CCK Founding Partner, Robert V. Chisholm, was recently published in the January/February 2018 issue of GPSOLO magazine. His article, “Agent Orange, Burn Pits, and Presumptive Service Connection for Disability Compensation” discusses veterans’ burden of proving service connection for conditions due to environmental hazards, including Agent Orange and burn pits. His article offers advice to Veterans who believe their disability was caused by exposure to environmental hazards, and how to provide a “nexus” for service connection.
What is a nexus?
In order to prove direct service connection for a condition, a Veteran must provide a “nexus” linking their current condition to their time in service. Mr. Chisholm explains that in the case of exposure to environmental hazards and contaminants, providing a “nexus” can be a heavy burden to veterans looking to get service connection.
Vietnam-era Presumptions May Apply
In his article, Mr. Chisholm discusses how veterans and their advocates can apply Vietnam-era presumptions to Iraq and Afghanistan environmental exposures. During the Vietnam War, the military used an herbicide agent known as Agent Orange to clear jungles throughout Vietnam and Southeast Asia. After outcry from veterans, Congress passed legislation in 1984 which provided that the VA grant presumptive service connection for diseases where there is a statistically significant association with exposure to Agent Orange. After a long fought battle, the VA recognized links between exposure to herbicides and several severe diseases.
Agent Orange and Burn Pits
Mr. Chisholm goes on to explain that Agent Orange contained TCDD, a contaminant of 2, 4-D, 2, 4, 5-T, and a potent member of the chemical class called dioxins. Veterans in Vietnam are presumed to have been exposed to dioxins, but Mr. Chisholm states that this Agent Orange presumptive rule can help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (OIF and OEF veterans, respectively) in providing a nexus for service connection. Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) were exposed to environmental hazards through emissions from burn pits. Burn pits were used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti from 2001 to present as a means of waste disposal. One of the known chemical compounds released by burn pits includes dioxin, the contaminant also present in Agent Orange.
OIF and OEF Veterans Exposed to Hazardous Toxins
Mr. Chisholm states that for OIF and OEF veterans, since the VA has not established a presumption that applies to all burn pit exposure cases, the veteran must establish the nexus that shows exposure to burn pit emissions caused their current condition. This can be a heavy burden for a veteran, but there are some methods they can use to establish service connection due to burn pit exposure.
Service Connection for OIF and OEF Veterans
Since the VA has acknowledged that burn pit emissions contain dioxins, Mr. Chisholm states that OIF and OEF veterans have a “factual basis for establishing exposure to an ‘herbicide agent’ in service.” This means that the Veteran can argue exposure to an herbicide agent as a means of getting presumptive service connection. Alternatively, a veteran can also submit medical evidence that links exposure to burn pit emission to their disease or disability. This would be arguing for direct service connection since the veteran would provide a nexus.
CCK Can Help
These are just some strategies for arguing for service connection for conditions caused by burn pit exposures. CCK and Mr. Chisholm argue on behalf of Veterans who were exposed to environmental contaminants during service in Iraq and Afghanistan, exposures during the Persian Gulf War, and herbicide agents in Thailand during the Vietnam War. If you believe your condition was caused by hazardous exposures, our office may be able to help.