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Veterans Who Served in Afghanistan and Iraq to be Recognized as Exposed to Health Hazards

On November 21, 2019, U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced The Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition Act of 2019. The bill recognizes the health hazards caused by burn pits, oil well fires, and other toxic pollution sources in Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas in the Middle East.

The new legislation would declare that veterans who were deployed to the Middle East in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War and after, to Afghanistan and Djibouti following Sept. 11, 2001, and to Iraq beginning in 2003 were exposed to toxins. The bill does not automatically guarantee veterans disability benefits or health care to veterans who served in proximity to burn pits and it does not create a presumption of service connection, like Agent Orange.

The act recognizes and concedes that veterans were exposed to toxic pollutants if they were deployed in the named locations during the specified time frames. This would effectively eliminate the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requirement that veterans have to prove that they were in close proximity to a toxic pollution source. Currently, the VA requires evidence of exposure to support veterans benefits claims and frequently rejects claims based upon lack of evidence.

The Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Act would:
• Acknowledge an information gap. Given the limited information that exists about exactly when and where burn pits were active, or the precise locations of individuals who served near them, it is unreasonable for a veteran to prove they were exposed to specific toxins from specific burn pits on specific days.
• Work in acknowledgment of ongoing research being conducted by the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
• Formally recognize that veterans who served near burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations were exposed to airborne hazards, toxins and particulate matters. This recognition and concession can potentially aid thousands of veterans who otherwise do not have documentation of their exposure.
• Not automatically grant benefits or health care to veterans who served near a burn pit. It also does not create a presumption of service connection, like veterans exposed to Agent Orange. The decisions on presumption of service connection will require further scientific study and evidence, much of which is ongoing. Even with a concession of exposure, veterans will still need to provide sufficient evidence of a link to a specific illness or disease in order to qualify for VA benefits.

The legislation is also supported by Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs), including Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and AMVETS.

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/2019/11/22/proposed-legislation-would-name-service-in-iraq-afghanistan-a-health-hazard-to-us-troops/