Bergmann & Moore recognizes that many Veterans who deployed overseas since the start of the Gulf War in 1990 may have become ill and suffered disabilities after exposure to hazardous toxic waste when tons trash was burned in hundreds of open air pits in and around Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military used the open-air combustion as a form of waste management for large-scale refuse disposal because there was no sewage or trash collection service at most U.S. military installations in the war zone during the past two decades. Roads were mined with improvised explosive devices, making hauling trash away from a forward operating base (FOB) or other location both dangerous and expensive.
At one point during 2010, there were at least active 226 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan alone, according to the New York Times. The largest burn pit was about 10 acres wide. At the peak of burn pit fires, more than 400 tons of trash were consumed by flames every day, according to Fox News. Items burned included human waste, dead animals, medical waste, plastics, batteries, and nearly everything else disposed of at military sites in the war zone.
Unfortunately, the military did not provide breathing protection to our service members living and fighting near the huge plumes of putrid, harmful black smoke that billowed from the burn pit fires every day.
The burn pits released pollution, including particulate matter and neurotoxins, into the air inside nearly every U.S. installation in the war zone. As a result of the constant clouds of burnt waste, Veterans raised concerns that burn pit toxic exposures may be related to acute and chronic conditions such as cancers, sinusitis, bronchitis, headaches, lesions, asthma, abdominal pain, chronic bronchiolitis, chronic infections, and more.
In 2014, VA confirmed that “smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions. More than 200,000 Veterans signed up for VA’s burn pit registry.
In response to concerns raised by Veterans, families, and Congress, in 2013, VA created a new Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry to provide Veterans with a free medical exam and as a source for future research. As of February 2022, more than 200,000 Veterans signed up for the registry.
Be aware that signing up for the Burn Pit Registry does not start a VA disability claim. Furthermore, VA has not yet concluded that any medical conditions are associated with burn pit exposures on a presumptive basis (such as Agent Orange exposures for Vietnam War Veterans). That means obtaining service connection can be difficult for a Veteran or surviving spouse.
While claims may be a challenge, VA opened the door to free care for Veterans who deployed to a war zone since 2003. Under VA’s new benefit, “eligible combat Veterans will have free medical care and medications for any condition that may be related to their service in theater” at VA for five years after discharge from active duty.
Research on potential diseases from this exposure is still ongoing. You can find more information about medical research on VA’s Public Health web page, Burn Pits.
When: The Gulf War era deployment period began August 2, 1990, and it continues through the present.
Where: The Gulf War era deployment locations:
If you deployed to a war zone during the Gulf War era, and you filed a VA disability claim for a condition you believe may be related to toxic burn pits, please contact Bergmann & Moore for a FREE consultation.
Military plane flies over a war zone burn pit, where up to 400 tons of toxic trash were burned every day
One specific disease, Glioblastoma Multiforme, is a type of malignant brain tumor, often found in veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during service. However, VA has not yet acknowledged that these tumors are due to Agent Orange exposure and therefore they are not on VA’s presumptive list. Sadly, when a veteran passes away from a non-presumptive condition such as Glioblastoma, their surviving spouse is often unable to obtain benefits on their own.
The Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA) provides Veterans with five options on what to do when you receive a Board denial. In our experience there is only ONE reasonable option—appeal the BVA decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals to Veterans Claims (CAVC).
Bergmann & Moore recognizes that many veterans from the Gulf War era, Operating Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Operation New Dawn (OND), and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (OFS) may have been exposed to hazardous materials that were burned as a form of waste management.