What Are Burn Pits? And How Did They Affect Our Military Service Members?

During the post 9-11 era thousands of American service men and women served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the U.S. military bases in these countries were huge, sprawling complexes with restaurants, movie theaters, swimming pools, and much more.  What these huge bases had in common was that they generated a lot of garbage including tires, batteries, and medical waste that had to be disposed of in some way. The solution from the military command and civilian contractors was to dump all of this waste into vast open air pits—some as large as 20 acres, douse it with jet fuel, and light it on fire.

These fires created clouds of smoke and foul odors that continually hung over the tents, trailers, and buildings where our soldiers worked, ate, and slept. These appalling conditions were made worse by desert heat.  

Thousands of troops came home with respiratory illnesses caused by the burn pits.  For most the impact on their health was moderate, but many complained about coughing up “black gunk”. Others suffered from serve lung diseases and cancers. Former Vice President Joe Biden has speculated that his son, Beau’s untimely death due to brain cancer was caused by burn pit exposure during his deployment in Iraq. 

In 2010 the Department of Defense banned the use of burn pits.  And in 2013 Congress directed the VA to establish a registry for veterans who were exposed to burn pits.  To date more than 142 thousand veterans have signed up.

In 2017 a Maryland judge dismissed more than 60 burn pit lawsuits. He ruled that the military’s decision to use burn pits was driven by the necessities of war. A group of veterans and their families are appealing that decision and asking the courts to reinstate their lawsuits.

If, during your military service, you were exposed to burn pits and you have health problems, set up an appointment with your VA doctor and let them know you were exposed to burn pits in the military. They will help you and get you enrolled in the Burn Pit Registry. You can also enroll in the registry even if you don't have any health problems.

Because the VA has yet to acknowledge a definitive link between burn pits and any medical condition—despite the evidence, VA disability benefits can be difficult to win. But don’t give up hope. These cases can be won. We can assist and advise you. Call us at Cuddigan Law. We’ll schedule a free appointment to discuss your eligibility for compensation.

 

 

 

Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska