The recently passed Forever GI Bill—signed by President Trump on August 17—includes a provision that requires the Department of Veterans Affairs to reconsider previously denied claims for World War II veterans exposed to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas or lewisite as a result of government testing.
The provision directs VA to reconsider all previously denied mustard gas and lewisite exposure claims of World War II veterans who were exposed during tests at 22 recognized locations. VA is instructed to consider that supporting documentation of the testing may be unavailable as these tests were classified, records may have been destroyed and veterans who participated were sworn to secrecy.
According to VA, nearly 60,000 military personnel were involved in a wide range of exposure tests, many of them mild exposures. Roughly 4,000 were subjected to “severe, full-body exposures” during field exercises on contaminated grounds.
Unless there is evidence to establish otherwise, VA is directed to presume full-body exposure of veterans who participated in these tests at the recognized locations and VA shall resolve any doubt in the veteran’s favor.
VA regulations list several presumptive diseases due to exposure to nitrogen mustard gas, sulfur mustard gas, and Lewisite, including some cancers, respiratory and ocular illnesses.
“This provision of the law is in accordance with one of our long-standing resolutions—DAV Resolution 25—which calls for the VA’s expeditious handling of veterans’ claims and the payment of fair and just compensation for conditions associated with all veterans’ service and related exposures to toxic and environmental hazards,” said National Legislative Director Joy Ilem.
In the very near future, VA will implement this reconsideration and will be reaching out to those veterans concerned. If you have any questions on the reconsideration of mustard gas claims for World War II veterans, please contact your local DAV national service office.