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VA Compensation for Environmental Hazards

Members of the military may face many dangers during their service that civilians do not. One of these dangers is exposure to dangerous chemicals and other materials. These materials, which can include Agent Orange and Camp Lejeune water, are dangerous and can have long-term negative health effects. Exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange is actually presumed by the VA to be related to military service because, like combat injuries, it typically only occurs in a combat zone. This makes a veteran’s disability claim for disability-related to exposure much easier. Exposure to certain chemicals or materials is presumed to be service-connected.

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If you have been exposed to a hazardous chemical or other material during your military service and your veteran’s disability benefits claim was denied or your disability rating wasn’t as high as it should be, you can still appeal the decision. If you do need to appeal, it’s a good idea to consult a veteran’s disability attorney so you can be sure your appeal is filed correctly and you have all of the evidence you need to connect your disability to your military service. Contact us now for a free consultation.

What Is Exposure?

Exposure is, for the purposes of veteran’s disability benefits claims, the exposure to hazardous or dangerous chemicals. The Veterans Association specifies five categories of exposure:

  • Chemical exposure
  • Radiation
  • Warfare agents
  • Occupational hazards
  • Air pollutants

Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure is the exposure to dangerous chemicals in the line of duty. These chemicals can include:

  • Agent Orange
  • Camp LeJeune water supplies
  • Herbicides
  • Pesticides
  • Sulfur fire
  • Burn pits
  • Industrial solvents
  • PFAs
  • PCBs
  • Chromium
  • Depleted uranium

Radiation Exposure

Radiation exposure is exposure to ionizing radiation. There are two types of radiation: ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation is the dangerous type of radiation because it sends out extremely high levels of energy, which can pose a major risk to health. The greatest risk of exposure during military service is to ionizing radiation comes from nuclear weapons.

Warfare Agent Exposure

Warfare agent exposure is exposure to biological or chemical weapons. These weapons can include:

  • Mustard gas
  • Nerve agents
  • Infectious agents
  • Biological toxins
  • Project 112
  • Project SHAD
  • Herbicide tests
  • Herbicide storage
  • Edgewood experiments
  • Aberdeen experiments

Occupational Hazard Exposure

Occupational hazard exposure is the exposure to dangerous elements during the course of the person’s normal occupation within the military. These dangerous elements can include:

  • Asbestos
  • Lead
  • Industrial solvents
  • Fuel
  • Radiation
  • Noise
  • Vibrations
  • PCBs
  • CARC paint

Air Pollutant Exposure

Air pollutant exposure is exposure to any airborne hazards. These can include:

  • Sand
  • Dust
  • Burn pit smoke
  • Oil well fire
  • Atsugi waste incinerator
  • Sulfur fire

What Is Presumption of Exposure?

Presumption of exposure means that the VA presumes your exposure to either certain hazardous chemicals, such as Agent Orange or to Camp LeJeune water supplies, that occurred during your military service. The VA has a list of requirements that veterans must meet for their exposure to be presumed. These requirements include specific service dates, such as during the Vietnam War for Agent Orange exposure. The requirements also include specific health conditions that are commonly caused by that exposure. For example, some soft tissue sarcomas are included in the VA’s list of presumptive diseases, but mesothelioma is not.

Any disease not in the VA’s presumptive diseases list may still be linked to exposure and you may still apply for veterans’ disability benefits for a disease not on that list. Veterans will just have to provide more evidence that their health condition is linked to that exposure because the VA isn’t already assuming that it’s linked.

What Is Agent Orange?

Agent Orange is a chemical known as a “tactical herbicide.” This means that it’s used in warfare to kill vegetation that could act as cover in warfare. It’s most widely known for the U.S. military’s usage of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War as part of Operation Ranch Hand, which was a chemical warfare operation active from 1961 to 1971. Agent Orange was named because of the orange band that was placed around the barrel in which the chemical was stored.

Up to 4 million people during the Vietnam War were exposed to Agent Orange, both military personnel and civilians in Vietnam alike. VA medical centers offer free medical exams to screen for the health effects that can occur from exposure to Agent Orange. If you or a loved one has been exposed to Agent Orange, schedule an appointment immediately for a health examination.

Agent Orange Effects

Exposure to Agent Orange can cause a variety of health problems, including cancer and other medical conditions. Military veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange may be at risk for the following cancers:

  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • Prostate cancer
  • Chronic B-cell leukemia
  • Soft tissue sarcomas, or cancers in body tissues like muscles or blood vessels
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Respiratory system cancers:
  • Multiple myeloma

Exposure to Agent Orange can also cause:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chloracne
  • AL amyloidosis
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Early-onset peripheral neuropathy
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Porphyria cutanea tarda

What Is Camp LeJeune Water Supplies?

From the 1950s to the 1980s, anyone who was living at Camp LeJeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, was at risk for drinking contaminated water. The water supplies at Camp LeJeune were contaminated with benzene, industrial solvents, and other chemicals as well. Anyone living at the camp during those decades may have been exposed to those chemicals in their drinking water.

Camp LeJeune Water Effects

Exposure to contaminated water at Camp LeJeune can cause the following health conditions:

  • Liver cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Adult leukemia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Kidney cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Other myelodysplastic syndromes

This list of health conditions is the VA’s list of presumptive diseases, meaning that if you were at Camp LeJeune at some point between the 1950s and the 1980s for thirty cumulative days or more and developed one of these health conditions as a result, the VA will presume that it was caused by your military service.

Do I Need a VA Disability Attorney?

If you have developed a health condition as a result of exposure to a dangerous chemical, such as Agent Orange or Camp LeJeune water supplies, or other hazardous material during your military service, you may be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits. If your claim was denied, you still have the chance to appeal the decision. The appeal may be easier if your health condition is on the list of the VA’s presumptive diseases because it’s easier to link to your military service. However, you may still be eligible for benefits, even if your health condition isn’t on the list – you may have to produce more evidence linking your health condition to your military service.

When you appeal a veterans’ disability benefits claim denial, it’s a good idea to seek the aid of an experienced veterans’ disability lawyer. An attorney can help you navigate the appeals process, ensure your paperwork is correctly filled out, and help you gather the evidence you need to prove that your condition was caused by exposure during your military service. Farah & Farah’s highly skilled attorneys are experienced with veterans’ disability cases. Contact us now for a free consultation.