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Burn Pit Exposure

Toxic Burn Pit Exposure

Beginning with the Gulf War in 1990, the military used open-air combustion as a form of waste management for large-scale refuse disposal at most U.S. military installations in Southwest Asia, with some installations burning more than 50 tons per day of toxic materials, including human/medical waste, ammunition, metals, and plastic. This practice was developed because roads were mined with improvised explosive devices, making hauling trash away from a forward operating base (FOB) or other location both dangerous and expensive. As a result, many Veterans deployed to these areas were exposed to hazardous toxic waste.

 

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.

 

Signing up for the registry is essential even if you do not believe you were exposed because it allows for more research and may ultimately help future Veterans. If you were in contact with a burn pit, you could help provide symptoms of the long-term effects of the burn pits.

 

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.

 

Be aware that signing up for the Burn Pit Registry does not start a VA disability claim.

Burn Pit Exposure Symptoms

Unfortunately, the military did not provide breathing protection to service members living 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. Unfortunately, the military did not provide breathing protection to service members living near the huge plumes of putrid, harmful black smoke that billowed from the burn pit fires every day. As a result of the constant black clouds of burning 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.

 

On April 25, 2022, VA announced that nine rare respiratory cancers are now presumed service-connected if the Veteran was in the line of duty in Southwest Asia theater of operations beginning August 2, 1990, to the present, or Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti starting September 19, 2001, to the present:

 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung

 

In addition, three non-cancerous conditions are presumed service-connected if the Veteran served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria, and Uzbekistan during the Persian Gulf War, from September 19, 2001, to the present or The Southwest theater of operations from August 2, 1990, to the present. These conditions must have appeared within ten years of the Veteran’s separation from active duty.

 

  • Asthma
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis

Other Services

Agent Orange Exposure

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.

CAVC Appeals

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).

Dependency and Indemnity Claims

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.

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