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Chemical Exposure Risks in the Military

David C. Thompson, P.C.  Jan. 3, 2024

Our brave servicemen and women face numerous challenges during their military service, not least among them is the significant risk of chemical exposure. This isn't just a concern during active combat, but can occur during training exercises, and even while handling and storing military equipment. Understanding these risks is paramount to ensuring the safety and well-being of our military personnel. 

Common Chemicals and Their Risks

Asbestos is one of the most common substances military personnel may encounter. This naturally occurring mineral was widely used in the military due to its heat resistance and durability. But prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious health issues such as asbestosis, asbestos-related lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Those in shipyards, construction, or maintenance roles were particularly at risk. 

But it's not just asbestos. Military operations often involve the use of various toxic chemicals, including H2S gas, hydrocarbons, and other harmful substances. Without the proper safety measures, these chemicals can lead to respiratory problems, neurological disorders, skin conditions, and even long-term chronic illnesses. 

Risks for Military Personnel

During military training exercises, personnel may be exposed to a wide range of chemicals, including tear gas, smoke grenades, and other chemical agents. While these exposures are usually controlled and monitored, there's still a risk of adverse health effects if protective measures aren't followed. 

In combat situations, military personnel may encounter hazardous substances such as chemical warfare agents, explosives, and fuel spills. These can have immediate and long-term health consequences, including respiratory problems, burns, and even death. 

Handling and storing military equipment also pose significant risks. Personnel involved in these tasks may be exposed to chemicals used in their maintenance and operation. These chemicals can include solvents, lubricants, and cleaning agents, which can pose health risks if not handled properly or with adequate protective measures. 

Health Impacts and Compensation

The health impacts of chemical exposure in the military can be severe. They can range from acute effects, such as respiratory distress and chemical burns, to long-term effects like cancer, neurological disorders, and reproductive issues. It's crucial for military personnel to be aware of these potential health risks and seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms. 

Possible Health Impacts and Compensation 

Exposure to hazardous chemicals can lead to a variety of health problems ranging from mild to severe. Immediate symptoms may include skin irritations, burns, respiratory distress, nausea, and dizziness.

Long-term exposure can result in chronic health conditions like cancer, neurological disorders, lung diseases, and reproductive health issues. The severity of these conditions often depends on the type of chemical, the duration of exposure, and the individual's overall health. 

Asbestos and Veterans Affairs

When it comes to compensation, servicemen and women affected by chemical exposure may be eligible for a number of benefits. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides disability compensation for veterans suffering from illnesses or injuries caused or aggravated by their active-duty service. Furthermore, there might be additional compensation options through private lawsuits, especially in cases where a third party's negligence has led to the exposure.  

  • VA Disability Compensation: This is a tax-free monetary benefit paid by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to veterans who are at least 10% disabled because of injuries or diseases that were incurred in or aggravated during active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training. 

  • Special Monthly Compensation (SMC): The VA gives Special Monthly Compensation to veterans who have lost the use of specific organs or limbs, or have specific needs such as the aid and attendance of another person. 

  • VA Pensions: These are needs-based benefits for wartime veterans with limited or no income who are 65 years old or older, or, if under 65, are permanently and totally disabled. 

  • Dependency and Indemnity Compensation: The VA provides a monthly benefit to eligible survivors of military service members who died in the line of duty, or eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease. 

  • Private Lawsuit Compensation: In cases where a third-party's negligence has led to chemical exposure, veterans may have the option to file a private lawsuit. This can provide compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. 

  • Medical Expense Coverage: This may cover the cost of treatment and hospitalization due to illnesses or complications arising from chemical exposure. 

It is essential to consult with a seasoned attorney who focuses on this area of law, as they can help navigate the often complex legal proceedings and fight for the compensation deserved. Remember, compensation can cover medical expenses, loss of income, as well as pain and suffering. 

How an Attorney Can Help 

Retaining the services of a skilled attorney can significantly improve the likelihood of veterans successfully obtaining the compensation they deserve. Attorneys experienced in handling military-related chemical exposure cases can provide invaluable assistance in gathering and presenting evidence to substantiate a claim. Not only will they navigate the complex legal terrain of Veterans Affairs, but they will also ensure that the veteran's case is articulated in the most compelling way possible.  

An attorney can also help identify other potential sources of compensation, such as asbestos trust funds or settlements from lawsuits against negligent companies. By managing the entire claims process, the attorney allows the veteran to focus on their health, while they work on securing the necessary financial resources for treatment and support. With a deep understanding of the nuances of the law and a commitment to advocating for veterans' rights, an attorney is a valuable ally in the quest for justice and compensation. 

Your Rights After Chemical Exposure

For military personnel who've suffered health issues due to chemical exposure, compensation may be available. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney like David C. Thompson can help you understand your rights and pursue legal action if necessary. Navigating the complex legal process is challenging, but with the right support, you can fight for the compensation and justice that you deserve. 

Chemical exposure risks in the military are a significant concern with severe health consequences. If you or someone you know has been affected by chemical exposure in the military, it's important to seek medical attention and consult with a qualified attorney to explore your legal options. At David C. Thompson, P.C., we're here to provide the support and guidance you need during this difficult time.

Located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, we serve clients throughout the state, including the communities of Minot, Bismarck, Fargo, and more. Our firm is committed to advocating for those affected by exposures.