Mustard Gas Exposure & Long-Term Health Effects.
Texas Veterans Commission Journal
In 1991, the Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) relaxed requirements for evaluating mustard gas-related
compensation claims because of the confidenciality of some of the
World War II testing and lack of military medical records and
follow-up. At that time, a review of studies of the effects of
mustard gas exposure led VA to publish regulations authorizing service-connection
and disability compensation payments to veterans who were exposed to
significant levels of mustard gas and who suffer from chronic forms
of certain diseases.
An estimated 4,000 servicemen participated
in tests using significant concentrations of mustard gas either in
chambers or field exercises in contaminated areas during World War II.
This secret testing was conducted in order
to develop better protective clothing, masks and skin ointments.
There is no central roster of World War II participants in either the
laboratory or field tests. The Army conducted tests on Army personnel
in the laboratory and in the field. The test sites included Edgewood
Arsenal, MD; Camp Silbert, AL; Bushnell, FL; Dugway Proving Ground,
UT; and San Jose Island, Panama Canal Zone.
Military personnel from the U.S. Navy
Training Center, Bainbridge, MD, also were sent to the Naval Research
Lab in Washington, DC., to participate in tests. Gas testing
facilities also were located at Great Lakes Naval Training Center in
Illinois and Camp Lejeune, NC.
INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE STUDY.
Also in 1991, VA contracted with the
Institute of Medicine to conduct a study of medical and scientific
literature worldwide to determine the long-term health effects of
mustard gas and Lewisite. The $600,000 VA-funded study, entitled
“Veterans at Risk: The Health Effects of Mustard Gas and
Lewisite,” was released January 6, 1993. The study found a
relationship between exposure and the subsequent development of
VETERANS WHO MAY BE ELIGIBLE FOR COMPENSATION
VA policies generally authorize
service-connection and compensation payments to veterans who were
exposed to mustard gas and/or Lewisite and who suffer from a number
of diseases or conditions:
* Full-body exposure to nitrogen or sulfur
mustard together with the subsequent development of chronic
conjunctivitis, keratitis, corneal opacities, scar formation, or the
following cancers: nasopharyngeal; laryngeal; lung (except
mesothelioma); or squamous cell carcinoma of the skin;
* Full-body exposure to nitrogen or sulfur
mustard–or exposure to Lewisite–and the subsequent development of a
chronic form of laryngitis, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma or chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease;
* Full-body exposure to nitrogen mustard
with the subsequent development of acute nonlymphocytic leukemia.
Service-connection is not allowed if the
claimed condition is due to the veteran’s own willful misconduct
or if there is affirmative evidence that establishes some other nonservice-related
condition or even as the cause of the claimed disability.
Veterans who were exposed to significant
amounts of mustard gas and have health problems that may be
compensable–or their survivors–may contact the nearest VA regional
office at 1-800-827-1000 or your nearest Texas Veterans Commission
Office or Veterans County Service Office for more information about
benefits. Telephone numbers are available in the government section
of your local phone directory or for Texas veterans the TVC Directory.
Veterans currently seeking VA health care
receive medically indicated diagnostic and treatment services without
any need to document mustard gas exposures. VA has announced that for
fiscal year 1999, it is planning to provide virtually all needed
medical services for any veteran who comes to VA for care. In any
future year in which appropriations are insufficient to meet
projected demand, VA will use a priority system that provides a
special category for those requiring treatment for illnesses
specifically related to environmental exposures (although some
veterans may qualify for an even higher service-connected status or
other factors). Further, if the veteran can document exposure to
receive care under the special enrollment Category 6, copayments are
avoided. More information about VA healthcare enrollment is available
toll-free, at the veteran’s nearest VA medical
center, or at http://www.va.gov/pubaff/enroll.htm on the Internet.
The Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm
Association extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to the Texas
Veterans Commission Leadership and the staff of the Texas Veterans
Commission Journal for bringing this information to the attention of
the veterans community. Once again leading the Nation in caring for
the veterans who have served their country.