The threats facing U.S. service members aren’t always as obvious as bullets and bombs. Sometimes, it is what can’t be seen that’s most dangerous.
From asbestos and contaminated drinking water to radiation and mustard gas, veterans may have been exposed to an array of chemical, physical and environmental hazards during their military service.
It may take years for the effects of these hazards to manifest. When they do, a veteran’s health and overall well-being can suffer immensely.
Cancer, breathing problems, neurological disease and heart problems are just a few of the health issues that veterans exposed to toxins may suffer. Those who can provide evidence of their service-related exposure may be eligible for disability pay and other benefits, but the claims process isn’t foolproof. The VA denies roughly 30 percent of benefits claims – many of them in error.
The South Carolina veterans disability attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you deal with the complex, time-consuming process of securing VA disability benefits. Our team includes Patrick L. Jennings, who is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a claimant representative.
To learn how we can assist you, call Joye Law Firm now or fill out an online contact form for a free claim review and advice about your right to VA benefits.
Types of Hazardous Exposures in the Military
Both overseas and at U.S.-based military installations, soldiers are frequently exposed to toxins with harmful health effects. The following list of hazards is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a better idea of the types of exposures that may qualify for VA disability pay, health care benefits and other benefits.
- Asbestos and lead (for veterans who worked in mining, milling, shipyards, carpentry, construction, demolition and similar lines of work).
- Particulate matter(Iraq and Afghanistan).
- Mustard gas.
- Toxic drinking water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina (between 1957 and 1987).
- Depleted uranium (including veterans who served in the Gulf War, Bosnia and Afghanistan).
- Burn pits (Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti).
- Sulfur fire (Mishraq State Sulfur Mine in Mosul, Iraq).
- Hexavalent chromium exposure (Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant at Basra, Iraq).
- Waste incinerator pollutants (Naval Air Facility at Atsugi, Japan).
- Project 112/SHAD.
All of the hazards above have been identified by the U.S. military. While your health problems may have been caused by exposure to another variety of toxin, keep in mind that you could have a more difficult time with your claim if it relates to a hazard that the VA has not officially recognized.
Filing a VA Claim for Hazard Exposure
You may qualify for veterans disability compensation and other benefits if you:
- Were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Were exposed to an environmental hazard during your military service.
- Have a disability caused by your exposure to an environmental hazard during your military service.
Additionally, you will need to provide evidence of your disability and your in-service exposure event. As the VA explains, “Exposure in and of itself is not a disability.”
Evidence that the VA will consider includes your post-deployment health assessment and discharge examination (your military records), or, lacking these, personal statements, buddy statements, unit histories, news articles and other lay evidence.
Lay evidence, however, must correspond with the “facts, places and circumstances” of your service record. For example, if you claim that you were exposed to burn pits in Afghanistan, and your record indicates that you served in areas with known burn pits, plus you have evidence of a disability, the VA may consider this sufficient evidence.
Contact Our S.C. Veterans’ Disability Benefits Lawyers
Having a veterans disability representative does not guarantee a successful claim, but our lawyers have handled these types of claims many times before and can help you avoid common mistakes, gather evidence and, if necessary, represent you during an appeal.
To learn all of the ways we help disabled veterans, call Joye Law Firm now or fill out our online case evaluation form.
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
- USA Today – Navy researcher links toxins in war-zone dust to ailments
- McClatchy – VA quietly giving benefits to Marines exposed to toxic water