Mustard Gas Test Subjects Still Awaiting VA Benefits

Mustard Gas Test Subjects Still Awaiting VA Benefits

Back in June 2015, a report by National Public Radio revealed that the VA continued to deny compensation to soldiers used as test subjects for mustard gas.  According to the report, approximately 60,000 veterans of World War II were subjected to tests in which they were exposed to toxic mustard gas in exchange for two weeks of extra vacation. When records about the tests were declassified in 1990, many began seeking VA disability benefits.

The VA Responds to Mustard Gas-Related Injury Claims

Around the time that these mustard gas-related claims began being submitted, the VA identified a number of diseases and conditions they believed were related to mustard gas exposure. This included skin cancer, leukemia, and chronic breathing problems. A veteran who demonstrated that he was exposed to mustard gas as part of these tests and who had subsequently developed one of the listed illnesses would be entitled to compensation from the VA.  At least that is the way the VA’s procedure was supposed to work.

For approximately 1,000 veterans, obtaining compensation for their mustard gas-related injuries has been anything but straightforward.  Some veterans’ experience has included years of denials and, even after being approved to receive disability benefits, qualifying examinations.

When “Approved” Does Not Necessarily Mean “Approved”

There are several factual situations in which the VA says it will “presume” a veteran is disabled and eligible for benefits. Typically, the veteran will need to show that he or she was affected by the qualifying event or situation and that he or she developed one of the disabling illnesses or conditions the VA believes can be caused by the event or situation. But the case of those veterans exposed to mustard gas, it appears that the process is not quite as automatic as one may be led to believe.

In fact, this scenario presents the VA with the opportunity to potentially deny the veteran’s claim on one of three bases:

  • The VA may find the veteran’s records are too incomplete to show he or she was part of the affected class (for example, the records may not establish that the veteran was one exposed to the mustard gas experiments)
  • The VA may find that the veteran’s records do not establish that he or she is suffering from one of the enumerated disabling illnesses or conditions the VA believes are caused by the event
  • The VA may conclude there is insufficient evidence to establish the disabling illness condition is related to the event (i.e., the veteran may have been exposed to mustard gas and may be presently diagnosed with leukemia but the VA may believe there is no evidence linking the two)

At the Klok Law Firm LLC, we assist veterans in obtaining the disability benefits they have earned through service to this country. If your claim for benefits has been denied, we may be able to assist you in appealing this ruling. Contact us for assistance with your claim by calling (843) 216-8860.

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