Veterans, when compared to the general population, have a ten times greater rate of Hepatitis. 68% of veterans with hepatitis are Vietnam veterans. What is it about veterans, specifically Vietnam-era veterans, that can explain this enormous discrepancy?
One factor is, of course, intravenous drug use, as some studies estimate up to 15 percent of Vietnam-era combat veterans used intravenous heroin during or after their service. While the VA may deny your claim for Hepatitis, you may be able to argue that your drug use was not willful misconduct, but a secondary medical condition to a mental health problem, such as PTSD or depression.
Another route of Hepatitis infection, however, may have been the methods the government used to provide service men and women with vaccinations. The Jet Injector, or “Jetgun” was an efficient, inexpensive method of delivering vaccinations to the enormous numbers of troops. While these jet injectors do not use needles, but rather a sharp blast of air to inject the vaccine, it still breaks the skin, and can still transmit disease, especially Hepatitis. In one Brazilian clinic, a jetgun was found to be the culprit in infecting 57 people with Hepatitis B, a full 24% of their 239 patients.
How many millions veterans were immunized with jetguns during Vietnam? In the general population, the incidence of Hepatitis is around 1-2%, probably more. There were around 8.5 million Active-duty military personnel during the Vietnam era. Assuming that only 1% of draftees had Hepatitis during vaccination, and ONLY PASSED THE VIRUS to the next person in line, that would be 85,000 cases of hepatitis. These numbers are extremely conservative, as we can see in the Brazilian example.
The military used jetguns after the Vietnam era as well, and have ruled in favor of veterans who served in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and claimed that they were infected with hepatitis from jetguns.
For more information regarding your VA disability claim for Hepatitis, please search our archives for several articles you may find helpful in your fight!