Burning trash piles that once littered the landscape near American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan might be linked to serious, and even fatal, illnesses among service members who were exposed to the toxic fumes. Though a Department of Veterans Affairs program allows potential victims to report their symptoms and have their medical condition tracked, the VA website still claims that burn pit exposure does not have negative long-term effects. Now, potentially affected veterans, along with legislators and support groups, have urged Congress and the VA to address this concern more forcefully.
The VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry lets members of the armed forces who served in the Middle East fill out an online questionnaire reporting their health issues and stating how they were exposed. Since 2014, more than 175,000 respondents have completed the form. Still, effective action is lacking in this area despite calls for relief. If you’re considering adding your information to the registry or are wondering about military airborne hazard claims, you should know about:
Claimed medical conditions — Toxic fumes from burn pits have been associated with various respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, asthma and heart disease. Skin, throat and bronchial problems might also be connected to airborne chemicals.
Claimant eligibility — Veterans and active duty service members who participated in Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom or New Dawn can join the registry. Individuals stationed in Southwest Asia after August 2, 1990 or Djibouti, Africa after September 11, 2001 are also eligible.
Possible legislation — Many politicians have supported a law directing the Secretary of Defense to assess the effects of burn pit exposure and other airborne chemical hazards. Even former Vice President Biden has speculated that his son Beau’s fatal brain cancer was connected to his military service in the Middle East.
Due to the VA’s current insistence that medical conditions stemming from burn pits are only temporary, it can be difficult to secure specific VA benefits in these matters, but retaining a legal advocate who is well versed in VA rules and procedures may help you seek financial assistance for the associated medical conditions.
Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban advises veterans on a full range of benefits issues and pursues substantial relief for victims of exposure to burn pit fumes and other airborne hazards related to overseas military service. Please call 866-866-VETS or contact us online for a free consultation. We assist veterans nationwide.