Military Burn Pits Exposure Lawsuits – VA Compensation
Burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan caused more than 200,000 military service men and women to come home with permanent damage from the U.S. military’s practice of using burn bits, according to The New York Times. The waste emitted toxic fumes and toxic smoke, causing military personnel to suffer serious illnesses.
Our law firm is investigating burn pit lawsuits where U.S. service members exposed to burn pits experienced health problems, including cancer diagnoses.
What is a Toxic Burn Pit?
Since 1991, around 3.5 million troops have suffered exposure to burn pits, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Military personnel and contractors operated burn pits--large areas of open-air incinerators—to burn on-site waste generated on the military bases.
Some of the types of waste burned in these areas included:
- Medical Waste
- Human Waste
When these different types of materials were burned, some of them released toxins that affected everyone nearby, including service personnel and civilians. Some symptoms didn’t start showing up for a long time.
Can I Receive VA Disability Compensation for Burn Pit Exposure?
To be eligible for VA Disability Compensation due to conditions linked to burn pit exposure, you must meet the following criteria:
- You served in a burn pit-exposed area during the Gulf War, and
- Later received a diagnosis of one of the presumptive medical conditions listed below.
In Which Operations Were Service Members Exposed to Burn Pits?
To receive benefits from a VA disability claim for your exposure to burn pits, you must prove that your disability was caused by your exposure. If you served in the following military operations, you may have been exposed to burn pits:
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
- Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield
- Southwest Asia theater of Operations on or After August 2, 1990
Open Burn Pit Registry
VA has recognized the health hazards associated with exposure to burn pits. On March 1, 2022, the department proposed to add several rare cancers to their presumed service-related list as caused by military burn pits.
VA established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to further study the relationship between burn pits and long-term health effects like respiratory conditions and cancer. In the registry, veterans and military personnel can record their exposure and health concerns.
What are the Presumptive Conditions for Military Burn Pits?
VA assumes that certain conditions are linked to events surrounding a veteran’s military service.
If you are diagnosed with what is called a “presumptive condition,” you do not need to prove a medical nexus (connection) between your condition and your service in the military to be eligible for VA disability compensation and benefits.
Thanks to the PACT Act, there are now 33 presumptive conditions for burn pit injuries.
VA recommends veterans file a supplemental claim if they were previously denied benefits for these conditions.
Below is the complete list of presumptive cancers for burn pits:
- Adenosquamous Carcinoma
- Brain Cancer
- Gastrointestinal Cancer
- Head Cancer
- Kidney Cancer
- Large Cell Carcinoma
- Lymphatic Cancer
- Neck Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Reproductive Cancer
- Respiratory Cancer
- Salivary Gland Tumors
- Sarcomatous Carcinoma
- Squamous Cell Carcinomas
- Typical and Atypical Carcinoid
Diseases Caused by Burn Pits
For years, VA did not recognize any illnesses as officially presumed to be related to service in Iraq or Afghanistan due to toxic exposure. This has changed.
Below is the complete list of presumptive illnesses for burn pits:
- Asthma Post-Service
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Chronic Rhinitis
- Granulomatous Disease
- Interstitial Lung Disease
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
Burn Pits VA Disability Rating
The VA will assign a rating using the rating schedule for each condition that is claimed in relation to burn pit exposure. For example, if a veteran is claiming VA disability compensation benefits for a respiratory condition, then the VA will use the rating schedule that corresponds with respiratory conditions.
Your burn pit “rating” will be based on the severity of your symptoms that can be shown to have worsened or were directly caused by the burn pits.
The VA will look at the rating criteria of the corresponding condition you are claiming, which could range from 10% to 100%, with disability ratings at 100% receiving compensation of over $3,000 a month.
Common Symptoms of Burn Pits Exposure
Exposure to toxic smoke from burn pits can cause the following initial symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing
- Eye irritation and/or burning
- Skin itching
- Throat irritation
These symptoms often appear briefly and then go away once the first exposure is over.
How Does Burn Pit Exposure Lead to Illness?
For many years, the military utilized burn pits in a variety of locations to dispose of waste on bases.
These open-air burn pits released toxins, carcinogens, smoke, and ash into the air. These substances came into contact with military personnel through the skin, nose, and lungs.
Thousands of veterans have reported diseases impacting their lungs and breathing, as well as other ailments, because of this exposure.
Substances Released Into the Air by Burn Pits
Air samples taken by the Department of Defense (DoD) at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, revealed particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic organic halogenated dioxins and furans in the air.
- Particulate Matter (PM) is a blend of small particles and liquid that can pass through the throat and nose. These particles can cause serious health issues impacting the heart and the lungs.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) are over 100 chemicals formed by incomplete burning of organic substances such as gas and coal.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the chemicals emitted from materials. These substances include paints or disinfectants in gaseous form, which can be easily breathed in.
Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry
The Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry offers a way to start building your VA disability claim. You can add your name to this registry and then begin creating records that you were exposed and later became ill.
Adding your name to the registry does not initiate a disability claim. The registry was established as a way for the VA to track service members who were affected for data purposes.
Eligible veterans may complete a questionnaire and an evaluation at a VA medical facility, which is a free benefit. It is not a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam and is not required to receive benefits.
However, the questionnaire and the evaluation may be used to support a disability claim, should a veteran choose to file one.
What was the U.S. Supreme Court Case of Le Roy Torres?
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was the target of a lawsuit by a war veteran, Le Roy Torres, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a Texas court in Torres v. Texas Department of Public Safety. Here are the key points of this case:
- Torres was deployed in Iraq. He returned home with his lungs and brain damaged from military burn pit exposure.
- Torres’ injuries prevented him from carrying out the responsibilities of his prior position as a Texas state trooper
- Torres filed a lawsuit under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), claiming that the Texas DPS failed to reassign him to a position that was comparable to his former position.
- According to principles of state sovereign immunity, DPS said, it was exempt from lawsuits brought by private parties.
- A Texas court ruling dismissed Torres' lawsuit.
- The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the decision. It was decided that by ratifying the Constitution, states forfeited their right to sovereign immunity from lawsuits arising out of laws (such as USERRA) that Congress enacts using the war power provisions of Article I of the Constitution.
How Can a Military Burn Pit Lawyer Help You?
Many veterans do not know about a large number of secondary conditions that can be service connected through the VA’s list of presumptive conditions.
Our military burn pit attorneys can walk you through all the recovery options you have available by law.
Since 1955, our law firm has been representing injured people, including U.S. military veterans who have suffered from toxic exposure. Call us today at (800) 277-1193 for a free case evaluation or complete our free and confidential Burn Pit Evaluation Form.