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Exposure to Environmental Hazards


Exposure to Environmental Hazards, in the context of VA benefits, refers to a veteran’s contact with harmful substances or conditions during their military service. These hazards may include toxic chemicals, radiation, and other environmental contaminants. Exposure to such hazards could lead to adverse health effects and qualify veterans for related benefits and healthcare services provided by the Veterans Affairs Department.

Key Takeaways

  1. Exposure to Environmental Hazards as part of VA benefits refers to situations where military personnel were exposed to harmful toxins or substances during their service, which may result in long-term health effects.
  2. Veterans with documented exposure to environmental hazards during their service may be eligible for VA benefits and healthcare related to these conditions or specific conditions linked to such exposure events.
  3. The VA has identified numerous exposure events and locations, including Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War, contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, and burn pit exposure during the Gulf Wars and other conflicts. Veterans must provide evidence of their exposure and any related health issues to qualify for benefits.


Exposure to Environmental Hazards is an important term in the context of VA benefits because it encompasses a range of potentially harmful substances or conditions that veterans may have encountered during their military service, which could lead to long-term health issues or disabilities.

Recognizing these exposures allows the Department of Veterans Affairs to adequately assess, treat, and compensate affected veterans for the specific health problems they experience as a direct result of their exposure.

This term emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the unique risks veterans face and ensuring they receive appropriate support and benefits for the sacrifices they have made in the line of duty.


The purpose of acknowledging exposure to environmental hazards within the realm of VA benefits is to create awareness about the potential health issues that veterans may face upon returning from their service. This recognition helps the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) establish a safety net for veterans who have been exposed to harmful substances during their military service, such as contaminated water, herbicides, or airborne hazards.

By focusing on the implications of exposure to environmental hazards, the VA can better understand its long-term effects on veterans’ health and well-being, which allows for the development of programs and benefits that specifically cater to the needs of affected veterans. One of the primary uses of identifying exposure to environmental hazards is to design a framework that allows the VA to provide supportive services, such as health care and disability compensation, to veterans who experience health issues as a result of their exposure to such hazards.

In some cases, veterans may be eligible for presumptive disability benefits, which means they do not need to prove that their illness is directly connected to their military service. This consideration streamlines the process of seeking compensation, making it easier for the veterans to access necessary resources and support.

Moreover, by acknowledging the potential health risks associated with exposure to environmental hazards, the VA can initiate crucial research that leads to improved health care solutions, preventive measures, and an increased understanding of how to care for affected veterans more effectively.

Examples of Exposure to Environmental Hazards

Vietnam War – Agent Orange Exposure: During the Vietnam War, U.S. military personnel were exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic herbicide used to remove foliage and vegetation used as cover by the Viet Cong forces. This exposure has been linked to adverse health effects such as various cancers, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, among other conditions. Veterans who served in Vietnam between January 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and may be eligible for VA benefits related to the resulting health issues.

Gulf War – Burn Pits Exposure: During the Gulf War and subsequent Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, open-air burn pits were used to dispose of waste materials at military bases. Veterans who were near these burn pits were exposed to smoke and toxic fumes from burning waste, which included chemicals, paint, medical waste, and human waste. This exposure has been linked to respiratory issues, heart problems, and certain cancers. Veterans who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present day may be eligible for VA benefits if they suffer from related health problems.

Camp Lejeune – Contaminated Water Exposure: Between the 1950s and 1980s, military personnel and their families stationed at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina, were exposed to contaminated drinking water. The water contained high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and benzene, which are known to cause an increased risk of certain cancers, neurological disorders, and other health issues. Veterans and their families who were stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, may be eligible for VA benefits to address the health issues related to the contaminated water exposure.

FAQ: VA Benefits for Exposure to Environmental Hazards

What are the common environmental hazards veterans might be exposed to?

Veterans may be exposed to a variety of environmental hazards during their military service, including Agent Orange, radiation, contaminated water, burn pits, and hazardous chemicals. These exposures can potentially lead to serious health problems or disabilities.

What types of benefits are available for veterans exposed to environmental hazards?

Depending on the specific circumstances, a veteran exposed to environmental hazards during their military service may be eligible for benefits such as disability compensation, health care, and other support services provided by the VA.

How can a veteran exposed to an environmental hazard apply for disability compensation?

A veteran can apply for disability compensation by submitting a claim online through the VA website or in person at a VA regional office. They must provide evidence of their exposure to the environmental hazard, the resulting disability, and the link between the two. Medical records, service records, and statements from fellow servicemembers may be used to support the claim.

Are there any presumptive conditions related to environmental hazard exposure?

Yes, the VA presumes certain medical conditions and diseases to be related to specific environmental hazard exposures, making it easier for veterans to establish a connection between their disability and their service. For example, some conditions are presumed to be caused by exposure to Agent Orange. A complete list of presumptive conditions is available on the VA’s website.

Can a veteran receive healthcare benefits for conditions caused by environmental hazard exposure?

Yes, the VA provides healthcare benefits for veterans exposed to environmental hazards, regardless of their disability rating or enrollment priority group. To receive these benefits, a veteran must enroll in the VA healthcare system and provide evidence of their exposure.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Agent Orange Exposure
  • Gulf War Syndrome
  • Ionizing Radiation Exposure
  • Burn Pit Exposure
  • Asbestos Exposure

Sources for More Information