How Does the VA Determine Disability Ratings?
If you’re a military member or veteran, you can file for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs or VA. Filing for disability allows you to receive benefits once a month. Checks will be instantly deposited into your account, or will be delivered through the mail once a month. Disability compensation will be determined based on a few different factors, including long-term effects of a disease or injury sustained in the military, whether or not you continue to need help for your injury, and if you qualify for benefits.
If a civilian or family member consumed toxic water in Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987, they might have suffered from the long-term effects of this toxic water. VA disability benefits were, until recently, only offered to military members, including active duty, reservists, and National Guards members. However, the new PACT act and the associated Camp Lejeune Justice Act of 2022 now allow civilian contractors and family members to file for VA disability compensation. Click here to get more information about the Camp Lejeune toxic water contamination, and read on below to learn how disability ratings work for service members.
What is the Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Contamination?
Between 1953 to 1987, around one million people were exposed to toxic water from two wells at Camp Lejeune. These two wells provided water for homes located on the Camp Lejeune training base in North Carolina. Water from the wells had toxic levels of solvents, including benzene, vinyl chloride, and other hazardous compounds to human health.
The wells were shut down in 1987, but not before they lead to devastating diseases and long-term health effects for people that consumed and used the water at Camp Lejeune.
There are 15 diseases that people can file VA disability for, which include:
- Bladder cancer
- Breast cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Female infertility
- Hepatic steatosis
- Kidney cancer
- Lung cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Neurobehavioral effects
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Renal toxicity
How Do You File For VA Disability?
Filing for VA Disability can be a difficult process. You must send the VA a notice of intent to file, which can be done online or through mail or fax. You must then prove you consumed the toxic water at Camp Lejeune between 1953 and 1987 for 30 consecutive days. Fortunately, the newly signed PACT act and Camp Lejeune Justice Act allow civilians to file for VA disability benefits due to toxic exposure.
Then, you must submit paperwork that shows you suffered from the diseases listed above. This paperwork can include:
- Medical documents
- Personal statements of family members
- Mental health documents to show you were in therapy
- Your own personal statement on how this disease has affected you
Sadly, many claims are improperly denied, so it’s essential to submit all paperwork and documents appropriately. Fortunately, you might not need to file some of these documents if you have a previously diagnosed medical condition. However, if your claim is denied, you might need legal help or can file a civil lawsuit.
How Can You Get More Disability Benefits?
Disability ratings are based on the level of severity of an illness. The more a disease has impacted you, and the more you continue to struggle with it, the higher the chances are you’ll get a higher disability rating, which ranges from 0% to 100%. 100% disability is reserved for people who can no longer work or need occupational therapy due to their disease or injury sustained in the military.
A lawyer or Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO) can help you file your claim so you or a loved one can receive maximum disability benefits.