VA Compensation for Anthrax Vaccine

Anthrax is a scarce condition right now where you get two patients in the USA and 2000 worldwide yearly. However, the number of veterans suffering from the side effects of the Anthrax vaccine is not low. So, why is that? Well, the US Army vaccinated lots and lots of military personnel in 1990.

It was part of the Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program (AVIP). They feared biological attacks from the enemy at the time. What they overlooked was the harmful nature of the specific vaccine itself. FDA didn’t approve it at the time, and its side effects are still lingering in many veterans.

This article will explain whether VA covers the Anthrax vaccine’s side effects and how they rate it.

Records of Anthrax Vaccination in the US Military

There was a rise of potential risk in the US for bioweapons against the US military in 1997 and some following years. As such, the AVIP program went on from March 1998 to June 2001. During this time frame, around 2.5 million Defense Department civilian contractors and US military members got the BioThrax vaccination.

The issue was that the service members never noticed that the vaccine was unapproved by the FDA. But it was too late when they did notice in June 2001. The Anthrax infection attack did come the same year in September when famous personalities from the media and politics were the prime targets.

The first recorded case in the year was Bob Stevens, a Sun photojournalist, who was hospitalized on October 4 and died the following day with anthrax infection. Following that, 21 others got the same flu-like symptoms, and four died.

The victims received letters from unknown senders with some strange powder, which was the leading cause of infection. The US military restarted the vaccination program on June 28, 2002, which halted again in December of the same year.

It was so because the Justice Department stated that the military can’t force any member of the army to have the vaccination. The Justice Department found the culprit of the attack in 2010, nine years after it happened. It was Bruce Ivins, a biodefense scientist at Fort Detrick. The person committed suicide in 2008.

Sadly, the vaccination program started again in October 2004 and ended eight days later, as the act was illegal. However, while they waited for an FDA-approved version of the vaccine (which came in 2015), many service members still got the vaccination in the meantime.

As expected, lots of veterans started showing the symptoms of Anthrax vaccination. One such symptom was the appearance of anti-Squalene antibodies in the blood. It is so because many anthrax vaccines had Squalene in them (found in studies in 2001).

They added Squalene to the vaccine to increase the body’s reaction to the vaccine. While it may usually not be harmful at all, the effects depend on the preparation process and the solution. If made in certain ways, Squalene may cause specific health issues.

Note that people still use Squalene in vaccines today, albeit mostly in safe ways. However, many still don’t find it safe and are not pleased with it.

What Is Anthrax Infection?

Anthrax infection is pretty rare, as we mentioned earlier. The bacteria named Bacillus anthracis is the culprit. The chances of getting this infection are higher for laboratory workers, military personnel, travelers who journey often, and livestock farmers. It also affects intravenous drug takers.

One can get the infection in various ways. But if it is through any respiratory organ, the mortality rate is very high (50 to 80%). Meanwhile, other ways to enter the body are also possible with less mortality rate. For example, infection of the skin only has a mortality rate of 23.7%.

While the chance of getting it is pretty low, the condition is more common in Africa and Central Asia. People usually get it from infected soil or animals. The bacterial spores can travel to the human body through air (rarely) and mainly through contaminated edible animal products.

As such, you won’t see much human-to-human infection. Getting spores through inhaling, wounds, animal products, or substance injection (made from ingredients grown in contaminated soil) are some common ways.

Side Effects of Anthrax Vaccine in the Military

There are many reported side effects observed in the members who received the anthrax vaccine during their service. Some simple ones are as follows-

  • Fever
  • Muscle pain and struggling to move the injected arm
  • Redness at the site of injection
  • Bruising
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Tenderness

Some severe side effects were seen in 84% of the vaccinated persons. It is opposed to the 34% of cases in most other vaccines. Many of them can also be symptoms of the upcoming long-term disabilities or diseases the recipient may develop. These effects are-

  • Weakness
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Dizziness
  • Hearth palpitations
  • Hives
  • Throat swelling

Long-term side effects of the military anthrax vaccine include but are not limited to the following-

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Blindness
  • Motor skill impairment
  • Arthritis
  • Paralysis
  • Congenital disabilities in their offspring
  • Infertility
  • Lupus
  • Memory impairment

The Gulf War Syndrome is also regarded as a side effect of the anthrax vaccine. We have explained these symptoms in detail in another article.

How VA Rates Veterans with Anthrax Vaccine Side Effects?

There is no standard way for the VA to rate anthrax-vaccinated veterans. The rating process solely depends on the effects developed in the veteran and their numbers, severity, frequency, and persistence.

Both the process of gathering proof of your anthrax vaccine side effects being service-connected and going through any necessary C&P exam can be challenging. The former is so because it is hard to connect a disability with the anthrax vaccine.

If you have developed one or more of the symptoms we have mentioned above, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation. There is a more straightforward and almost surefire way to solve the challenge of service connection, though.

You just report your symptoms as Gulf War Syndrome. It is so because the Gulf War Syndrome is almost the same as the anthrax vaccine side effects. So, as the former is in the VA’s list of presumptive conditions, you may not have to prove any service connection at all.

If, however, your symptom(s) is not listed in the Gulf War Syndrome list, then you can get the following evidence to prove your disability’s connection to your service-

  • The C-file. They are military records that show the veteran had the anthrax vaccine during their service.
  • Medical diagnosis and reports of your conditions from a doctor.
  • A nexus letter from your doctor that states that your condition has at least a 50% chance of being connected to the anthrax vaccination you had.

Note that not every doctor can be qualified to write a nexus letter in this case. Since it is very complex, the best way to go is to get a doctor who excels at both medical evidence and scientific facts and features. They must also be experienced and qualified by the VA to write medical nexus letters for a veteran.

Final Note

Since the symptoms that come with the anthrax vaccine side effects vary so much, it is also very tricky to prove their service connection. Since the veterans were forced to take the vaccines, it should be the responsibility of the VA to help them get the evidence. But they hardly assist with it.You may either need to go for the Gulf War Syndrome presumptive list or get a nexus letter from a capable and qualified physician. We also suggest getting an eligibility review from VA Disability Coach to increase the pieces of evidence you have at hand.