The PACT Act was recently signed into law and provides healthcare, disability, or the ability to file a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration for service members and veterans exposed to toxic substances which resulted in illness or injury during their service. Previously, service members could file a claim for disability for their condition, but most claims were denied as the VA did not recognize the links between the illness and exposure to these toxic chemicals.
The PACT Act removed many limitations to filing these claims and acknowledges that specific illnesses are related to exposure to chemicals while in service. One of the provisions of the PACT Act is a registry of armed service members exposed to toxic PFAS chemicals released through the military’s use of AFFF foam. That list could be enormous because they estimate that PFAS contamination affects nearly 700 American military bases.
The PACT Act contains several illnesses that are associated with PFAS exposure that would be considered “service-connected” disabilities, making veterans and their families eligible for disability payments and medical treatment from the VA without forcing them through a lengthy and exhaustive process to prove a connection between their symptoms and exposure to contaminants.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are chemicals used in various industries and were manufactured in the 1940s. These chemicals have been used in nonstick cookware, water-repellant clothing, stain-resistant fabrics, firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil. PFAS are often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down easily over time and can dissolve in water. Due to PFAS’ water- and oil-repelling properties, higher levels are often found in water supplies near places that make, dispose of, or use PFAS.
Water supplies that can contain higher levels of PFAS:
- Public water systems
- Drinking water wells
- Lakes and ponds
PFAS may have seeped into the water supply in some communities through groundwater run-off.
Exposure to PFAS During Military Service
The Department of Defense began using Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), used as a firefighting agent to extinguish chemical fires or spills, crash crew training, and hangar systems operations and testing. They were using these chemicals released into the environment during their training and were a significant source of PFAS contamination of groundwater on military bases. AS PFAS was expelled into the environment, its ability to withstand breakdown and dissolve into the water system made it a perfect storm to contaminate the water systems at the bases that used AFFF.
Service members who handled these chemicals were exposed along with their community, which included their families. If drinking water is contaminated with PFAS, exposure is a community-wide issue.
Health Problems That May Be Associated with PFAS
PFAS is found worldwide, so most people are exposed at a low level. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), PFAS is detected in most people’s blood. How PFAS affects each person depends on several factors, like the concentration of PFAS and the frequency and duration of exposure. More research is needed to understand the link between exposure to PFAS and human health effects.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ASTDR), some studies in humans suggest that certain PFAS may be associated with these illnesses:
- Changes in fetal and child development
- Liver damage
- Increased risk of thyroid disease
- Increased risk of asthma
- Fertility issues and pregnancy-induced hypertension/preeclampsia
- Increased cholesterol
- Changes in the immune system
- Increased risk of certain cancers (e.g., testicular and kidney cancer)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Thyroid disease
- Testicular cancer
- Kidney cancer
If you believe you were exposed to PFAS during your service time, you may file a claim related to your associated health problems.
If You Were Exposed to PFAS During Your Service
Veterans may file a claim for disability compensation for health problems related to toxic chemical exposure during military service. VA decides these claims on a case-by-case basis. Under this bill, illnesses associated with PFAS exposure will be considered a service-connected disability, making veterans and their families exposed to PFAS eligible for disability payments and medical treatment from the VA.
Contact Our Attorneys for Help if You Were Exposed to Toxic Chemicals
If you or a loved one has an illness related to your time in service and exposure to PFAS or other toxic chemicals, contacting an experienced attorney is in your best interest. The VA has permitted these claims to be filed but following a specific process in a limited time. Do not risk filing alone and missing a deadline or making a small error that causes you to miss your chance for compensation for injuries sustained due to toxic chemical exposure.
Our attorneys at Charles Boyk Law Office will review your case and advise you of all your legal options during your free consultation. Do not put this off. You deserve compensation for your injuries after serving your country, and now it is our turn to help you. Call us today.