Burn Pits May Be New “Agent Orange” for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans
Burn pits were a feature of many army bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bases used these pits to dispose of the garbage of the bases when no sanitation options were available. While the Department of Defense limited the times of their use in 2009, they are still in use in Iraq.
The burn pits, accelerated with jet fuel, may contain everything from electronics to plastics. The contractors that built and maintained the pits say they were operated within military-approved safe air levels.
More than 230 military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan had open-air burn pits (before regulation in 2009) and troops have returned from deployments complaining of health issues as far back as 2004. Several veterans have filed lawsuits against the contractor that constructed and maintained the burn pits, KBR. The lawsuits claim the toxic emissions caused respiratory illness, skin diseases, cancer, and neurological disorders.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) current research on the issue is that burn pits do not pose any long-term health effects. However, the VA has established a burn pit registry to aid in long-term research on the health risks. Veterans and servicemembers who have served at the following locations and times are eligible to include themselves in the registry:
- Southwest Asia theater of operations on or after August 2, 1990
- Operation Desert Shield
- Operation Desert Storm
- Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
To date, 77,401 veterans and servicemembers have opted in to the registry. Over time, the VA will assess the self-reported exposures and health concerns of these participants. Reports are already out with assessments of the data collected from the first months of the registry being open.
Talk to Disability Advocates About Burn Pit Ailments
Even though there is no current ruling on presumptive illnesses connected to burn pit exposure, you may still be eligible for veterans’ disability benefits. Talk to the Disability Help Group to discuss your situation and determine if you can claim service-connected disabilities for benefits. Contact us at 800-800-2009 to schedule a consultation with our disability advocates!