Among disabled veterans, few groups have more difficulty obtaining compensation for their disabilities than those who suffer because of toxic exposure. These veterans often find it difficult to prove that their injuries are tied to their military service, making it difficult for them to obtain compensation for their injuries. Now, however, a measure has been introduced in the Senate that, if passed, would make it easier for veterans suffering from toxic exposure to seek treatment for their conditions.
The issue of toxic exposure is a controversial topic, due to the difficulties involved in proving toxic exposure cases. Not only can it be difficult to determine if someone has been exposed to a toxic chemical, especially if they develop a related ailment months or years later, but it can be difficult to prove that they were exposed to that chemical during their military service. As a result, victims of toxic exposure often face unusual hurdles to prove that their disability is related to their service.
This is important because a disabled veteran may only receive disability benefits through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) if their disability is related to their military service. While this includes being directly injured in the course of their duties, it can also include disabilities that only appear after they have completed their service. For example, veterans who suffer from psychological disabilities like depression or post-traumatic stress disorder may only begin to recognize symptoms of their disability once they return home. In other cases, such as those involving toxic exposure, the actual harm may not appear for years after they complete their service.
Toxic exposure during military service can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, toxic chemicals are sometimes found in weapons and military equipment, or otherwise safe substances may produce toxic byproducts when burned or when they interact with other chemicals. As such, even military members that take great pains to avoid toxic exposure may nevertheless be affected without knowing about it.
Of note is the issue of “burn pits,” which are essentially what the name suggests: large pits where trash is burned as a means of disposal. Despite long-standing concerns about the health and environmental impact of burn pits, they remain a common means of disposal used by the military. Another issue that has become increasingly important is the issue of water contamination at military sites. In the infamous case of Camp Lejeune, military members and their families were sickened by contaminated water, a fact the military refused to acknowledge for years.
However, even when it is possible to prove that you have been exposed to a toxic chemical, that does not mean you will be able to establish a causal link between your disability and the exposure. In some cases, like carcinogenic chemicals, it can be difficult to prove that a cancer you developed was the result of toxic exposure. In other cases, there may not be a proven scientific link between your disability and the chemicals you were exposed to, making it harder to tie your disability to your exposure.
A new bill, introduced by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), seeks to address these issues by adding more funding to research on issues related to toxic exposure, and streamlining the process for veterans to gain benefits for disabilities related to toxic exposure. The bill would also make it easier for disabled veterans dealing with the effects of toxic exposure to seek treatment for their diseases, thus allowing them to obtain a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. Our veterans’ disability lawyers are still available for remote consultation on your legal issues. Call our office at (800) 395-7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.