It’s common for former US military Veterans in the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps to develop health conditions and disabilities.
Some Veterans may even realize they experience similar conditions and disabilities as fellow service members in the same area. K2 Air Base, also called Camp Stronghold Freedom, is one such location.
Unfortunately, Veterans who served at K2 may have been exposed to various toxic substances, leading to serious medical conditions. If you or a loved one served at K2 Air Base and believe you developed disabilities or health problems as a result, you could recover disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Read on for more information.
The K2 Air Base, also called Karshi-Khanabad or Camp Stronghold Freedom, was a former Soviet air base located in the southeastern region of Uzbekistan. However, this site was occupied by the US military between 2001 and 2005. It was important in military operations due to its proximity near the Afghanistan border, so it often assisted with support missions during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Over the base’s lifespan, K2 Air Base saw more than 15,000 service members deployed. The military vacated the base in November 2005. Today, the Uzbek Air Force occupies it.
Before its US military occupation, K2 housed various chemical weapons and toxic substances. These substances saturated the soil in the surrounding area, exposing many Veterans.
According to studies conducted by the Department of Defense in 2001, 2002, and 2004, the total list of toxic hazards at K2 includes:
New studies may uncover additional toxins or chemicals that Veterans may have been exposed to in the future.
Per a recent Executive Order by former President Trump, K2 Veterans are any servicemembers on active duty in Uzbekistan who served at K2 Air Base between October 1, 2001, and December 31, 2005. Therefore, any Veterans with an illness caused or aggravated by exposure to toxic substances or radiation are entitled to medical services, nursing home care, and hospital care.
Unfortunately, the benefits and medical compensation situation is a little more complex. To date, all K2 Air Base Veterans are not automatically qualified for disability benefits under the VA. Still, it is possible to get disability compensation for your service-connected disabilities if you acquired them at K2 Air Base.
Over the years, K2 Veterans have developed several health complications and disabilities that may be related to toxin exposure at K2 Air Base.
According to the Stronghold Freedom Foundation, K2 Veterans have a 500% greater chance of developing cancer than other Veterans.
75% of US service members deployed to Uzbekistan alone have developed at least one type of K2-related illness. Furthermore, approximately 392 unique chemical compounds were found at K2 Air Base in some capacity.
Some studies, such as an investigation in November 2001, found that inhaling vapor from fuel-contaminated soil could have had adverse health effects on K2 base personnel.
Some of the most common health conditions experienced by K2 Veterans include neurological disorders and cancer. These cancers include bladder cancer, multiple myeloma, and more. These are almost universally related to radiation or toxin exposure.
The VA awards disability benefits to disabled or injured Veterans who have satisfied the necessary elements of service connection. That means their military service or duties directly led to them becoming injured or disabled.
While many K2 Veterans have developed health complications during or after their military service, there is no conclusive medical proof that exposure to toxins at K2 Air Base led to the beginning of those health conditions. Because of this, simply having a K2 health condition is not enough to guarantee disability benefits or medical care under the VA.
That said, the VA does allow K2 Veterans to file disability benefits for healthcare compensation if they believe they are related to service at K2 Air Base. Instead of in other cases, such as for burn pit exposure or Agent Orange exposure, the VA decides these disability benefits claims on a case-by-case basis.
Therefore, it’s important not to assume you’ll receive disability benefits for K2 toxin exposure. You may indeed get disability compensation, but you’ll need the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys to strengthen your disability claim as much as possible.
If you or a loved one have developed health complications because of your time serving at K2 Air Base, knowing the next steps you should take is important.
First, get diagnosed by a licensed healthcare provider. Not only will this allow you to start receiving the medical treatment you need to recover or keep your illness at bay, but it will also serve as important evidence should you file a claim for disability benefits later. You should always try to get adequate treatment ASAP.
Next, you should read up on K2 exposure literature and stay up-to-date with all new studies and legislative pushes. Even though the VA does not currently count K2 exposure for presumptive service connection, this could change.
More studies and social groups like the Stronghold Freedom Foundation are important to join so you can keep up to date on new developments.
In addition, you should consider filing a claim for disability benefits online. Even if you are denied, having filed a claim beforehand will serve as valuable evidence if you choose to appeal the decision later down the road or if the VA reverses its current decision.
For instance, if the VA decides to award all K2 Veterans presumptive health coverage, and you previously filed a disability benefits claim, you could get your compensation more quickly.
To maximize your chances of getting a disability rating and disability compensation, you should contact Veterans law attorneys. The right attorneys can provide a variety of benefits to your claim, including:
In addition to those benefits, Veterans law attorneys can help you appeal a denied claim for benefits. If the VA gives you a disability rating lower than what you deserve or need, you may also need to file an appeal. That will result in the VA taking a second look at your evidence and symptoms, potentially leading to a higher rating and more monthly compensation.
Don’t try to file for K2 Air Base disability benefits alone. Work with attorneys to give yourself the best chance at getting the disability benefits you need.
Currently, the VA does not automatically consider health conditions in Veterans who served at K2 Air Base as service-connected by default. However, you may still qualify for disability benefits if you file a strong disability benefits claim.
At Berry Law, our knowledgeable attorneys are well-equipped and ready to assist with any disability benefits claim you file. We can help you gather sufficient evidence, help you prove that your health issues only developed after you started serving at K2 Air Base, and much more. We can even help you file an appeal for benefits if you were previously denied.
Contact us today to get started.
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