Being physically active can help keep your lungs healthy. VA provides adaptive sports opportunities for health and healing.

How do I access services for lung health at VA?

You can start by telling your VA primary care provider about your lung health or breathing concerns.

If you don't already use VA health care, you may want to use the following online tools:

Find out if you are eligible for VA health care

Enroll in VA health care if you haven't already

Find your local VA and make an appointment

Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments) or other benefits from VA related to lung conditions?

Your deployment locations and job-related functions in the military may increase your risk of lung and breathing conditions, as well as other health concerns. Learn more about chemical, physical, or environmental hazards that you may have come in contact with during military service. You may be eligible for VA disability compensation for illnesses or conditions related to these exposures.

The Sergeant First Class (SFC) Health Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxins (PACT) Act of 2022, expands and extends eligibility for VA health care and benefits for Veterans exposed to open burn pit emissions, Agent Orange, and other toxic substances, and adds to the list of health conditions that we assume (or "presume") are caused by exposure to these substances.

Normally, your disability must connect to your military service to receive a disability rating and you must provide proof. However, under PACT Act, you only need to meet the service requirements for the presumption. Visit our PACT Act page or download our PACT Act flyer for more information.

Where can I find more information, help, and resources on lung health?

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The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to women's health

If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also:

  • Provide you with information on enrolling in VA health care if you have not already
  • Provide you with information on setting up a medical appointment in your area
  • Provide you with information about your eligibility (including questions about disability ratings) and other VA benefits like employment, education, and home loans
  • Connect you with your local VA Medical Center or local women's health contact who can assist in coordinating all the services you need

WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.

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† VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked website.

The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA. The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to VA.
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