VA Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Depleted Uranium

VA Benefits for Veterans Exposed to Depleted Uranium

What Is Depleted Uranium?

Uranium is a highly radioactive element found in small amounts in many natural materials. Depleted uranium (DU) is a human-made byproduct of uranium created by increasing the levels of the U-235 isotope found in the element. U-235 is the isotope responsible for nuclear fission — a powerful reaction that occurs when a neutron and a uranium atom collide, releasing energy.

DU is a strong material used as the base for munitions. Rounds made from DU have a massive amount of destructive power, and the U.S. military has used them during multiple operations. They are also highly radioactive, and exposure to DU rounds can cause health issues.

If you were exposed to DU while serving in the military, you may qualify for significant disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA recognizes exposure to DU as the cause for numerous service-connected health problems. If you can verify that a disability you suffer from was caused by exposure to DU, the VA may approve you for monthly tax-free payments.

Who Is at Risk for Depleted Uranium Exposure? 

Veterans of specific military operations are at particularly high risk for experiencing long-term health effects of exposure.

This includes some Veterans who served in:

  • Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)
  • Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
  • Operation New Dawn (OND)
  • Gulf War
  • Bosnia

Veterans may have been exposed to DU when they were:

  • On, in, or near vehicles hit with friendly fire
  • On, in, or near burning vehicles
  • Near fires involving DU munitions
  • Salvaging damaged vehicles

How Were Veterans Exposed to DU?

Many Veterans may have had direct exposure to DU by unknowingly breathing in tiny fragments during combat or while stationed where the military used or stored DU.

Many Veterans suffering the long-term effects of exposure can trace their health problems back to a specific situation that exposed them to DU—either in combat or while stationed where the military used or stored DU.

Many Veterans who served at the K-2 air base, for example, were exposed because of the contaminated water supply at the base.

After tracing back their health problems to DU exposure, a Veteran can receive disability benefits from the VA.

The VA requires that Veterans show a connection between a disability and their military service before qualifying to receive benefits. Without a service connection, the VA will presume that a Veteran’s disability has other causes, and likely deny the claim.

What Are the Effects of Depleted Uranium Exposure? 

If a soldier accidentally breathes in or ingests depleted uranium, they may deal with long-term health problems.

Inhaled, ingested, or absorbed DU can have a lasting impact on your kidneys, damaging the cellular structure of these vital organs and, in some cases, leading to kidney failure. This is one of the most common disabilities related to exposure.

While DU is a radioactive material, radioactivity is not as likely to threaten your health though it may contribute to the development of other problems, even some cancers.

Depleted Uranium and Gulf War Syndrome 

Gulf War Veterans as those who have had the most DU exposure. Long-term effects of DU are found most prominently in Veterans who served in Southeast Asia from 1990 onward.

Many Gulf War Veterans were exposed to DU through accidental ingestion or inhalation, and many others sustained injuries from DU munitions. Projectiles made from DU were used in large quantities during the Gulf War,

Aside from DU exposure, Gulf War Veterans experience additional health issues. Many of these Veterans report experiencing a wide array of similar symptoms without complete identification of cause;  this has led to the recognition of an unexplained illness, coined “Gulf War Syndrome.”

The VA describes Gulf War Syndrome as a “chronic multi-symptom illness,” which is often difficult to identify, trace, and diagnose.

Symptoms can include:

The VA presumes certain chronic, unexplained symptoms that persist for six months or more are related to Gulf War service.

The following illnesses must have appeared during active duty in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations or by December 31, 2026, and be at least 10 percent for the VA to presumptively relate them to Gulf War service. If these conditions are met, a Veteran may receive disability benefits. :

  • Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Functional gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional dyspepsia, and functional abdominal pain syndrome
  • Undiagnosed illnesses, with symptoms such as abnormal weight loss, fatigue, cardiovascular disease, muscle and joint pain, headache, menstrual disorders, neurological and psychological problems, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and sleep disturbances

It is easier to qualify for disability benefits for many conditions related to symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome than to establish Gulf War Syndrome diagnosis. If you served in the Gulf War and suffer from any of the symptoms associated with exposure to depleted uranium, the VA may presume that your symptoms are service-connected.

What Benefits Can I Get for Depleted Uranium Exposure? 

If you were exposed to depleted uranium and are dealing with a health condition as a result, you are likely to qualify for disability benefits from the VA. If you served at any point during the Gulf War, you may qualify for VA compensation even if you cannot provide a diagnosis for your disability.

While the VA may approve a Gulf War Veteran’s disability claim without a verifiable service connection, it is always better to establish one. If a private doctor or VA physician can diagnose you with a disability and conclude that exposure to depleted uranium caused it, your chances of getting approved for disability benefits increase.

How Does the VA Rate DU Exposure and Gulf War Syndrome Symptoms?

The primary factors that determine the disability rating that you receive from the VA will be the severity of your symptoms, the impact on your life, and the number of service-connected conditions you suffer from.

For example, if you suffer from the effects of depleted uranium exposure and cannot work as a result, you may qualify for greater disability benefits. If symptoms of exposure and impact on your life are mild to moderate, you may still qualify for benefits, but your VA disability rating may be less.

If you are dealing with several of the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome and depleted uranium exposure, inform your doctor and local VA office about each of the conditions you are suffering from.

In addition, let the VA know if your symptoms get worse at any point, even after you have already qualified for disability benefits. If you develop new or more severe symptoms, you may be able to get an increased disability rating from the VA.

What Should I Do If the VA Denied My Disability Claim?

If you apply to receive disability benefits for DU exposure and your claim gets denied, don’t give up. With the help of an experienced VA disability attorney from Berry Law’s team, you can appeal the VA’s decision and get a better outcome for your claim.

Our team of dedicated attorneys includes Veterans from a wide range of military branches. We’re a team of Veterans looking to help our fellow Veterans get the financial support they need and deserve from the VA. Throughout the appeals process, we’ll do what we can to help you get your claim approved or your rating raised.

John S. Berry, , Attorney for VA Disability
John S. Berry, , VA Disability Lawyer
Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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