Blog Post

Burn Pits: The Next VA Class Action?

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein set Kuwait’s oil fields on fire. Most of us have seen pictures of the thick, black, toxic smoke blanketing the region. In the Iraq War, a similar danger emerged. Toxic smoke, this time from our own large burn pits, claimed thousands of victims in Iraq and Afghanistan. 


One of them may have been President Biden’s son Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer after serving two tours in the JAG corps in Iraq. His family, including President Biden, believes those fumes were at fault.


If you or a loved one served in Iraq or Afghanistan and was diagnosed with one of the illnesses listed below, now is the time to reach out to a VA disability attorney, even if the VA denied your disability claim. The political ground is shifting in your favor, and not just because a burn pit victim now occupies the Oval Office.


Burn Pit Injuries


Waste disposal is always an issue when armies move across foreign soil. For many years, DoD regulations have allowed local commanders to use burn pits as a stopgap measure. In Iraq and Afghanistan, this stopgap lasted far beyond temporary. Military installations like Camp Anaconda (Iraq’s Joint Base Balad) were famous, or rather infamous, because of burn pits.


A burn pit is exactly what it sounds like. Soldiers dig a large hole and fill it with all matter of waste. That refuse includes anything they need to get rid of, including known toxins: medical waste, vehicle tires, Styrofoam cups, and plastic products. Then someone douses the waste with jet fuel and tosses in a match. The fire rages constantly, so smoke saturates the air all day every day. Breathing in the smoke causes injuries like:


  • Breathing Problems: Respiratory issues are the most frequent type of burn pit illness. Bronchial asthma, one of the most common, is a serious breathing disorder. It is very rare in young, healthy people— unless they inhaled a toxic substance. Other breathing problems include sleep apnea, allergic rhinitis, bronchitis and sinusitis. Symptoms of these diseases can be mild or debilitating or anywhere in between.
  • Cancer: Toxic smoke can change cells at the genetic level, causing them to multiply rapidly. The cells collect and form tumors. This was what cost Beau Biden his life. Cancer may appear in almost any organ, most notably the brain (glioblastoma) or blood (leukemia).
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, and Celiac disease are among the most common autoimmune disorders. Toxins can disrupt the body’s immune system, causing it to attack healthy cells. 


One prominent doctor told the National Academy of Sciences that “the evidence for respiratory symptoms—which included chronic persistent cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing—met the criteria for limited or suggestive evidence of an association for both veterans who served in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and those who served in the military operations after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.”


Legal Issues


In VA disability terms, the aforementioned breathing problems often constitute DRLD, or Deployment-Related Lung Disease. Yet the VA has consistently maintained that dust and other particulate matter in the environment caused these Veterans’ breathing problems. 


In other words, establishing a diagnosis is normally not an issue. Establishing service connection is a different issue.


But that second component may be changing. Many observers think President Biden, who witnessed the effects of burn pits first hand, might be more sympathetic to these Veterans. Furthermore, the Labor Department recently awarded Defense Base Act benefits to a private military contractor who served in Iraq and contracted DRLD because of burn pit smoke.


If the political winds don’t change fast enough, burn pits could be the next VA class action. There are a lot of veterans with similar injuries and similar causes. That is one of the basic requirements of a VA class action lawsuit. Proving that legal issues are similar enough would be complicated, since whether your illness was caused by the toxic chemicals you breathed in is a very individual question. And VA has already taken action on whether to presume illnesses were caused by burn pits. Class actions are difficult and not something to try lightly, so reach out to a skilled attorney before considering it. 


Reach Out to Diligent Attorneys


The prospects for burn pit-related disability benefits are improving. For a free consultation with an experienced Veterans disability lawyer, contact the Cameron Firm, P.C. at 800-861-7262 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.

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