Presumptive Conditions for Burn Pit Claims

VA Disability Benefits: Presumptive Conditions for Burn Pit Claims

During the conflicts in the Middle East over the last couple few decades, burn pits were rampant. These burn pits were used to dispose of a wide range of solid waste and other materials that probably shouldn’t have been burned. As a result, many of our Veterans were exposed to toxic fumes and are now needing to file burn pit claims for disability benefits. I wanted to use this blog to further explain burn pits and how new legislation makes it easier for Veterans to file burn pit claims.

What Are Burn Pits?

If you burn a pile of trash in your backyard, you’re required to have a permit in most places. Years ago the tomato farmers around here used to burn the plastic that was used on their tomato crops, but they’re no longer allowed to do that. It wasn’t until 2009 that there were any regulations telling the military what they could and couldn’t burn. Prior to then, their philosophy was to burn anything they didn’t need. Despite the extremely hazardous materials and toxic materials that released into the air, they did it anyway.

These burn pits were used to burn airplane parts, plastic drums, batteries, and more. If you throw a battery in the dump today, you’re probably going to be in big trouble. They also burned paint, fluorescent light bulbs, styrofoam, electronics, tires — they burned everything. If they didn’t need it, they burned it.

If you served in the Middle East over the last few decades, it’s likely that you were exposed to plumes of toxic smoke from burn pits. This exposure often leads to long-term and serious health effects. There was a massive burn pit in Balad, Iraq that covered almost 20 acres. There they burned over 200 tons of solid waste every day. That’s a huge fire!

This particular burn pit in Balad emitted hundreds of toxic chemicals, exposing all the Veterans and anyone in the area to highly contaminated air. These chemicals caused acute effects like red eyes, persistent coughs, and irritated respiratory passages. But they also have caused long-lasting and potentially severe health effects for those who were exposed to the burn pits.

What Was in the Burn Pit Smoke?

The smokes and fumes from these burn pits contained particulate matter, which are the tiny droplets of dust, dirt, and soot. These things pollute the air and make it difficult to breathe. You may have seen photos of big cities that are covered in a gray fog. That’s the particular matter in the air. When that stuff gets inhaled, it gets in your lungs and can cause some severe problems that include cardiac arrhythmia, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and other respiratory issues. That’s why you see many folks in these big cities wearing masks during a smog alert.

These burn pits also contained polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs. These chemicals are produced from the incomplete burning of coal, oil, and things of that nature. These PAHs have long-term health effects if ingested. Those include cataracts, kidney and liver damage, jaundice, and the breakdown of red blood cells.

Another big one is the volatile organic compounds or VOCs. You may have heard about these on the television. These are man-made chemicals found in paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. They’re also found in components of oil, gas, hydraulic fluids, and dry cleaning agents. According to the EPA, long-term health effects of VOCs include liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and many forms of cancer.

The next one is toxic organic halogenated dioxins. These are known to persist in the environment and have harmful health effects if the concentration becomes too high. They are commonly associated with herbicides like agent orange. Most everyone has heard about agent orange. That’s the defoliant that they used to spray over 20% of Vietnam to kill the vegetation and expose the enemy.

Burn Pit Claims and Legislation

If you were a Veteran who served in the Middle East and were exposed to burn pits while serving, you may already have some health issues from your exposure. If so, you need to be sure to get on the VAs airborne and hazardous open burn pit registry as soon as possible.

In August 2022 the PACT Act legislation was signed into law. This bill offered much needed relief to Veterans who were exposed to burn pits. It added 22 new conditions to the VA’s presumptive conditions for toxic exposure and made it easier for Veterans to get disability benefits for burn pit claims.

If you are a Veteran who performed active duty military service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) on or after August 2, 1990 and were assigned to a duty station in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Quatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, or United Arab Emirates, then you are a covered Veteran and can file burn pit claims for disability benefits.

If you are a Veteran who performed active duty military service (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) on or after September 11, 2001 and were assigned to a duty station in any of the places listed above, you’re also a covered Veteran. But in addition to those places, you also qualify if you served after September 11, 2011 in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. So these new provisions provided in the PACT Act cover a wide range of service areas for burn pit claims.

For burn pit claims to be approved, you have to have served in the areas listed above. But you also need a medical diagnosis for one of the presumptive conditions outlined in the PACT Act. This presumptive condition list includes asthma, head cancer, neck cancer, respiratory cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, reproductive cancer, lymphoma, kidney cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, glioblastoma, pancreatic cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, COPD, emphysema, pleuritis, sarcoidosis, sinusitis ,and rhinitis.

When you have one of these presumptive conditions and served in the listed areas, it makes filing burn pit claims so much easier. You don’t have to prove the service-connection for your disability because it’s already outlined in the PACT Act. This presumptive condition list also applies if you’re a surviving spouse and your Veteran was seeking retroactive DIC benefits for service-connected disabilities. So surviving spouses are also able to benefit from these burn pit claims and get the benefits they deserve.

The VA has now started processing burn pit claims for Veterans that served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn after September 11, 2001. They’re processing these burn pit claims on a case by case basis. All you have to show is that you were in service during that time and medical evidence that you have one of the diagnoses listed above. That’s why the PACT Act was such an importance piece of legislation for our Veterans.

Contact Us So We Can Help!

If you need any additional information on burn pit claims or need help with burn pit claims, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can complete this form or give us a call at (229) 226-8183. You can also send us an email to [email protected].

Thank you to our Veterans. It’s because of you that we’re free and we’re able to walk around as free people and have free speech. Thank you to the spouses of Veterans. Without you the Veteran wouldn’t have been able to do what he or she needed to do to keep us free.

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