Bill to Expand VA Burn Pit Coverage
Veterans are now waiting on the United States Senate to pass the Honoring our Promise to
Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2021. This is the bill to expand VA burn pit coverage, better known as the PACT Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives.
Pat Murray, the legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, urged Senators to expand
burn pit exposure coverage for veterans who served in Southwest Asia. After all, he pointed out, burn pits are illegal in the United States because it is common knowledge that breathing in toxins is bad.
It is also a common practice for the US military to use burn pits at bases overseas. After serving
on a base near a burn pit, he said, “[i]t’s very unfortunate that we’re asking the men and women
to then prove to the VA that their illness is because of what our government put them through.”
The legislation faces an uncertain future. Advocates expect most or all Senate Democrats to
support it, but many Republicans oppose it, citing cost concerns. Sixty senators must vote yes to
“call the question,” or end debate and consider the PACT Act for passage. If that does not occur,
the bill will not even be voted on.
Burn Pit Illnesses
One of the worst things about burn pit exposure is that the toxic fumes from huge pits cannot be
avoided. Thus, for individuals serving in the military overseas, in a designated area which used
burn pits like Iraq or Afghanistan, the likelihood of toxic smoke inhalation is almost 100%.
The Department of Defense allowed field commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan to burn trash for
several years. This authorization continued even as the Global War on Terror campaigns bogged
down, putting more servicemembers at risk.
Burn pit smoke has been linked to a number of serious illnesses. Various forms of cancer and
lung diseases are the most serious conditions on this list. Notably, President Biden recently
added nine types of rare respiratory cancer to the list of presumptive conditions warranting
Constrictive Bronchiolitis is one of the most serious burn pit smoke-associated lung diseases.
This degenerative condition closes very narrow passageways inside the lungs, through a
combination of scar tissue and inflammation. Victims have extreme trouble breathing and
walking across a room. Because it’s so serious, healthy, young people almost never develop this
or associated conditions. But, a large number of veterans who served in Southwest Asia are
being diagnosed with it.
Additionally, the toxic particles in burn pit smoke could cause pancreatic, brain, lung, and other
types of cancer. Once these particles infect cells, the body cannot naturally purge them. So, these
cells accumulate and form tumors.
The good news is that cancer is no longer a death sentence. The survival rates of these cancers
have improved dramatically since the 1990s. The bad news is that the treatments are expensive.
VA disability benefits include monthly cash payments and free medical treatment. Families who
deal with issues like burn pit exposure-related cancer and breathing problems sorely need these
These benefits are available if the VA acknowledges a connection between the Veteran’s
military activity – such as their service in a region with burn pit use – and the diagnosed illness.
In a few burn pit exposure cases, a presumption applies. But in the vast majority of cases, an
attorney must start from scratch.
It is difficult to establish a service-related connection, as outlined below. It is even harder to
establish this connection when a VA lawyer fights the claim. And, to avoid opening the
floodgates of compensation which VA will have to shell out, VA lawyers tend to vigorously
defend against burn pit exposure claims.
A Veteran’s service record usually is not enough to prove a link. Normally, attorneys rely on
“buddy statements” in these situations. In such statements, military colleagues can testify about
the veteran’s day-to-day activities in service and the veteran’s proximity to toxic smoke.
Additionally, an independent medical examination is useful. Because a private (non-VA) physician can rule out other causes. Lung diseases are a good example. The VA almost always argues that
particulate matter and dust caused the victim’s deployment-related lung disease, or DLRD, an
umbrella term for various breathing problems. An independent physician often testifies that only
toxic particles could have caused the victim’s health problems.
Contact Thorough Attorneys
An attorney is a valuable partner in all phases of a disability claim. Therefore, get a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262, or fill out the contact box on our website. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. Consequently, it does not create an attorney-client relationship.