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Family members of veterans who have died from service-connected diseases can also receive compensation

By Shaniqua Williams

Posted on February 19th, 2020

Wartime experiences have led to a sharp increase in the number of veterans living with life-threatening illnesses as a result of exposure to harmful chemicals. For example, asbestos has devastated thousands of families, with more than 180,000 Americans dying from asbestos-triggered diseases between 1999 and 2013.

According to most recent statistics, there are around 20.4 million veterans in the U.S. from all wars and all branches of service, all of whom may have been exposed to toxic chemicals during their service. Any exposure to chemical, physical, and environmental hazards during military service, whether in combat or on base, may qualify a veteran for VA disability benefits under a chemical or toxic exposure claim.

Nearly all veterans used toxic substances at some point during their service, whether at the range, during training, or while performing their job duties

    • Asbestos exposure. After serving their country, veterans are left in anguish 20 to 40 years later due to the military's extensive use of asbestos products throughout much of the 20th century. Many are left frustrated, disillusioned and some are even dying prematurely from the unwilling exposure to the dangerous mineral. Veterans represent about 8 percent of the civilian population, however, they make up 30 percent of all known mesothelioma deaths in our country.
    • Exposure to PFAS-containing firefighting foams. In the 1970s, the Department of Defense began using AFFF to fight fuel fires. Later, the executive branch department of the federal government recognized that the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) known as probable human carcinogens - in AFFF, presents a serious risk to the military firefighters exposed to this fire suppressant.
    • Exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). From the 1950s through the 1980s, people living or working at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to toxic agents from multiple sources.

Through unspeakable sorrow, military families suffer from a loss that can never be restored

The spouses and dependents of military members who have died or have been seriously injured in the line of duty are eligible for a wide range of benefits, allowances, education assistance, and more.

Pathways that can be followed and lead to substantial compensation for families of thousands of veterans who have died from health problems caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals:

      • VA benefits. Qualifying spouses, children, and parents of deceased veterans may be eligible for one or more important VA benefits. Eligibility for family members is based on the related veteran's eligibility. A general eligibility requirement for veterans is a discharge other than dishonorable (honorable, under honorable conditions, and general). Some of the most important benefits designed to help military families include the following:
        • VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for spouses, dependents, and parents
        • VA Health Care
        • VA Home Loans
        • VA Education and Training
        • Life Insurance
        • Pension
        • VA Burial Benefits
      • Asbestos trust funds. If a member of your family suffered from an asbestos-related illness and did not take legal action during his life, we recommend you file a claim with the appropriate asbestos trust funds. Because asbestos trust fund claims require no litigation, the process of recovering compensation from one or multiple asbestos trust funds is much easier than through a mesothelioma lawsuit;
      • Wrongful death claim. Wrongful death claims can provide compensation for loss of companionship, loss of future service, care, or assistance the victim would have provided.
      • As a part of the Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, surviving military spouses or children may be eligible for benefits if the deceased veteran was stationed at Camp Lejeune for at least 30 cumulative days between August 1, 1953, and December 31, 1987, and died from the cause of one or more of the service-connected presumptive conditions. Eligible family members may receive reimbursement of medical bills for treatment of the 15 medical conditions cited in the law and any associated medical condition resulting from one of the 15 conditions.

Eligibility requirements for family members of veterans who have died as a result of toxic exposure

A living member of the military who has been exposed to various chemicals and other toxic substances has a time limit within which to bring a claim for compensation - between 1 and 3 years to take legal recourse depending on the state in which they live. If a member of your family has passed away due to an illness caused by chemical and toxic exposure, a claim can be brought on behalf of their estate and any dependents that are left behind.

In some states, only an immediate family member of a person who passed away from an asbestos-related disease is able to file for compensation. Some of the typical estate representatives for legal action are:

        • Spouses or life partners
        • Children, including adopted children or stepchildren
        • Parents or grandparents
        • Financial dependents

For family members of a deceased veteran to qualify for VA benefits they have to meet the following eligibility requirements:

      • Proof of exposure - Family members must demonstrate how toxic exposure occurred while the veteran was on active duty and they also have to include Military Occupation Specialty, as well as the military unit location they were stationed at while exposure happened.
      • Significant impact - Surviving family members must show their loved one's death had a substantial emotional impact on their lives, such as loss of love, companionship, nurturing, and more than the victim would have provided.
      • Statute of limitations - A statute of limitations is a straightforward concept. If a beneficiary has a claim against a trustee, the beneficiary must file a lawsuit before a certain period of time passes or the claim is forever barred. When the victim dies, the statute of limitations for a trust claim begins immediately after the death.

We fight for the rightful compensation your loved one would have deserved

Unfortunately, veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces between the 1930s and 1980s are at the greatest risk of developing fatal diseases as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. Family members of veterans bear a heavy burden. Because the family budget is drained by the costs of treatments, they sometimes have to leave their jobs to care for their loved ones. Worst of all, spouses, children, and other loved ones lose a member of their family far too soon.

Bringing a claim for compensation on behalf of someone who has died can make the process more complicated, which is why it's vital that you have an expert on your side. A lawyer who specializes in toxic exposure cases can identify all of your possible sources of compensation and fight for your fair and just recovery.