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Serving in the military exposes servicemembers to many unexpected risks and hazards. Regardless of how physically fit or mentally prepared you were for active duty, it is still likely that you were either injured in an unavoidable or unexpected way, or that the physical rigors of active duty have caused wear and tear on your body at a much faster rate than those who did not serve in the military.

One very common and unexpected cause of injury and disease in veterans results from exposure to hazardous chemicals and toxins while on active duty. These exposures may happen anywhere and not just in combat zones. You may have been exposed to toxic chemicals while performing your job duties or even while asleep in the barracks or in base housing.

Disability compensation for injuries and diseases resulting from veteran chemical and toxic exposure claims form a large portion of VA disability cases. Exposure to Agent Orange, while one of the most publicized events, is only the tip of the iceberg that includes exposure to toxic water on military bases, hazardous fumes from burn pits, side effects of depleted uranium, and others. Although VA will try to shift the blame away from your military service, study after study shows the connection between these in-service exposures and the development of serious health conditions, including many cancers, later in life. The immediate connection may not be apparent, but you should fully investigate your right to claim entitlement to compensation from VA for these disabilities.

Typical Scenarios that May Lead to Chemical or Toxic Substance Exposure

As mentioned above, in addition to the various other risks inherent to military operations, exposure to toxic substances is a constant danger for military members serving in combat zones. While less common than they were in the past, chemical and biological attacks are more dangerous and sophisticated than ever.

Even for members of the military who have never been in combat, the risk of exposure to various chemicals and other toxic substances is very real, and this exposure may result in injury or illness that does not develop until much later in life. Nearly all veterans used toxic substances at some point during their service, whether at the range, during training, or while performing their job duties. It is important to remember that you were on active duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Any exposure in service, whether in combat, on base, or even while on leave may qualify a veteran for VA disability benefits under a chemical or toxic exposure claim.

Common Health Problems Caused by Chemical and Toxic Exposure

Exposure to harsh chemicals and toxins can have a devastating effect on a person’s health. The exact effects can vary in as many ways as there are substances that can cause such harm, but there are some common symptoms of exposure that affect many veterans. It’s important to remember that these effects may take many years to turn into the devastating diseases that result.

In addition to Agent Orange, used extensively in Vietnam and other locations, tactical herbicides and other chemicals have been used by the military for years, sometimes without following proper precautions. Agent Orange and other herbicides are known by VA to cause many diseases and cancers that show up later in life.

Other exposures may include severe respiratory problems, including exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxic substances produced in burn pits. We are only beginning to learn the serious side effects that veterans who were forced to man open-air burn pits in Iraq and elsewhere are now facing in large numbers.

If you are suffering from any strange or unusual symptoms and seeking a source of your disability, you may want to carefully investigate the locations where you performed your active duty service and think about the many ways you were exposed in service. Many veterans who were unknowingly exposed to chemicals and other toxic substances in service will develop debilitating diseases later in life, and these disabilities can form the basis for a VA disability benefits claim.

Chemical and Toxic Exposure Claims are Valid Reasons to Apply for VA Disability Benefits

When many people think about disabling conditions that could affect veterans, they typically focus on physical wounds incurred in combat or mental health problems such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety. However, another major source of veterans’ disabilities is exposure to harsh chemicals and toxic substances, and those exposures cause many veterans to develop illness later in life.

To receive disability benefits on these grounds, it is necessary to show that you were exposed while you were on active duty. An experienced attorney can help you understand the connection between that exposure and your current disabilities and answer questions about how to build your veteran chemical and toxic exposure claim for benefits. Don’t hesitate to reach out to VetLaw to discuss your particular situation.