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Veterans Law

Can You Receive VA Disability Benefits Due to Exposure to PFAS?

Bradley Hennings

October 30, 2023

Updated: November 20, 2023

Can You Receive VA Disability Benefits Due to Exposure to PFAS?

“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances,” or PFAS, are toxic chemicals.  These chemicals, sometimes called “forever chemicals,” are found in many places.  This includes in drinking water; dust; cleaning products; and certain fabrics.

PFAS do not break down easily.  Moreover, exposure to these chemicals can cause many health problems, including various forms of cancer.  PFAS contamination is widespread, including in military bases around the United States.  Some studies indicate that upward of 97 percent of Americans have levels of PFAS in their bodies.

There is currently (as of October 2023) a class action lawsuit targeting certain locations in the United States for people who developed certain cancers or ulcerative colitis due to drinking contaminated water.

Veterans may wonder if they may receive VA disability benefits due to exposure to PFAS and if these benefits conflict with the ongoing class action lawsuit.  Read on to discover what you need to know.

Can You Get VA Disability Benefits Due to PFAS Exposure?

In short, yes, you can receive VA disability benefits due to PFAS exposure.  However, it is important to note that VA does not consider any medical condition related to PFAS exposure to be presumptive.

Can Veterans Qualify for PFAS Exposure Compensation and VA Benefits?

Veterans must satisfy all the elements of establishing service connection in order to receive VA benefits.  In other words, veterans must show proof of:

  1. A current, diagnosed disability;
  2. An in-service event, injury, or illness; and
  3. A medical nexus between the current disability and the in-service event, injury, or illness.

VA will decide these claims on a case-by-case basis.

Nonetheless, the Department of Defense (DOD) has determined that more than 175,000 service members have been exposed via drinking water to PFAS.  This drinking contained high levels of both “perfluorooctanoic acid” (PFOA) and “perfluorooctane sulfonic acid” (PFOS).  PFOA and PFOS are two of the most dangerous types of PFAS.

Moreover, estimates show that more than 600,000 service members and their families have likely been exposed to PFAS through drinking water.

How Many Military Bases Are Contaminated with PFAS?

There are 455 confirmed military bases in the United States contaminated with PFAS.  These bases are located across the country.  Additionally, there are over 250 further military bases suspected of contamination, and this number will likely grow as more studies are conducted.

Some military bases where this contamination has been confirmed include:

  • Fort Wainwright (Fairbanks, Alaska)
  • Naval Station Newport (Rhode Island)
  • Robins Air Force Base (Houston County, Georgia)
  • Norton Air Force Base (San Bernardino, California)
  • USAF Academy (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
  • And others.

Contaminated military bases are located in all 50 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico.  If you served at any of these 455 military bases, including the ones mentioned above, and can establish service connection for your disability, then you may be eligible for VA benefits.

The military sites that the DOD labeled as “contaminated” have PFAS present in both groundwater and drinking water.  The primary way these military bases became contaminated was through aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) used for firefighting purposes.

How Can a Person Become Exposed to Forever Chemicals?

Forever chemicals are present a multitude of commercial products; food; air; and water.  One of the primary ways a person is exposed to PFAS is through drinking water.  However, there are other ways you may encounter forever chemicals.

You may have been exposed to PFAS through:

  • Dust
  • Electronics
  • Wall paint
  • Food products, such as meat, fish, and dairy
  • Non-stick cookware
  • Cleaning products
  • And more

Are VA Disability Benefits Separate from Compensation Received Through a Class Action Lawsuit?

There is a nationwide class action lawsuit involving those exposed to PFAS through drinking contaminated water.  If you drank water contaminated with PFAS for six consecutive months at any time since 1990, and developed certain cancers or ulcerative colitis, and you live in certain locations in the United States, then you may be eligible for compensation.  If you believe you qualify, then we may be able to help.

PFAS Contamination Lawsuit: Were You Exposed to Forever Chemicals?

Nonetheless, you may wonder whether your VA disability benefits for PFAS exposure are separate from this class action lawsuit.  Yes, if you receive VA benefits for PFAS exposure, then it is separate from this lawsuit.  Your VA benefits will not be impacted by any PFAS exposure compensation.

Was Your VA Disability Claim Denied?

If you filed a claim for VA disability benefits but were denied, then Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD may be able to assist you.  Call CCK at (800) 544-9144 today for a free case evaluation with a member of our team.

About the Author

Bio photo of Bradley Hennings

Bradley Hennings joined Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick as an attorney in January 2018 and currently serves as a Partner in the firm. His practice focuses on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

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