Veterans may be eligible for disability benefits for conditions unrelated to war-related injuries. In fact, everyday hazards can pose a threat to veterans requiring long-term medical care.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced last month that it plans to propose expanded disability compensation eligibility for veterans, including Reserve and National Guard personnel, who were exposed to contaminated drinking water while assigned to the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base Camp from 1953 to 1987. It is preparing final regulations incorporating this expansion.
Industrial solvents contaminated water at Camp Lejeune and were associated with certain health conditions. The Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found that base drinking water contained perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride, benzene and petroleum contaminants which leaked from storage tanks.
ATSDR also determined that the risk of certain health conditions was increased through prolonged exposure to these chemicals. The VA intends to propose a presumption of certain connection for kidney cancer, liver cancer, Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Leukemia, Multiple Myeloma, Scleroderma, Parkinson's Disease and Aplastic-Anemia/Myelodysplastic Syndrome.
The VA will grant disability benefits authorized under its current rules. Currently, veterans who served at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 are eligible to receive VA healthcare for up to 15 health conditions.
The VA's present regulations do not allow benefit claims based on many of these presumptions. The VA nonetheless encourages veterans to file a disability claim if they believe they qualify for benefits due to this exposure. A denial of a claim under current regulations will be stayed until issuance of final rules adopting the presumptions.
Veterans' issues often require legal representation to assure that deserving veterans receive their right to care and compensation. Legal advice may help veterans navigate these rules and seek benefits for injuries obtained during military service.
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "VA plans to propose expanded disability benefits eligibility for veterans exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune," accessed Jan. 4, 2016