RI Veterans: Did you know? 26 August 21 – John A. Cianci

by John A. Cianci,

Department Veterans Service Officer, Italian American War Veterans (ITAM)

Email: [email protected] or phone (401)677-9VET

New VA Rules to Benefit Desert Shield/Storm and Other Veterans for Respiratory Conditions 

Did you know the VA just passed a new rule for veterans who have respiratory issues after returning from overseas deployments?

Did you know the new rules applied could result in thousands of dollars of retroactive benefits and a service-connected disability for your entire life?


Desert Shield/Storm veterans are familiar with the words denied and not service connected. 

Many of my brothers and sisters who gallantly served during Operation Desert Shield/Storm over 31 years ago became sick after returning from Operation Desert Shield/Storm. 

For years, to include me, we sought assistance from the VA and our government, to explain many of the ailments we were encountering. In the beginning, the VA told us it was “all in our head”. VA doctors often chastised those Veterans seeking a medical explanation for the unexplained illnesses we were facing.

With the new VA ruling, the veteran has the opportunity to reopen his/her claim which would link his/her respiratory issues to their service.

Now, 31 years later, on August 5, 2021, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) amended its adjudication regulations to establish presumptive service connection for three chronic respiratory health conditions, i.e., asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis, in association with presumed exposures to fine, particulate matter. 

Three new respiratory conditions are now considered presumptive by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  Starting August 2, 2021, veterans diagnosed with chronic asthmarhinitis, and sinusitis within 10 years of a qualifying period of service in Southwest Asia and certain other areas will have their disability claims processed on a presumptive basis.

Layman’s terms, if you are a Desert Shield/Storm veteran who has any respiratory issues file a VA disability claim. To support the claim, you should have a medical diagnosis of respiratory illness. Linking it to your service with medical documentation within 10 years after returning should be sufficient evidence for the VA to award you a service-connected disability.

What are the current VA disability rates?

As of December 1st, 2020, the VA disability rate benefit amounts are as follows:

0 percent disability rating: $0.00 per month

10 percent disability rating: $144.14 per month

20 percent disability rating: $284.93 per month

30 percent disability rating: $441.35 per month

40 percent disability rating: $635.77 per month

50 percent disability rating: $905.04 per month

60 percent disability rating: $1,146.39 per month

70 percent disability rating: $1,444.71 per month

80 percent disability rating: $1,679.35 per month

90 percent disability rating: $1,887.18 per month

100 percent disability rating: $3,146.42 per month

Adding Dependents for Additional Compensation

If you have a combined disability rating of 30 percent rating or higher, you may be eligible for additional monthly compensation for qualifying dependents, including:

Children under 18 years old

Children ages 18-23 years old and still in school


Dependent parents

VETTIP: Even a 0% rating matters. One, you become entitled to a VA identification card. Two, any medical services for the illness are 100% covered by the VA. For example, many veterans get 0 % disability rating for hearing loss. However, the veteran is entitled to FREE hearing aids and batteries his entire life from the VA.

Many of the veterans before Gulf War veterans conclude its easier for the VA to deny, a word intertwined with not service connected. Many senior veterans, like Vietnam veterans exposed to agent orange, often rattle off the words “deny until we die”. From my own experience, DON’T GIVE UP if denied. Veterans must educate themselves on the VA disability process and spend the time reading the denial.

These presumptions for respiratory not only apply to Desert Shield/Storm Veterans, but they would also apply to veterans with a qualifying period of service, i.e., who served on active military, naval, or air service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations during the Persian Gulf War (hereafter Gulf War), as well as in Afghanistan, Syria, Djibouti, or Uzbekistan, on or after September 19, 2001, during the Gulf War. 

This amendment is necessary to provide expeditious health care, services, and benefits to Gulf War Veterans who were potentially exposed to fine, particulate matter associated with deployment to Southwest Asia theater of operations, as well as Afghanistan, Syria, Djibouti, and Uzbekistan. 

The intended effect of this amendment is to address the needs and concerns of Gulf War Veterans and service members who have served and continue to serve in these locations as military operations in the Southwest Asia theater of operations have been ongoing from August 1990 until the present time. Neither Congress nor the President has established an end date for the Gulf War. 

Therefore, to provide immediate health care, services, and benefits to current and future Gulf War Veterans who may be affected by particulate matter due to their military service, VA intends to provide presumptive service connection for the chronic disabilities of asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, to include rhinosinusitis, as well as a presumption of exposure to fine, particulate matter. This will ease the evidentiary burden of Gulf War Veterans who file claims with VA for these three conditions, which are among the most commonly claimed respiratory conditions.

The VA considers a Gulf War Veteran for purposes of VA Disability benefits if you’re a  veteran of the Southwest Asia theater of military operations, not including Afghanistan, may obtain benefits for certain undiagnosed illnesses, certain diagnosable chronic disability patterns, and certain presumptive diseases. This includes veterans who served Operation Iraqi Freedom  (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011) in the following locations: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the neutral zone between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain,Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Oman, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Waters of the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea and the airspace above these locations.

In conclusion, the VA disability process is complicated. However, a veteran can be successful by understanding the process. However, I strongly encourage contacting a Veteran Service Officer (hereafter, VSO) who is trained and knowledgeable in the process. Veteran organizations provide FREE assistance to all veterans and their families in filing VA claims. The State of Rhode Island has some of the BEST VSOs working for the DAV, VFW, Italian American War Veterans of the United States who provide FREE assistance. 

Questions & Answers

How do I file my claim?

You can file your disability compensation claim online –

By mail

File your claim by mail using an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits (VA Form 21-526EZ).
Download VA Form 21-526EZ (PDF)

Print the form, fill it out, and send it to this address:

Department of Veterans Affairs
Claims Intake Center
PO Box 4444
Janesville, WI 53547-4444

In person

Bring your application to a VA regional office near you.:

Providence Regional Office

380 Westminster St.

Providence RI 02903



Benefits Office at providence VA Medical Center

830 Chalkstone Ave Room 146 (main building)

Providence RI 02908


VETTIP: Recommend you get help with your claim by contacting FREE Veteran Service Officers at one of the veteran organizations assisting Veteran with benefits and claimsVeterans Service Officer (VSO). We trust these professionals because they’re trained and certified in the VA claims and appeals processes and can help you with VA-related needs. The Veterans Foreign War, Vietnam Veterans of America, Italian American war veterans, and DAV, are some of the local veteran organizations assisting veterans filing claims and appeals.


Saturday, August 28th, 12NOON – 4PM, “14th Annual Macaroni & Meatball Dinner Fundraiser”, hosted by the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Rhode Island Chapter 9-1, VFW Post #237, 850 Hope Street, Bristol.  Point of contact is Gary Rehak at 401.829.3004 (cell), or via email at [email protected]

Monday September 6, 2021, Federal Hill Coffee House, 900-1100am, ROMA, 353 Atwells Ave, Providence RI. All Veterans and their guest are invited. The coffee house is FREE, and where else can you start off your day with a gathering with baked Italian toast? More information, contact [email protected] or (401) 677-9VET.

September 17 (Friday) to September (Saturday) 18 2021, Operation Stand Down. New Location! 1010 Hartford Ave, Johnston RI.  The event will be held at our Johnston office: 1010 Hartford Avenue on Friday, September 17th & Saturday, September 18th from 8:00-4:30

September 11-12, 20th Annual Military Vehicle and Swap Meet, Canonicus Camp and Conference Center, 54 Exeter Rd. Exeter RI 02822. Saturday (9am-5pm) – Sunday (9am-3pm)More information contact Russ Erwin, (401) 434-0881, email [email protected]

September 14, 2021, Tuesday, Northern Rhode Island Coffee House. Sponsored by the America Legion Berard Dejaris Post #88  and Italian American War Veterans. Free for all veterans and their guest.

September 24, 2021, Sunday. War Vet Car Show, Rhode Island Veterans Home, Metacom Ave, Bristol RI.


September 15-20, 2021, USMC Tankers Association Facility: Crown Plaza Providence-Warwick, 801 Greenwich Ave., Warwick RI 02886. Point of Contact Name: John Wear. Point of Contact Telephone: 719-495-5998. Point of Contact Email: [email protected] . Comments: The USMC Vietnam Tankers Association will be holding our 12th biennial reunion. Anyone who served with any of the Marine tank battalions or Ontos units in Vietnam . . . in any capacity is welcome!!! 

November 20, 2021, Comedy/Dinner show at Officers Club, Newport Navy Base. The event is open to all, and all profits and donations will be for Rhode Island Military Lounge located at TF Greene Airport – the lounge is open to all traveling member of the military and veterans and their families, often left awaiting a delayed flight for hours. All staffing is volunteer. For more information for tickets, sponsorship and or donated, contact [email protected]

Hafar Al Batan, Saudi Arabia. Members of the 119th Military Police Company, stirring human feces burning in diesel fuel in 1991. A daily assignment required to burn human feces of an estimate 150 Rhode Island Army National Guard activated for Desert Shield/Storm and assigned to the 402nd MP POW Camp, under the command of the 800th MP Brigade in the Middle East

John A. Cianci is a Veteran Service Officer. Retired, U.S. Army MSgt., Persian Gulf War and Iraq War combat theater.

Cianci, a combat disabled Veteran, served in Desert Shield/Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His awards include Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, Good Conduct, and others.

Cianci belongs to numerous veterans organizations – Italian American War Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, United Veterans Council of Rhode Island, and many more organizations. He is an active volunteer assisting veterans to navigate federal and state benefits they have earned. He is Department of Rhode Island Department Commander Italian American War Veterans and Veteran Service Officer.

He is a graduate of Roger Williams University (BS Finance), UCONN business school* (Entrepreneur Bootcamp For Veterans), Solar Energy International Residential, Commercial and Battery Based Photovoltaic Systems certificate programs, numerous certificates from the Department of Defense renewable energy programs, including graduate of the Solar Ready Vets Program.