VA Benefits for Burn Pit Exposure
The use of burn pits was a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many veterans are suffering from long-term health problems due to their burn pit exposure. Today we will discuss VA disability benefits for burn pit exposure.
Stay on Top of Your VA Benefits
In early 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that holds companies responsible for their use of open-air burn pits that have been linked to numerous disabilities and medical conditions in Veterans and service members. For years, veterans and their representatives have been fighting claims that the smoke resulting from the open-air burn pit caused neurological problems, cancers, and other health issues in veteran and service members. This means any private companies that are involved in any burn pit operations will likely not face any consequences for their involvement.
Now the focus has been directed on the issue of classifying burn pit exposure as a presumed cause of diseases for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan which would give access to veterans to VA health care and VA disability compensation. At this time, the VA has not identified any illnesses as presumed to be related to service in Iraq or Afghanistan. The VA has only presumed illnesses related to veterans who served in the Gulf War in Southwest Asia.
The VA established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. You can add your name to this registry to help start a record t show that you exposed to open-air burn pits and now have an illness related to that exposure. You cannot use this registry to file a claim for VA disability benefits, because filing a claim is a separate procedure. This registry was created by Congress for the VA to help track service members and veterans who were exposed in order to use the data to identify trends and come to conclusions in relation to burn pit exposure and resulting illnesses.
Can you get VA Disability for Burn Pits?
If you served in a burn pit area and then later received a diagnosis of a certain medical condition, you may be eligible for VA disability compensation for that diagnosed medical condition. You cannot receive veterans benefits for “burn pit exposure” alone. In order to receive VA disability benefits, you would need to prove that your disability was caused by your exposure. If you served in the following military operations, you may have been exposed to burn pits:
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Djibouti, Africa on or after September 11, 2001
- Operation Desert Storm or Operation Desert Shield
- Southwest Asia theater of Operations on or After August 2, 1990
Some medical conditions and illnesses that may be related to burn pit exposure include but are not limited to:
- Skin conditions
- Chronic bronchitis
- Respiratory conditions
- Pulmonary conditions
- Cardiovascular conditions
- Cancer (lung, brain, skin, leukemia, and lymphoma)
- Sleep apnea
- Neurological problems
What is the VA Rating for Burn Pit Exposure?
Because there are a number of conditions that may be related to burn pit exposure, there is not a single rating schedule for burn pit exposure. The Department of Veterans Affairs will assign ratings based on the severity of your condition. The VA will assign a rating using the rating schedule each condition that is claimed in relation to burn pit exposure. For example, if a veteran is claiming VA disability compensation benefits for a respiratory condition or other health concerns, then the VA will use the rating schedule that corresponds with respiratory conditions.
Does the Military Still Use Burn Pits?
So far, the military is still using burn pits as a “last resort” to get rid of waste. There are currently nine burn pit sites in operation. The military mostly uses clean-burning incinerators, instead of burn pits. As of March 2019, all of the U.S. sanctioned burn pits are in the Middle East and are under military control in Syria, Afghanistan and in Egypt.