I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to share some recent news regarding VA benefits and a new Burn Pit Bill that is being passed through Congress currently. This new “Burn Pit Bill” includes provisions that will allow more Veterans to receive disability benefits for conditions they are suffering as a result of exposures during their service. This would include Agent Orange radiation exposure and the consumption of toxic water.
Within the last few weeks, the US Senate has approved the Sergeant First Class Healthcare Robinson Honoring Our Pact Act. Now we’re waiting on the US House of Representatives to vote on the bill and it is expected that President Biden will sign the bill after that.
So what does this new bill do? First, it improves access to benefits for post 9/11 Veterans that were exposed to burn pits during their service. Secondly, it adds two new conditions to the VA’s list of Agent Orange presumptive disabilities. These two new conditions are hypertension and Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance (MGUS). Earlier this year the VA added bladder cancer, hypothyroidisms, and Parkinson’s disease as presumptive Agent Orange disabilities.
The other important piece of this new Burn Pit Bill is that it extends the benefits for Veterans sickened by radiation or poisoned water when serving in certain geographical regions. This new Burn Pit Bill also expands the geographic areas and service dates for eligible benefits. Those areas now include Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Guam, American Samoa, some territorial waters, the Johnson Atoll, and any ship that was called on the Atoll during certain dates.
It took four long years of lobbying by advocacy groups to add hypertension to the list of Agent Orange presumptive disabilities, but I guess better late than never. Under this new legislation, it’s expected that more than 490,000 Vietnam Veterans would be eligible for disability compensation. And there’s a possibility that their spouses may be eligible as well.
Now recall that there are 21 illnesses that are as presumed to be related to burn pit exposure in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This also includes service members who cleaned up nuclear waste sites at Enewetak Atoll in the Marshall Islands as well as some nuclear aviation mishaps in Spain, Greenland, and some other places. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall reading about any nuclear aviation mishaps. That’s kind of scary.
The New Burn Pit Bill and Camp Lejeune
So you’ve probably heard about the contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, or maybe you even experienced it. Maybe you know someone who was at Camp Lejeune and was exposed to that contaminated water. Part of this new Burn Pit Bill includes a piece called the Camp Lejeune Justice Act. This allows victims of the Camp Lejeune contaminated water or their survivors to file lawsuits for illnesses caused by that drinking water.
These illnesses could include birth defects, cancers — whatever illnesses that have manifested after leaving Camp Lejeune. But again, remember that we have to prove some kind of nexus with any VA disability case. We have to establish a connection between the illness or injury and the Camp Lejeune water. So getting a claim approved for this is not an automatic guarantee. We still have to provide substantial evidence to the VA.
The new Burn Pit Bill also expands the geographic area of the Gulf War and post 9/11 to include Somalia, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and a few other countries. The Veterans who served in a combat zone, as proven by having some Armed Forces or expeditionary service-type medals, also qualify for these benefits.
Recently we met with a Veteran who was having some issues due only having 50% lung capacity. He was a nice young man that served his country well. I told him about the new Burn Pit Bill and we’re excited to be able to help him get his VA Disability benefits approved. He had been previously denied benefits, but this new Burn Pit Bill will greatly help him and his family.
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We love our Veterans and we love the spouses of our Veterans. We hope this information has been helpful and we look forward to helping you if you are ever in need of assistance with your VA disability or pension benefits.
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