Military service confers many benefits, from college tuition assistance and home loan options to the knowledge that you’ve served your country in a way many never get to experience. However, it may also include exposure to dangerous situations and hazardous chemicals.
To help veterans who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals during their service, the Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it will screen all patients for toxic exposure. Veterans, including those who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals while visiting or serving at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, can request a special screening appointment or perform the screening during a scheduled health care visit.
The screening is a series of three questions to help determine whether a veteran was exposed to any hazardous chemicals from burn pits, contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, radiation, Gulf War–related chemicals, radiation, and/or other potential toxic materials. The screening won’t start any related health care or claims, but it can help the veteran or active service member see what health care they may need and to connect with resources to receive that care.
The new screening is part of the changes to VA health care included in the recently enacted PACT Act, which expanded eligibility to care for veterans with toxic exposures. The Act was designed to ensure eligibility for care and claims for veterans and their survivors with confirmed toxic exposure related to their time of service.
Toxic Exposure at Camp Lejeune
Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and nearby Marine Corps Air Station New River have both been named as sources of exposure to more than 70 hazardous chemicals, including benzene, trichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride.
The toxic chemicals came from contaminated water treatment plants at Camp Lejeune and illegal chemical dumping by a local dry cleaner. Veterans, their families, and workers at these Marine bases have been diagnosed with higher than normal rates of cancers and other diseases, such as liver and bladder cancer, aplastic anemia, and heart-related birth defects. These diseases have been linked to exposure to these chemicals Veterans and their families who have been diagnosed with these and other diseases who can verify they spent time at these bases during the time when the chemicals were present in the drinking water may be able to file disability benefits claims with the VA.
How Toxic Chemicals Can Affect Health
Hazardous chemicals have been linked to many health issues, but one of the challenges patients find is that the disease may show up years after the toxic exposure. When you are diagnosed with a disease that has been linked with toxic exposure, it can be helpful to document work you’ve done, places you’ve lived and worked, any chemicals you have used at work or home, and any similar diseases in your family and friends. Often people who live and work near sources of toxic chemicals will find that they are diagnosed with similar health conditions, and this data can help show links between exposure and the incidence of disease.
This type of information gathering by veterans and their health care providers helped prove the need for the PACT Act to ensure that veterans and their families receive help because they were exposed to these chemicals during their service to the country. In addition to the data gathered to bolster claims by those exposed at Camp Lejeune and New River, the PACT Act helps veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, burn pits during the gulf war, and other exposures not covered by earlier government intervention.
The new screening procedure will help ensure that veterans get needed health care and become aware of potential exposures that may be affecting their health.
How We Help Victims of Camp Lejeune
With a national presence and a wealth of experience prosecuting water contamination cases, Waters Kraus Paul & Siegel has fought on behalf of individuals like you for 20 years, aggressively fighting to hold them responsible for failing to keep individuals safe. If you have suffered serious injury or cancer caused by toxic water at Camp Lejeune, we can help.