U.S. Dept. of Labor Judge Rules Military Burn Pits in Iraq Caused Civilian Contractor’s Illness
In a case that could prove helpful to U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars, a judge in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs found that open-air burn pits could have caused a military contractor’s illness, and therefore her employer and its insurance company are liable for her medical bills. Many current and former service members have reported serious ailments they believe are related to burn-pit exposure and have been met with resistance as they’ve applied for VA disability benefits for their conditions.
According to a report on the Fox News website, the plaintiff in the workers’ compensation case was Veronica Landry, who worked for the military contractor Kellogg, Brown, and Root at Mosul Air Force Base in Iraq. After being sent home to the states early because she was suffering from PTSD, Ms. Landry started to experience lung ailments, as well as migraines, chills and low blood pressure. However, “KBG’s insurance company, AIG…refused to assist with her medical bills.”
After a hearing, the judge concluded, “This evidence is sufficient to establish Ms. Landry suffers from deployment-related lung disease.…Ms. Landry need not introduce affirmative medical evidence to show working conditions caused the alleged harm. She need only show working conditions which could conceivably cause the harm alleged.” Therefore, the judge ruled, “Employer [KBR] and Carrier [AIG] are liable for all past, present, and future reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to claimant’s work-related post-traumatic stress disorder and deployment-related lung disease.”
The ruling was taken as very good news by members of the military community who have been advocating for burn pit victims. FoxNews.com quotes Rosie Torres, founder of the group Burn Pits 360, as saying, “We can only hope that the same common sense is applied to our military war heroes and their widows.”
At Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban, we are determined to see all veterans get the disability benefits they are entitled to. We greet this ruling as very good news, which should help us help our clients.
The VA benefits attorneys at Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. If you or a loved one is having difficulty accessing benefits for a burn-pit illness or any other disabling condition, call 866-866-VETS or contact our office online.