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Legislation Would Force VA to Address Burn Pit Exposure Claims

Many military families have suspected for years that individuals who served in the Middle East suffered illnesses linked to burn pit exposure. Unfortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs still has not accepted that a connection exists, so veterans stricken with lung illnesses and other problems potentially associated with incinerated garbage don’t automatically receive compensation to address their conditions.

Now, two members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced a bill that would direct the VA to find out if a positive association exists between open-air burn pit exposure and various medical problems. If a link to a specific illness is found, the bill calls for a presumption that the illness is service-related for military personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. This would open the door to benefits and disability payments.

All kinds of substances were incinerated in burn pits at U.S. military bases in Middle Eastern countries, including ammunition, vehicles, tires, batteries and even biological waste. Accordingly, exposure to toxic particulate near those facilities has been named a possible cause for numerous conditions suffered by veterans, including:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Cancer
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased physical function and immunity to illness
  • Allergies

Supporters of the bill, H.R. 4137, have noted the similarity between this effort and the long struggle to obtain benefits for troops who were exposed to the toxic defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Eventually, qualifying veterans afflicted with certain cancers and other illnesses were given a presumption that their condition was connected to their wartime service. The benefits and compensation have made an enormous difference for vets harmed by Agent Orange. Individuals with burn pit claims and their supporters are advocating for the same type of relief to be delivered promptly.

The lawyers of Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban have decades of combined experience representing veterans in all types of benefit and compensation claims. From our offices in the Carolinas and Virginia, we fight to secure proper treatment for service members who have sacrificed for our country. If you were stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan and think you’ve been harmed by your proximity to a burn pit or any other aspect of your deployment, please call 866-866-VETS or contact us online for a free initial consultation.

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