Fire Fighting Foam Health Effects: VA Rating & Benefits

Fire Fighting Foam Health Effects: VA Rating & Benefits

In the military, you may have been exposed to numerous substances. Some are completely fine, while others are linked to numerous health effects, including some that last the whole of a person’s life. 

As a Veteran, you are entitled to certain benefits and compensation if you suffer from disabilities. This article will go over the effects of fire fighting foam on those exposed to it and the different ratings and benefits that come with it.

What Is Fire Fighting Foam?

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals in firefighting foam, specifically Class B Aqueous Film-Foaming Foams (AFFF). The Department of Defense formerly used this firefighting foam to put out fuel fires and has located 401 locations in which it was used. 

Because it causes health problems, many have been concerned about groundwater contamination by PFAS. The DoD has put in water filters at many of these locations or provided alternate sources of drinking water in these areas so the people on these sites would not drink contaminated water.

The Dangers of PFAS

The chemical company DuPont has been at the center of many cases involving PFAS exposure and contamination. The company conducted medical research on PFAS going back to the 1960s, and they discovered that PFAS exposure can cause birth defects and liver damage in animals. 

In the 1990s, DuPont discovered that a chemical in PFAS, C8 perfluorooctanoic acid, caused liver tumors and testicular and pancreatic cancer in lab animals.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019 requires the DoD to stop purchasing PFAS-based firefighting foam by October 1, 2023, and to stop using the material completely by October 1, 2024. The Act also prohibits the release of any AFFF during training exercises.

What Health Problems Are Caused by Fire Fighting Foam?

Because PFAS can be detected in the blood, many people in the military ask for blood tests to determine if there are trace amounts in their blood. However, the military has denied these requests because we know little about PFAS, and small amounts of PFAS are found in most people across the US. 

Because it is so common to find amounts of PFAS in people, it is difficult to determine whether exposure to the chemical directly causes health problems. Instead of having military personnel test for PFAS, the military is paying the CDC to perform studies to determine the effects of PFAS.

The VA stated that health problems associated with PFAS depend on many factors, including duration, concentration, and frequency of exposure. However, some studies show health problems that are linked to PFAS exposure. They include the following:

  • Changes in the immune system
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Liver damage
  • Increased risk of asthma
  • Fertility issues
  • Changes in fetal development

These health problems are not conclusive for every person exposed to PFAS.

How Can I Receive VA Benefits for PFAS Exposure?

Because nothing is presumptively associated with PFAS exposure, the VA usually does not accept claims linking health problems to PFAS exposure. However, Veterans may still file a claim if they feel their current health problems are from exposure to harmful chemicals. 

If this is the case, they will need to make sure that they match the following criteria.

  1. A current diagnosed disability
  2. An in-service event, illness, or injury
  3. A medical nexus between current diagnosed disability and in-service event

If the Veteran matches all three of these, they can make a claim through the VA. The VA will determine the validity of these claims on a case-by-case basis. Nothing guarantees that the Veteran will receive compensation because they have met all the criteria, but they can try.

Strengthening or Appealing a Claim

Veterans often get denied or feel unconfident in their claim because they do not have the necessary resources to prove their current disability links to their time in the service. If this is your case, contact our team at Berry Law. Our seasoned attorneys can help Veterans get the compensation they deserve.

It is important to have others help you in the process because the journey can be long and tedious. Even if you have everything you need to prove a claim, it can take a while for the VA to decide. Make sure to gather all of the medical and service records you can, as well as a diagnosis from a VA-approved medical professional. From there, we can help you craft a claim to get you the compensation you need.

If your claim gets denied, we will help you appeal it by locating the main reason the VA denied it in the first place. You may have to get more documents to strengthen your claim. Even consulting further medical professionals approved by the VA can help strengthen your claim.

Can Firefighters Get VA Compensation From Being Exposed to Fire Fighting Foam?

Only firefighters who served in the military can make a claim if they experience health problems due to exposure to fire fighting foam. Civilian firefighters are not eligible for VA benefits.

If you are a current firefighter but have served in the military, consult legal experts to help craft your claim. Due to the complicated nature of making a claim linking current health problems to exposure to fire fighting foam, it can be a difficult process to do alone.

You can also file a lawsuit against the company that manufactured the hazardous product. This will not disqualify you from receiving VA benefits from your time and exposure in service.

VA Consensus

Based on further research and study, the VA does not recognize the connection between exposure to PFAS and associated health issues. This is because there are amounts of PFAS in many people across the country. Though it is thought that exposure to PFAS causes health issues, results are not very conclusive.

However, you can still get compensation if you believe that you are experiencing health problems due to exposure to chemicals found in fire fighting foam. However, it will only be determined on an individual basis. 

Many groups are trying to get the VA to recognize the health problems resulting from exposure to fire fighting foam. Though it may be awhile until people see the change they would like, there are still ways to get compensation.

Secondary Conditions:

Suppose you can connect your disability to a more substantially recognized cause and have exposure to chemicals such as PFAS as a secondary condition. In that case, your claim may have a better chance of getting approved. 

A secondary condition is one where a service-related event or injury worsened the physical or psychological damage. The condition does not have to be directly linked to a service injury. It could have worsened because the injury or exposure agitated certain health problems that were already present.

Including a secondary condition as a part of your claim is important because it can increase your rating, allowing you to get more compensation each month than you would with a single condition. Many diseases are recognized as secondary conditions by the VA, and they are often caused by being exposed to PFAS. 


It is difficult to determine whether exposure to fire fighting foam causes health problems. As such, it can be challenging to make a claim for disabilities potentially caused by exposure to chemicals such as PFAS.  Though some studies show that those exposed to PFAS can suffer from certain health problems, the results are not conclusive. 

Secondary conditions are one way you may be able to use your claim to receive benefits due to being exposed to fire fighting foams, but even then, it can be difficult to get the compensation you deserve.

If you believe that your health problems as a Veteran were caused by exposure to chemicals in fire fighting foam, gather the necessary information to make a claim and contact our professionals at Berry Law. We will help you determine whether or not you can make a substantial claim that will hold up to the determination of the VA.

For more information on VA disability benefits and rates, please visit our website.


PFAS – Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – Public Health

VA Denies Link Between PFAS Foam and Health Issues in Military Fire Fighters | Law Firm Newswire

Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) | NIH 

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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