The dangers of military service are not limited to gunfire and explosive devices. Many Veterans are living with illnesses caused by toxic exposure to chemical, physical, and environmental hazards. Sometimes symptoms develop immediately. Other times they develop decades after service. Regardless, the VA will provide benefits to Veterans who can prove that their conditions resulted from exposure during active duty.
Numerous toxins can be found in military environments. Radiation, asbestos, mustard gas, and herbicides are a few examples. These contaminants have been linked to life-threatening cancers and other diseases in generations of Veterans. There are many more dangerous substances that can cause serious ailments.
In some cases, the VA automatically presumes that certain diseases are the result of toxic exposure and compensate eligible Veterans accordingly. But exposure alone does not guarantee VA benefits. A disease or injury must be linked back to a Veteran’s contact with hazardous materials. Without that service connection, the VA will deny the claim.
The attorneys at Berry Law Firm assists eligible Veterans with disability claims stemming from exposures to biological hazards. Whether you need to increase your current benefits or make an appeal, our VA benefits lawyers are prepared to build a strong case so that you can claim the compensation that you are entitled to.
Types of Hazardous Exposures in the Military
Toxic exposure has impacted veterans from all branches of the armed forces. The nature of the Veteran’s job duties may make some types of exposure more likely than others. Some of the hazards aren’t obvious. Toxic exposure symptoms may not manifest for years after service. That’s why it’s essential to provide strong supportive evidence during the claims process.
The VA recognizes several types of military hazardous exposures, such as:
- AsbestosAsbestos is a fibrous mineral that can be found in older buildings, insulation, manufacturing and in mining, milling, and shipyard work. Veterans who inhale asbestos fibers are at risk of developing serious respiratory conditions such as mesothelioma, asbestosis, and lung cancer.
- Contaminated Water at Camp LejeuneVeterans who were at Camp Lejeune from the mid-1950s to February 1985 may have been exposed to well water tainted with dangerous chemicals. The water supplied military housing, the base hospital, and administrative and recreational facilities. The VA establishes a presumption of service connection for eight diseases for those who were at Camp Lejeune during that period.
- Ionizing RadiationExposure to large doses of radiation has been shown to cause damage to DNA in cells. The VA evaluates a Veteran’s eligibility for disability benefits by looking at the specifics of the exposure. Exposure alone does not mean that the VA will provide compensation. You must have developed a radiogenic disease and meet other requirements to qualify.A veteran may have been exposed to ionizing radiation if he or she were involved in:
- Fukushima nuclear accident on March 11, 2011
- Radiation-risk activity such as nuclear weapons testing for Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- Military occupation exposure
- Depleted uranium from embedded shrapnel (especially in Gulf War Veterans)
- LORAN radiation for Coast Guard members who worked at LORAN stations (1942- 2010)
- McMurdo Station, Antarctica Nuclear Power Plant (1964-1973)
- Nose and throat radium irradiation treatments
- Radiation therapy
The VA makes a presumptive service connection for the following diseases:
- Cancer of the bile ducts, breast, colon, esophagus, gall bladder, liver, lung, pancreas, pharynx, ovary, salivary gland, small intestine, stomach thyroid and urinary tract
- Leukemia (except chronic lymphocytic leukemia)
- Lymphomas (except Hodgkin’s disease)
- Multiple myeloma
Veterans who participated in radiation-risk work may qualify for disability benefits for non-presumptive conditions as well. The VA decides those cases individually.
- Mustard GasApproximately 4,500 servicemembers participated as “volunteer soldiers” during Department of Defense experiments using mustard gas. The VA assumes a service connection for:
- Acute nonlymphocytic leukemia
- Chronic conjunctivitis, keratitis, corneal opacities, and scarring
- Several cancers such as nasopharyngeal, laryngeal, lung (except mesothelioma), and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin
- Chronic laryngitis, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, or COPD
- Project 112/SHADAround 6,000 servicemembers participated in land and sea-based chemical testing from 1962 to 1973. The VA has no presumptive disabilities associated with toxic exposure during Project 112/SHAD. However, it does recognize the possibility that Veterans may have developed conditions related to the exposure. Decisions for benefits are made on a case-by-case basis.
- Environmental HazardsVeterans are at risk of toxic exposure illnesses stemming from environmental threats such as:
- Burn pits (Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti)
- Sulphur fire (Mishraq State Sulphur Mine near Mosul, Iraq)
- Sand and particulates (Iraq and Afghanistan)
- Hexavalent chromium exposure (Qamant Ali Water Treatment Plant in Basrah, Iraq)
- Waste incinerator pollutants (Naval Air Facility at Atsugi, Japan)
- Agent Orange
Other environmental hazards may also be related to military service, such as exposure to excessive heat or cold.
How Berry Law Firm Can Help with Your Toxic Military Exposure Claim
Berry Law Firm has assisted Veterans since 1965. We have successfully helped clients obtain millions of dollars in compensation by appealing unjust disability ratings and denials.
Applying for disability benefits can be confusing. A lawyer is not necessary to file for benefits or even to appeal. However, an attorney can help you develop a stronger, more complete case.
Many of the Veterans we meet have worked diligently to gather evidence for their claims. But sometimes the applications are incomplete or missing vital records that could supplement their arguments even further. That’s where we come in.
Berry Law Firm is prepared to:
- Evaluate your service record, including your post-service health assessment and discharge exam
- Identify what types of documentation may be needed to support your case, such as expert testimony, personal statements, buddy statements or lay evidence
- Resolve any conflicts or inaccuracies in your records
- Review relevant case law and develop tough strategies to argue on your behalf
- Advocate vigorously for the outcome you want and deserve.
It’s free to have a Berry Law Firm attorney assess your toxic exposure VA claim. You only pay if we obtain compensation on your behalf. If you are a Veteran or survivor of a Veteran and believe you are entitled to VA disability benefits, contact us today.