Every day, brave veterans put their lives on the line to defend our country. Unfortunately, this kind of service often brings with it exposure to toxic substances like jet fuel. For many veterans, exposure to jet fuel can lead to long-term physical and psychological health issues that can last a lifetime.
This article explains how jet fuel affects veterans like you and how you can get VA benefits for exposure to jet fuel, including VA disability compensation.
- What is in jet fuel?
- How does jet fuel impact veterans?
- Long-Term Effects of Jet Fuel Exposure
- Getting VA benefits for Exposure to Jet Fuel
- How To Service Connect Your Disability To Get VA Benefits For Toxic Jet Fuel Exposure
- NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
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What is in jet fuel?
There are several different types of fuels that the military uses. When it comes to jet fuel, most are shortened to JP with a number designation indicating the type of jet fuel. JP stands for jet propulsion fuel.
The primary jet fuels: JP-4, JP-5, JP-7, and JP-8, are aviation fuels used in military aircraft. These fuels contain many hazardous materials, such as benzene, xylene, and formaldehyde—all known carcinogens and neurotoxins. These chemicals can cause serious health concerns over time if inhaled or ingested.
Usually, veterans working around aviation or on aircraft carriers are most at risk for exposure to jet fuels. This is only sometimes the case. When fuel is combusted, it produces vapors that can travel far distances and be inhaled. Even if you never came into direct contact with jet fuel, you could be impacted by these toxic fuels. Let’s cover the most common types of jet fuel.
Air Force Fuel – JP-8
The Air Force typically uses kerosene-based JP-8 fuel. This type of jet fuel is a complex mix of hydrocarbons and other chemicals like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, sulfur compounds, and arsenic. When these substances are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, they can cause significant health problems.
Navy Fuel – JP-5
The Navy primarily uses JP-5 since it is generally considered safer onboard ships. JP-5 is a similar blend of hydrocarbons but with lower concentrations of sulfur compounds and other additives.
Both of these jet fuels are extremely toxic if inhaled, end up on your skin, or are ingested.
How does jet fuel impact veterans?
These dangerous chemicals can cause serious health concerns long after exposure. Veterans serving in Vietnam and Korea may have been exposed to the highest levels of these hazardous materials. Let’s discuss the short and long-term health considerations.
What health problems can jet fuel cause for veterans?
Exposure to jet fuel can cause a range of short and long-term health issues to your blood, brain, nervous system, skin, and eyes. In the short term, exposure to jet fuel can lead to various health problems. Symptoms of jet fuel exposure syndrome include:
- Throat irritation
- Eye irritation
- Skin irritation
- Respiratory issues or difficulty breathing
- Problems sleeping
Long-Term Effects of Jet Fuel Exposure
Long-term, more severe conditions may develop. Jet fuel exposure symptoms may not arise for years or even decades until the exposure is over and veterans are discharged from service. These long-term health conditions include increased cancer risk and other life-altering severe disabilities.
There are many different conditions associated with jet fuel exposure.
Jet Fuel Exposure and Cancer in the Military
Increased cancer risk is one of jet fuel exposure’s most severe long-term effects. Brain tumors and a higher risk of kidney cancer have been linked to chronic jet fuel exposure.
There have been limited studies on the impacts of fuel exposure and cancer development. Providing as much in-service medical evidence as possible will help you prove service connection for any cancers that may have developed due to jet fuel exposure.
Jet fuel can also cause hearing problems. The chemicals and additives in jet fuel have been linked to an increased risk of noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus, and other related conditions.
Jet fuel exposure has been linked to an increased risk of sleep apnea in veterans. When inhaled, the molecules in jet fuel can accumulate inside the body and travel to the lungs, where it can damage airways and cause restricted airflow during sleeping hours. This decreases oxygen levels in the blood and makes breathing difficult.
The disruption of regular breathing patterns creates an uninterrupted cycle of shallow and deep breathing, resulting in sleep apnea. If left untreated, this condition can lead to other serious health complications, such as heart attack and stroke.
Jet fuel exposure has been linked to an increased risk of asthma in veterans. Inhaling the toxic chemicals and fumes from jet fuel can irritate and inflame the airways, leading to difficulty breathing.
Over time, this inflammation can worsen, causing coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and other respiratory issues. Veterans who develop sleep apnea due to toxic jet fuel exposure are more likely to develop asthma.
Veterans exposed to jet fuel may also be at an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease. Jet fuel contains several neurotoxins that can damage the central nervous system and cause neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination. Since this condition often worsens over time, keep in mind you may want to be re-evaluated for a higher VA disability rating.
Read our guide on winning your VA claim for Parkinson’s disease to learn more.
Jet fuel exposure may also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. The neurotoxins in jet fuel can damage brain cells, leading to memory loss and deterioration, common characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease.
Dementia can also be a result of jet fuel exposure. These chemicals and toxins can damage the brain and impair cognitive functioning, leading to memory loss, confusion, difficulty speaking and understanding language, and other related issues.
Some veterans may suffer from peripheral neuropathy in their extremities due to direct contact with fuel chemicals during maintenance operations. This disorder affects the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, leading to numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities.
Read our article on nerve damage to learn more about filing a VA claim for exposure to jet fuel.
Other Neurological Problems
Jet fuel exposure can also lead to other neurological problems, such as seizures, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. The body’s accumulation of toxins over time can cause these symptoms.
Depression is also associated with jet fuel exposure, especially for veterans exposed over a long time.
Jet fuel exposure has also been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These chemicals and toxins can damage the heart, leading to coronary artery disease, hypertension, arrhythmias, and stroke.
VA benefits may be available to you if you’re a veteran suffering from any of these conditions due to your military service-connected exposure to jet fuel.
Getting VA benefits for Exposure to Jet Fuel
If you believe your health issues are due to your military service-connected exposure to jet fuel, it’s critical to document your condition and learn how to file for the benefits you deserve.
Veterans exposed to jet fuel may be eligible for VA disability benefits. VA disability compensation is a tax-free, monthly payment that you receive based on your service-connected disabilities. You can use our VA disability calculator to determine how much your monthly benefit could be worth.
The biggest obstacle to overcome in winning your VA claim for toxic jet fuel exposure will be proving service connection or that your current disability or illness is related to your military service.
How To Service Connect Your Disability To Get VA Benefits For Toxic Jet Fuel Exposure
To win your VA claim and start receiving VA benefits for exposure to jet fuel, you need four essential elements:
- A medical diagnosis of a condition related to your jet fuel exposure
- Evidence of an in-service event, injury, disease, or aggravation (in this case, how you were exposed to jet fuel)
- The link (or nexus) between your condition and jet fuel exposure through medical evidence
- Documented severity of your symptoms, including frequency, severity, and duration
Unfortunately, there are no medical tests to prove whether or not you were exposed to jet fuel. The VA requires veterans to provide valid evidence for the VA to grant benefits for any condition, and this includes exposure to jet fuel.
Unlike other conditions, jet fuel exposure does not yet have a presumptive service connection. You must prove through medical evidence that it is more likely than not that your current condition was caused or aggravated by your jet fuel exposure. However, there is current legislation in the House of Representatives to create a presumptive service connection for jet fuel exposure.
Right now, a nexus letter from a qualified physician familiar with the VA’s practices is one of the best ways to improve your chances of being granted service connection and winning your VA claim.
It’s crucial to gather medical records and other documents that may help prove the connection between your injury or illness and the exposure to jet fuel during your military service. You’ll want to discuss whether you inhaled, absorbed through your skin, or ingested jet fuel, as well as how frequently the exposure occurred.
Methods to help prove that an in-service event occurred include:
- In-service medical records
- Private medical records
- Military performance reports
- Daily staff journals
- Military occupation evidence
- Hazard pay records
- Unit and organization histories
- Job qualification system – duties and descriptions of your daily job requirements
- After action reports (AARs)
- Monthly summaries and morning reports
Once you have successfully filed and won your VA claim, you’re eligible for various VA benefits for exposure to jet fuel. These may include access to no-cost VA healthcare, travel pay, VA home loan benefits, preference for state and federal jobs, access to employment services, and more. You can read our full list of benefits by VA percentage rating to determine possible eligibility.
File a Claim to Start Earning VA Benefits for Exposure to Jet Fuel
Toxic jet fuel exposure is a serious issue affecting many veterans today who have served our country honorably and selflessly over the years.
If you believe you’re suffering from health complications due to your service-related exposures, seek medical attention immediately. Filing a VA disability claim for jet fuel exposure will also allow you to receive financial compensation for any long-term treatment costs associated with your condition(s). You served; YOU DESERVE!
NEED MORE ASSISTANCE?
Most veterans are underrated for their disabilities and, therefore, not getting their due compensation. At VA Claims Insider, we help you understand and take control of the claims process, so you can get the rating and compensation you’re owed by law.
Our process takes the guesswork out of filing a VA disability claim and supports you every step of the way in building a fully-developed claim (FDC)—so you can increase your rating FAST! If you’ve filed your VA disability claim and have been denied or have received a low rating—or you’re unsure how to get started—reach out to us! Take advantage of a FREE VA Claim Discovery Call. Learn what you’ve been missing—so you can FINALLY get the disability rating and compensation YOU DESERVE!
Trisha Penrod is a former active-duty Air Force officer. As an Intelligence Officer, she led teams of analysts to apply advanced analytic skills to identify, assess, and report potential threats to U.S. forces.
Trisha attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and holds an MBA from Webster University. After receiving an honorable discharge in 2018, Trisha worked as a growth marketer and utilizes her analytic skills to help others accomplish their business goals.