Exposure to burn pits may affect several different systems of the body and cause a variety of symptoms. Exposure may lead to fatal diseases such as various types of cancer and respiratory conditions.
U.S. Department of Labor Ruling
In February 2018, a judge with the U.S. Department of Labor ruled that exposure to open-air burn pits—frequently used by the military and its contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of metal, rubber, chemicals, and other waste—was linked to the development of the plaintiff’s lung disease. This decision, while it could help support some veterans’ cases, is not binding to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Common Symptoms of Burn Pit Exposure
Burning hazardous materials and chemicals in open-air pits emits toxic substances and carcinogens that can cause a host of diseases, some severe and even deadly.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms or conditions below following burn pit exposure while in the military, you could be eligible for VA disability compensation:
- Chronic bronchitis
- Constrictive bronchiolitis
- Coughing that does not subside
- Difficulty breathing
- Headaches and migraines
- Heart conditions
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary ailments
- Reduced liver or kidney function
- Skin cancer
- Skin lesions
- Stomach cancer
- Throat infections
This list is not exhaustive, so if you have been diagnosed with a different condition that you believe is linked to burn pit exposure but does not appear above, you could still be eligible for service-connected compensation.
The VA’s Stance on Burn Pits
Even as evidence points in the direction of a link between burn pit exposure and various illnesses, VA has been slow to acknowledge a connection. As of May 2018, the VA.gov page dedicated to burn pits refers to the “temporary” irritation one can suffer from exposure but goes on to say that the symptoms usually disappear after your exposure is over.
The page also cites a nearly-decade-old report alleging that high allergen levels in places such as Iraq contribute more to lung problems than burn pit exposure does.
What this means is, when seeking VA disability benefits for a condition(s) related to burn pit exposure, you likely face an uphill battle. Our team of attorneys works to gather the most compelling evidence in support of your claim. This may include expert medical opinions and the latest medical research to prove to VA that your exposure to burn pits caused your current medical ailments.
Fighting for VA Disability for Burn Pit Exposure
To obtain VA disability compensation benefits for a medical condition caused by burn pit exposure on a direct basis, we must show three things to VA:
- A current diagnosis of a disabling condition;
- Evidence of an in-service injury, illness, or event; and
- A nexus, or link, between the two.
Diagnosis of a Disabling Condition
If you have a diagnosis of a disabling condition you believe to be caused by your exposure to burn pits while serving in the military, you already have the first thing you need to start the process of pursuing benefits from VA. Medical evidence, including diagnoses, lab reports, and doctors’ statements, help build your claim.
Establishing Service Connection
No matter what your disabling condition is, in most cases, to receive VA disability you must prove that it was caused by your military service. In the case of burn pit exposure, you must prove that your exposure to burn pits was at least as likely as not to have caused your disability. As mentioned, this can be challenging, as VA has not yet acknowledged the hazard posed by burn pits.
Call Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD Today for a Free Case Evaluation
The team at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick LTD is made up of experienced attorneys and advocates who have the knowledge and resources to fight for the benefits you deserve. For a free case evaluation with a member of our team, call us at 800-544-9144.« Return to the Veterans' Resource Center
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