The United States military has utilized burn pits as part of their waste disposal protocol in post-9/11 era operations. While effectively reducing large amounts of waste quickly, burn pits emit toxic smoke, which was especially problematic in areas where desert winds carried the smoke for miles.
Today, VA compensation for exposure to these pits is still widely challenging to receive; however, a new bill, the PACT Act, passed by the US House of Representatives in early March of 2022, may soon give affected veterans some relief.
Burn Pits & Burn Pit Exposure
Burn pits are areas where the combustion of trash occurs, commonly used at military sites outside of the United States, like in Iraq or Afghanistan. Because the waste products in these burn pits included chemicals, medical and human waste, metal and aluminum, paint, munitions, petroleum products, plastics, and Styrofoam, the resulting smoke may have short- and long-term effects on a person’s health.
Many veterans have suffered the consequences of burn pit exposure. While some of the effects include temporary respiratory system ailments, evidence has suggested a link between exposure to burn pits and long-term lung health deterioration.
Burn Pit Exposure & The VA
While researchers continue to gather evidence showing a link between exposure to burn pits and many severe illnesses like respiratory conditions and cancers, the VA has been slow to acknowledge the connection.
Other government officials have taken notice of the connection, however. In February 2018, a Labor Department judge ruled exposure to burn pits did cause lung disease for a military contractor. This ruling did not have any bearing on veterans’ claims for disability compensation due to burn pit exposure. Still, it does represent a shift in acknowledging the health impacts burn pit exposure has on veterans.
Receiving Benefits for Burn Pit Exposure
To receive any disability benefits for conditions caused by burn pit exposure, veterans must file an application with the VA, submitting supporting evidence that shows a disabling condition and the specific event that caused it. Then you’ll need to check the status of your claim.
The most important step to receiving disability benefits for a condition caused by burn pit exposure is to prove it is connected to your military service. You must submit medical evidence and show expert medical testimony in order to make the connection clear.
The Latest on Burn Pit Exposure and VA Benefits
Earlier this month, a bill that will dramatically boost disability benefits and health care services for veterans that have been exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan won approval in the US House of Representatives.
If accepted by the Senate and passed into law, the bill would provide new and increased disability benefits to veterans exposed to burn pits. It would also open the Department of Veterans Affairs health care to millions of exposed veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if they have not developed a service-connected disability.