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Burn Pit Benefits – The Next Battle for Veterans Disability Benefits

The Burn Pit Registry Enhancement Act was passed by a 416-0 vote in the House of Representatives on March 6th, 2019. In part, the act makes the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry a more useful tool for researching the health effects of toxic exposure on service members and veterans.

The real political fight on how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is supposed to help these ailing veterans is coming soon.

Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were potentially exposed to the fumes of burn pits, as they were used as a means to dispose of trash, human waste, petroleum, rubber and other debris, releasing hazardous fumes into the air.

Lawmakers in Washington are pushing to classify combat burn pit exposure as a presumptive cause for a range of lung diseases, which would open the door for easier access to medical care and disability benefits.

The legislative proposal is facing strong opposition from VA leadership, which is emphasizing the need for clear scientific studies that would definitively show links from exposures to the fumes and illnesses later in life, before making large-scale benefits decisions.

The VA’s official position is that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure” to burn pits.

Veteran advocates point to a list of rare cancers, respiratory illnesses and other health problems among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans that cannot be dismissed as a coincidental clustering.

Until recently, the issues regarding burn pits in Congress centered on improving research to better inform future benefits decisions. Since the Open Burn Pit Registry was launched almost five years ago, approximately 170,000 veterans and service members have entered information in the registry.

The medical claims associated with burn pit veterans are being compared to the claims made by veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. It took the VA until 1991, more than 20 years, to recognize that the chemical defoliant was the presumptive cause for a litany of illnesses due to exposure. To this day, the VA is still fighting the exposure claims of sailors who served in ships off the coasts in which Agent Orange and other chemical defoliants were used.

Melissa Bryant, chief policy officer for IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), said veterans from recent wars have already waited long enough on burn pit research and analysis.

“We have known about his problem for years,” she said. “We’re going on almost two decades already. We see this as our Agent Orange. And we know how long it took for that to be declared a presumptive condition.”

The Injured Veterans legal team at Gordon & Partners is here for military veterans and their families. Please contact us immediately, if you are having difficulty with your claim or you are not receiving the disability benefits to which you are entitled. Call us at 1-888-231-9144 or fill out the form on this website.

Read the full story here: https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2019/03/06/battle-over-burn-pit-benefits-coming-to-congress-soon/