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Veterans Affairs Plans to Research Toxic Exposures to Service Connected Veterans

On November 13, 2019, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) chief of research development, Rachel Romani, announced the VA will undertake a comprehensive research project in 2021 on environmental exposures to military personnel and their connection to diseases in veterans and their offspring.

VA researchers are scrutinizing the department’s existing research and speaking with veterans in order to determine the focus and scope of future studies. One veteran in particular helped convince the department that the research should examine the effects of exposures on veterans’ children as well.

The Veterans’ Health Administration (VHA) reported in a 2014 study that over 12,000 veterans are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. Prostate cancer disproportionately affects veterans (1 in 5 veterans are diagnosed with it in their lifetime, as opposed to 1 in 9 for the rest of the U.S. population) and is linked to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam veterans. Approximately 489,000 veterans are currently being treated for the disease, which includes 16,000 with metastatic prostate cancer.

Even though research shows that cancer rates among veterans has declined somewhat from 2002 to 2014, there are many veterans who have developed cancer or other debilitating or fatal diseases and they are left wondering whether their exposures to environmental toxins contributed to the illnesses they developed. Environmental hazards in combat zones and on U.S. military bases include air pollutants, such as burn pits used to destroy waste in Afghanistan & Iraq, nerve agents from abandoned chemical munitions, chemicals like herbicides and pesticides (e.g. Agent Orange), heavy metals, radiation, and occupational hazards related to asbestos, industrial solvents, and synthetic chemicals found in firefighting foams.

There are some instances of veterans being granted “presumption of exposure” by the VA, who have suffered toxic exposures. According to the VA, this means that a veteran is ‘presumed’ to have been exposed to a specific known toxin, per the time and place of the veteran’s service, which has to be confirmed by military records.

The VA currently offers health care benefits for these veterans, which includes health registry evaluations and clinical treatment at the VA’s War Related Illness and Injury Study Center. Unfortunately, the VA only bestows “presumption of exposure” to veterans who have been diagnosed with Agent Orange related diseases, Gulf War Syndrome, particular infectious diseases, and radiation related diseases.

Veterans who are suffering from either debilitating or fatal diseases claim that the VA is not doing enough to recognize and compensate the sacrifice that servicemembers have made, and it is unconscionable that the VA has, up until recently, refused to explore the possibility that there are numerous other toxic environmental exposures that have resulted in suffering veterans.

The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.

Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/2019/11/14/va-to-launch-research-initiative-on-toxic-exposures/