Fort McClellan in Alabama has a long, tumultuous history as a toxic exposure nightmare for U.S military personnel.
This military installation, originally known as Camp McClellan, has been a breeding ground for various chemical, biological, and radioactive compounds.
It once functioned as a training center for the Alabama National Guard and the Army Chemical Corps.
In 1999, it was closed under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) legislation.
If you think you’ve been affected by toxic exposures at Fort McClellan, it’s crucial to explore your options for an appeal.
Toxic Exposures at Fort McClellan: What We Know
The Conspiracy Hidden in Plain Sight
We spent time at the National Archives to find information that could help us understand what the US Government actually knew about Ft. McClellan’s toxic past. We then created a 6 part video series that want to give away to help anyone affected for free. Watch the videos & get access to the documents we found!
One of the most concerning elements about Fort McClellan is its historical involvement in chemical warfare training, which included the storage and testing of hazardous agents like Agent Orange.
This places Fort McClellan alongside other military bases like Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which have also faced scrutiny for toxic exposures.
Agent Orange exposure at Fort McClellan has been a significant concern for veterans, especially those from the Vietnam War era.
The Chemical Corps trained extensively with these toxic substances, and their long-term effects are only beginning to be understood.
Veterans Affairs and the Challenge of Recognition
While many Fort McClellan veterans have stepped forward with health problems that they attribute to toxic exposures, Veterans Affairs has been cautious in officially linking these issues to service at Fort McClellan.
Even with the available health registry and a growing number of McClellan veterans reporting conditions, the department has not fully recognized the scope of the problem as it has for Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam War veterans.
Gulf War Illness and Fort McClellan
Fort McClellan also played a role in the training of troops who served in the Gulf War.
These veterans face potential exposure to toxins that could be connected to Gulf War illness, a condition that affects a significant number of those who served in the conflict.
Anniston Army Depot and Nearby Environmental Risks
In addition to the toxic chemicals stored within Fort McClellan itself, the nearby Anniston Army Depot has also been a source of environmental toxins.
The depot is another reason why Fort McClellan veteran health issues could be more complex and far-reaching.
Army Chemical Corps and Military Police School
Fort McClellan was home to the Army Chemical Corps School and the Army Military Police School.
Veterans of these programs may have had closer contact with toxic substances, raising further questions about the level of exposure experienced.
The Legacy of Camp McClellan in World War I and World War II
It’s crucial to note that Fort McClellan’s legacy of exposure to toxic substances might have roots dating back to its days as Camp McClellan during World Wars I and II.
In both conflicts, the base served as a significant training ground, and its history with chemical warfare dates back nearly as far.
Fort McClellan Toxic Exposure and Future Implications
While some efforts have been made to address the concerns, including the PACT Act that aims to improve health care and services for veterans, much work remains to be done.
The health problems faced by Fort McClellan veterans are still a significant issue that warrants further investigation, resources, and ultimately, resolution.
Read about additional superfund cleanup sites at Army and Air Force bases in our blog “Is Jet Fuel Another Agent Orange?”
List of Toxic Chemicals stored at Fort McClellan, Alabama
Starting in the 1920s, Fort McClellan and Anniston, Alabama, were home to a host of deadly chemicals such as:
- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
- tear gas,
- mustard gas,
- white phosphorus,
- Cobalt (Co-60),
- Cesium (Cs-137)
- Agent Orange,
- nerve agents
- blister agents.
Medical Conditions Related to Fort McClellan Toxic Exposure in Alabama
Exposure to the specific compounds listed on the VA website as specific to Fort McClellan and their potential effects are as follows:
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs):
- Sulfur Mustard:
- Nerve Gas Agents:
- tightness in the chest,
- excessive salivation,
- abdominal cramps,
- blurred vision,
- Agent Orange: Fort McClellan veterans do not get presumptive Agent Orange exposure. Even though an Army report conceded massive use of Agent Orange. Between 1974 and 1976, the Army dumped nearly 30,000 gallons of Agent Orange at the base. Agent Orange exposure is linked to:
- Parkinson’s disease,
- Hodgkin’s disease,
- Diabetes Type II,
- Peripheral Neuropathy (early-onset),
- Prostate Cancer,
- Respiratory cancers.
- Ischemic heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Agent Blue:
- Bladder cancer,
- stomach cancer,
- lymphatic cancers,
- lung cancers,
- skin cancers,
- liver cancer
- Cobalt (Co-60): High levels of Cobalt exposure can cause changes in the genetic materials within cells and may develop some types of cancers.
- Cesium: Large amounts of Cesium can damage cells in the body.
- Uranium: Kidney damage from ingestion, increased probability of cancers.
- Plutonium: Cancers of the bones, lungs, and liver, impaired immune system.
Please note that the above conditions are not an exhaustive list of the health effects of exposure to the toxins at Fort McClellan.
What You Can Do If You’ve Been Exposed at Fort McClellan
Contact Veterans Affairs for Medical Screening
One of the first steps for any Fort McClellan veteran concerned about toxic exposures is to get in touch with Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA offers specialized health care and can conduct a comprehensive screening for health problems related to chemical and toxic exposures.
Even if you have not registered with the VA before, now is the time to do so.
Join the Health Registry
Veterans Affairs has a health registry where veterans can record their potential exposure and any resulting health problems.
This is not only useful for your personal health record but also contributes to the broader data collection that can aid in the future recognition of health issues related to toxic exposure at Fort McClellan.
This will, in turn, help the Veterans Administration make more informed decisions regarding healthcare services and compensation.
Consult with the State Board for Advocacy
Contacting your state board for veterans can also provide another avenue for advocacy and support.
Alabama lawmakers, for instance, have shown increasing interest in addressing the needs of Fort McClellan veterans.
They can provide resources or guide you to appropriate legal channels.
Get Legal Advice
Toxic exposure has legal ramifications.
If you have strong evidence linking your health problems to your military service at Fort McClellan, seeking legal advice can be a good idea.
Several firms specialize in representing veterans in cases against the military for exposure to toxic chemicals or other hazardous conditions.
We still don’t know much about the long-term health effects of many of the chemical and biological agents that were used.
An independent medical opinion helps identify the health conditions and has begun to link those conditions to the toxins from the base.
The VA does admit that some members of the “US Army Chemical Corp School, Army Combat Development Command, Chemical/Biological/Radiological Agency, Army Military Police School, and Women’s Army Corps, among others, may have been exposed to one or more of several hazardous materials, likely at low levels, during their service at Fort McClellan.”
However, the VA has not established any regulation that would give presumptive service connection for conditions related to Fort McClellan exposure.
Investigate the PACT Act
The PACT Act is legislation aimed at improving healthcare and services for veterans exposed to toxic substances.
Understanding this act can provide insights into the benefits and health care services that might be available to you, as a Fort McClellan veteran, in the future.
Check for National Academy Studies
The National Academy of Sciences often conducts research on the health impacts of chemical exposure.
Checking their database for any ongoing or completed studies regarding Fort McClellan or similar military installations can provide additional information that could be useful in your case.
Speak to Veterans Groups
Fort McClellan veterans, like veterans from other bases such as Camp Lejeune or Fort Leonard Wood, have started forming support groups to advocate for recognition and treatment of health problems resulting from toxic exposures.
Joining these groups can offer emotional support, practical advice, and the collective voice needed to bring about change.
Visit Military Base Health Centers
Most military bases, including Fort McClellan, have health centers that should have information about potential toxic exposures and what steps are being taken to address them.
Contact them for records or additional information about your time there.
Benefits Available for Toxic Exposure Claims at Fort McClellan
If you’re a veteran who served at Fort McClellan and you’re experiencing health problems possibly related to toxic exposures, you may be eligible for benefits from Veterans Affairs.
Understanding your rights and the options available to you can be a significant first step in receiving the care and compensation you deserve.
Veterans Affairs provides disability compensation for diseases that are service-connected.
If you can prove that your exposure to toxic substances at Fort McClellan led to a specific health problem, you could be eligible for monthly payments.
The amount depends on the severity of your disability and whether you have dependents.
Special Monthly Compensation
For severe cases, you might qualify for Special Monthly Compensation (SMC) in addition to your disability payments.
This benefit is meant to provide financial assistance for veterans who have lost the use of specific organs or extremities due to their military service.
Health Care Services
Veterans with verified toxic exposures are eligible for health care services through the VA.
These services can include specialized treatments, ongoing care, and even emergency interventions, depending on your medical needs.
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
If a Fort McClellan veteran passes away due to a condition linked to toxic exposure, their spouse or dependents may be eligible for Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).
This is a tax-free monetary benefit usually given to eligible survivors of veterans whose death resulted from a service-related injury or disease.
Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment
For veterans whose toxic exposures at Fort McClellan have led to difficulty in securing and maintaining employment, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) services are available.
These can include job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job-seeking skills coaching.
Veterans suffering from health issues due to toxic exposure can also apply for educational assistance for themselves or their dependents through programs like the Post-9/11 GI Bill or the Montgomery GI Bill.
Special housing grants are available for veterans who have been permanently and substantially disabled due to their service.
These can be used for modifying an existing home to meet adaptive needs or for building an adaptive home.
File an Appeal with Hill & Ponton
If your toxic exposure claim has been denied, or you’re considering filing for an appeal, let Hill & Ponton help.
Our experienced team of legal experts specializes in veterans’ benefits, particularly for cases related to toxic exposures like those at Fort McClellan.
Don’t navigate this complex legal terrain alone; get the representation you deserve.
The Extensive History of Fort McClellan: From World War I to a Legacy of Toxic Exposures
Fort McClellan, originally established as Camp McClellan, has an intricate history dating back to World War I.
The military base’s inception was in 1917, a significant time when the United States, under President Woodrow Wilson, was preparing to enter the global conflict.
At the time, there was a pressing need for a facility where troops could be mobilized and trained. With its strategic location in Alabama, Camp McClellan was chosen for this crucial role.
World War I Era
After its establishment, the base became a hive of activity, serving as a mobilization center for troops going overseas.
The camp trained infantry divisions, medical detachments, and even hosted an officers’ training school.
During this period, Camp McClellan was renamed to Fort McClellan to honor Major General George B. McClellan, a Union general in the American Civil War.
After the Armistice in 1918, Fort McClellan served as a demobilization station, where troops were processed before being sent home.
Between the Wars and World War II
With the end of World War I, the base briefly became a lesser focus but was reactivated as a crucial military installation leading up to World War II.
Fort McClellan became a center for various army schools, including the Chemical Warfare Service School and Army Military Police School, which laid the foundation for its long history of chemical exposure.
The United States Army Chemical Corps was heavily involved in researching toxic substances during this period.
Additionally, the fort also hosted units of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) for a period.
Post World War II and the Cold War Era
After the conclusion of World War II, Fort McClellan’s significance did not diminish.
The base continued to serve as a key center for advanced training in chemical warfare during the Cold War, especially considering the mounting tensions related to potential chemical warfare.
It was during these decades that harmful substances like Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals were tested or stored at the base.
Towards the End of the 20th Century
As the years progressed into the latter half of the 20th century, Fort McClellan continued to be at the forefront of chemical exposure research.
The base housed the Army Chemical School and the Army Military Police School, and it became a center for Gulf War training operations.
It is also worth mentioning that Fort McClellan was in close proximity to the Anniston Army Depot, another location dealing with toxic materials.
In 1999, Fort McClellan was officially closed under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).
Its history, however, left an indelible mark, as over 600,000 service members had been exposed to a range of toxic substances during their time at the base.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What exactly were the toxic exposures at Fort McClellan?
Veterans who served at Fort McClellan were potentially exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals, including Agent Orange and other substances used in chemical warfare training.
The base was also near the Anniston Army Depot, which stored chemical munitions and the Monsanto chemical plant, which contributed to environmental pollution.
Can Gulf War veterans also claim toxic exposure benefits?
Yes, if you are a Gulf War veteran who served at Fort McClellan, you may also be eligible for toxic exposure benefits, especially if you have been diagnosed with Gulf War Illness, which is recognized by Veterans Affairs.
How is Fort McClellan different from Camp Lejeune?
While both bases have histories of toxic exposure, Camp Lejeune is primarily associated with water contamination issues, while Fort McClellan’s concerns stem from chemical warfare training and environmental pollution.
Are there any health registries for Fort McClellan veterans?
There is currently no specific health registry for Fort McClellan veterans.
However, you can apply for a health exam through the VA to document your exposure and any related health issues.
How do I prove my condition is related to my service at Fort McClellan?
Medical records, service records showing your time at Fort McClellan, and any supporting documents that can link your condition to toxic exposure are crucial for a successful claim.
Consult with experts like Hill & Ponton to guide you through the process.
Is Fort McClellan related to Fort Leonard Wood or Camp Shipp?
Fort McClellan is a separate entity from Fort Leonard Wood and Camp Shipp.
Each has its own set of issues related to toxic exposures or other veterans’ concerns.
However, it’s crucial to document your service accurately when filing claims.
What is the PACT Act?
The PACT Act aims to improve the understanding and recognition of potential health effects of toxic exposures among veterans.
If passed, it could make it easier for Fort McClellan veterans to claim benefits related to toxic exposures.
What can Alabama lawmakers do to help?
Alabama lawmakers can advocate for federal recognition of the toxic exposures at Fort McClellan and push for health care and benefits for affected veterans.
Engaging your state representatives can be a helpful step in this direction.
Can I claim benefits for toxic exposure if I served in the Army Chemical Corps School or Army Military Police School at Fort McClellan?
Yes, if you served in these specific schools at Fort McClellan, you are equally eligible to file claims related to toxic exposures.
Your eligibility for benefits is based on the proof of exposure and its connection to your health issues, not the specific unit in which you served.
Who can help me with filing a claim or an appeal?
If you’re struggling with the complexities of filing a claim or an appeal, it’s essential to consult experts familiar with toxic exposures and veterans’ benefits.
Hill & Ponton specializes in these types of cases and can provide the representation you need.
Have Questions About Appealing Your Claim or Understanding How the Claims Process Works?
The attorneys at Hill & Ponton are here to support you with appealing a claim to get benefits.
However, if you are considering filing an initial claim, or even if you are interested in learning about the appeals process, we offer a free ebook to get you started on the right foot!
The Road to VA Compensation Benefits will help break down the claims process from start to finish. Click the link below to learn more.
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