AFFF Lawsuits: Veterans Seeking Compensation for Exposure

Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) firefighting foam has long been an essential tool in combating fires, particularly in military settings. However, recent studies and growing concerns have shed light on the potential risks this foam poses to Navy veterans. 

AFFF contains per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of synthetic chemicals known for their persistence and harmful effects on human health.

Exposure to these PFAS compounds found in AFFF has raised alarms about various health issues. They range from increased cancer risks to adverse effects on the liver, immune system, and hormone levels. 

Understanding the risks and taking effective measures to protect Navy veterans from harm have become priorities for military advocacy groups. Let us, through this article, understand the AFFF scenario.

The Risked Life

Military firefighters face significant risks on the job, including exposure to dangerous substances that can lead to serious health issues. Two common cancers among firefighters are testicular cancer and mesothelioma. 

Testicular cancer is often linked to exposure to PFAS, which are highly toxic chemicals found in the fire suppressant AFFF. On the other hand, mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. Despite these known risks, AFFF still contains PFAS, with concentrations reaching up to 98%.

Sadly, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not officially recognize the connection between toxic exposure and the development of malignant diseases. Consequently, firefighters who have put their lives on the line to safeguard their comrade’s environment are left without healthcare benefits.

The treatment costs for cancer can be exorbitant, placing an additional burden on military firefighters. For example, monthly expenses for lung cancer treatment, another prevalent cancer among firefighters, range from $4,242 to $8,287.

Looking at such high-risk factors and expenses for treatment, many veterans have filed class action lawsuits. AFFF lawsuit by navy veterans and firefighters have brought the VA and the government to take strict actions against such products.

Contamination due to AFFF

Numerous military sites, within the U.S. and abroad, have been contaminated with PFAS, specifically from the use of AFFF. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has identified approximately 710 military sites in the U.S. alone.

Several major military bases have a history of AFFF usage, including:

  • Fort Leavenworth
  • Camp Pendleton
  • Fort Knox
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst
  • West Point U.S. Military Academy
  • Barksdale Air Force Base

Due to its effectiveness in combating jet fuel and petroleum fires, AFFF has been widely utilized by all branches of the military. It is used in fire suppression and training exercises on military bases and Navy aircraft carriers.

According to TruLaw, the plaintiffs can claim compensation based on various legal avenues. Medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages are some of them. 

Not only veterans but firefighters, military personnel, ground crew, and even workers are at risk of exposure to AFFF. If someone is involved in any of the specific jobs, they are liable to compensate the claim.

Claiming the Compensation

The Veterans Exposure to Toxic PFAS Act is a legislative initiative focused on addressing the impact of PFAS exposure on veteran’s health.

The health risks range from respiratory issues to skin conditions. Any veteran who can establish a connection between AFFF and diagnosed conditions may file a claim seeking compensation for service-related health issues.

When seeking VA benefits for AFFF exposure, veterans need to establish service connections for their conditions caused by AFFF exposure. This requires:

  • A current medical diagnosis of a VA-ratable condition related to AFFF exposure.
  • Evidence of an in-service event or injury indicating exposure to AFFF.
  • Competent medical evidence, such as a doctor’s statement or a VA Nexus Letter, linking the diagnosis to the AFFF exposure.

AFFF exposure often leads to severe diseases, hindering veteran’s daily activities and requiring assistance from family members. Former military firefighters with disabling illnesses may qualify for VA disability compensation if their diseases are linked to their service. 

The VA determines disability percentages between 10% and 100%, resulting in varying compensation amounts based on factors like familial responsibilities. 

The Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act, introduced to address this issue, aims to establish presumptions of service connection for firefighting-related illnesses. 

Legislative measures like this highlight the risks associated with AFFF exposure and seek to provide compensation and treatment for affected veterans.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How are Navy veterans exposed to AFFF?

Navy veterans can be exposed to AFFF through various routes, including inhalation of contaminated air during firefighting drills or actual fire incidents, ingestion of contaminated water or food, and dermal contact with AFFF-contaminated surfaces.

What steps are being taken to address the risks of AFFF exposure for Navy veterans?

The military and government agencies are actively addressing the issue of AFFF exposure. Efforts include conducting research on the health effects of PFAS, implementing stricter regulations on PFAS use, developing alternative firefighting foams with lower or no PFAS content, and providing health screening and support programs for affected Navy veterans.

Can AFFF-contaminated water sources impact communities near military installations?

Yes, AFFF chemicals can potentially contaminate groundwater and surface water, affecting nearby communities. This contamination can occur through firefighting training exercises, accidental releases, or improper disposal of AFFF. Efforts are being made to assess and mitigate the environmental impact of AFFF on surrounding areas.

What can Navy veterans do to protect themselves from AFFF-related risks?

Navy veterans who are concerned about AFFF exposure should consult with healthcare professionals experienced in occupational and environmental health. They can also stay informed about the latest research and guidelines regarding PFAS exposure and take steps to minimize exposure to other potential sources of PFAS in their daily lives.

If your line of work involves the handling or disposal of AFFF foam, make sure that all necessary safety precautions are taken, including putting on protective clothing.

If you are exposed to AFFF, it is best to consult with a legal expert that specializes in exposure situations. They can advise you on your rights and available compensation choices.

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