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Receiving VA Disability After Burn Pit Exposure

More than 3 million veterans could be eligible for Veterans Administration (VA) disability benefits if they developed a qualifying medical condition after being exposed to fumes from burn pits while serving in the Middle East. Veterans who served in that region as far back as the Gulf War could be eligible to collect compensation.

You will have to meet the VA’s criteria to receive disability benefits for a service-related medical condition. A Michigan VA Disability Attorney can answer your questions about eligibility for burn pit exposure compensation and advocate for you if the VA has denied your application for benefits.

Time Frame for Eligibility

The VA has expanded benefits eligibility to include veterans who served in:

  • The Southwest Asia theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present time, or
  • The Middle East, including Syria, Djibouti, Afghanistan, or Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, beginning on September 19, 2001, to the present time.

Veterans whose claims are already pending will not have to do anything to update their applications until they receive the VA’s decision.

What Are Airborne Hazards as Related to Burn Pit Exposure?

The VA is especially concerned about military personnel who got exposed to smoke and fumes generated by open burn pits while on active duty. The government includes these things in their definition of airborne hazards during military service:

  • Open burn pit smoke and fumes
  • Oil well fire smoke
  • Dust, sand, and particulate matter
  • Fumes from fuel, aircraft exhaust, and other mechanical sources
  • General air pollution commonly present in some countries

The military disposed of trash and other waste material by using open-air burn pits. Most of these burn pits are now closed, and the Department of Defense plans to shut down all remaining burn pits.

What Got Disposed of in the Burn Pits?

The military burned many different types of waste in the open burn pits, including:

  • Food waste 
  • Trash composed of wood, rubber, and plastic
  • Cans made of aluminum and other metals
  • Human waste
  • Paint, chemicals, and medical waste
  • Petroleum and lubricant products
  • Munitions and unexploded ordinance

The smoke from burning these items could cause short-term medical conditions, like breathing difficulties, coughing, skin itching and rashes, or burning and irritation of the throat or eyes. Military personnel who had extended exposure to the burn pits or were closer to them could be at greater risk of developing longer-term health consequences.

Respiratory Health Conditions Associated with Burn Pit Exposure

The VA concluded that veterans exposed to burn pit smoke could develop chronic respiratory conditions within ten years after separation from service, including asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis, including rhinosinusitis. There are many additional illnesses that might have a burn pit exposure connection, such as:

  • Cancer, including leukemia, carcinoma, lymphoma, medulloblastoma, and cancers of the bladder, bones, brain, prostate, intestines, kidneys, lungs, pharynx, larynx, pancreas, and other organs and tissues.
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Many chronic respiratory conditions
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Many other adverse medical conditions

If you or a loved one developed a medical condition within ten years of separating from service and served in the qualifying geographic locations, you might be eligible for VA disability benefits. A Michigan VA Disability Attorney can talk to you about eligibility for compensation for burn pit exposure. Get in touch with our office for legal assistance, we offer a free consultation.