VA Adds Smoke From A Burn Pit To Presumptive Injury List
Veterans who developed rhinitis, sinusitis, or asthma after being exposed to burn pit smoke are now presumptively entitled to monthly benefits.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the decision was “the right move”. Further, McDonough hinted that he may add more conditions to the presumptive list in the future. The current presumption applies to Veterans who served in Southwest Asia in 1990 or later, or in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, and Uzbekistan in September 2001 or later. They have to have gotten sick within the last 10 years. The VA made this move after pressure from advocacy groups, and also after Congress began considering several bills on this issue.
“VA Secretary McDonough has made clear he is committed to working with Congress on a comprehensive toxic exposure framework that is timely, grounded in science, transparent, and responsive to the needs of every man and woman impacted by the effects of toxic exposure,” remarked Senate Veterans Affairs committee chair Jon Tester (D-MO). “I encourage every eligible veteran to apply for their earned benefits as quickly as possible,” he added.
Burn Pits in Southwest Asia
When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, many planners anticipated a short fight. No one gave much thought to issues like waste disposal. Burn pits were a short-term solution, and the planners didn’t expect to have to worry about the long term.
As the fighting dragged on, these needs became more apparent. Yet for some reason, the DoD failed to adequately address them. Thus, American forces continued to rely on temporary burn pits.
Essentially, a burn pit is a large, open-air pit. Military units throw all their garbage into the pit, then set it on fire. Burn pits can be excellent waste disposal tools for small groups of campers in the mountains or army units that are constantly on the move. But all burn pits produce toxic smoke. The more refuse in the pit, and the longer the pit operates, the more smoke it produces. Since the smoke is laced with toxic particles, it is only a matter of time before serious illnesses develop.
Since Iraq War Veterans began coming home, the VA has treated burn pit smoke the same way it addressed Agent Orange exposure. Bureaucrats denied there was a link between the toxic exposure and subsequent illness. It took more than 20 years before the VA started changing its tune about Agent Orange. Now, burn pit illnesses seem to be undergoing a similar process. Hopefully for sick Veterans, the process will not take as long this time.
If you served in Iraq and you have rhinitis, sinusitis, or asthma, the VA presumes that there is a service-related connection. There is no need to prove specific exposure. If you already have a claim pending, you don’t need to do anything. VA will still process it and they’ll use the new rules.
Other burn pit-related illnesses, such as DRLD (Deployment-Related Lung Disease), are different. These Veterans must show that they were exposed to significant amounts of burn pit smoke, and that the smoke caused their illness.
The VA’s lawyers contest both points. They usually say dust and other environmental factors, as opposed to smoke, caused the Veteran’s illness. Furthermore, there is no shortage of VA experts. Many regularly claim that there is no medical connection between burn pit smoke and serious illness.
Normally, attorneys use buddy statements to prove that the Veteran was exposed to significant amounts of smoke. If the Veteran was stationed in a mountainous or urban area, as opposed to a desert, the Veteran’s claim is even stronger. Furthermore, a medical diagnosis from a credible physician is often enough to overcome the VA’s experts.
Count on Dedicated Attorneys
It is now easier than ever before for Veterans to obtain benefits related to burn pit exposure. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-72623 Or fill out the contact box to your right. We are here to represent Veterans nationwide.
This article is for educational and marketing purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship.