Announcement: Mustard Gas

Mustard Gas Exposure & Long-Term Health Effects.

Texas Veterans Commission Journal

May/June 1999.

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

certain diseases.

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.

Medical Care

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.

NOTE:

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.