Burn pits may have exposed Veterans who were deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries after September 11, 2001, to toxic substances. Similar to the issues faced by Vietnam Veterans after exposure to Agent Orange, those who served after 9/11 now face severe medical conditions due to burn pit exposure.
The PACT Act, which passed in 2022, made certain burn pit symptoms presumptive conditions in the eyes of the Veterans Administration (VA). A Veteran with a presumptive condition does not have to prove a causal link between their medical condition and their military service. This makes applying for and receiving VA benefits for these burn pit presumptive conditions easier.
What Are the 23 Presumptive Burn Pit Symptoms Under the PACT Act?
Before the PACT Act passed, Veterans had to prove three points to qualify for VA benefits related to burn pit exposure:
A diagnosis of a disabling disease or condition from an accredited medical professional
Proof of exposure to a burn pit
A causal connection between the diagnosed disease or condition and the military burn pit exposure
The third point was the hardest for Veterans and was often used by the VA to deny benefits. The PACT Act links certain conditions and diseases to military service, so Veterans do not have to prove this link.
This means if you can show a diagnosis of one or more of these burn pit presumptive conditions along with the time and place you served after 9/11, the VA will assume your condition is related to your military service. You no longer need to take that third step to qualify for VA benefits under these circumstances.
Asthma – The narrowing and swelling of airways makes breathing difficult and leads to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. This condition must be diagnosed after military discharge.
Chronic bronchitis – One of the COPD diseases defined by a chronic cough that lasts more than three months within a two-year timeframe.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – A group of diseases that lead to breathing difficulties and airflow blockage.
Constrictive or obliterative bronchiolitis – Inflammation and constriction in the walls of the respiratory system, especially the bronchioles.
Emphysema – One of the diseases in the COPD group involving lung tissue damage, specifically to the little air sacs called alveoli.
Granulomatous disease – A condition where the white blood cells and immune system cannot fight certain bacteria and fungi.
Interstitial lung diseases – the progressive scarring of lung tissue caused by exposure to hazardous materials.
Pleuritis – Also known as pleurisy, this inflammation of the lung and chest cavity tissues can cause chest pain, especially during breathing.
Pulmonary fibrosis – Another lung disease where the tissues are scarred and thickened, making breathing difficult and limiting oxygen in the blood.
Sarcoidosis – A chronic enlargement of cells throughout the body, including the lungs and lymph nodes, that can lead to organ damage.
Chronic sinusitis – Ongoing inflammation of the nasal passages and sinuses for more than 12 weeks at a time.
Chronic rhinitis – Long-term inflammation in the nose causing stuffy and runny nose for four weeks or longer each event.
Glioblastoma – This fast-growing, aggressive brain tumor is almost always fatal and requires emergency care.
Head cancer – This group of cancers can involve the mouth, nose, and sinuses.
Neck cancer – This cancer usually involves the throat and may appear as a sore or lump that doesn’t go away and restricts swallowing.
Respiratory cancer – Can include cancers of the lung, bronchus, larynx, or trachea and can be caused by smoking or exposure to toxins, among other causes.
Gastrointestinal (GI) cancer – This cancer grows in the GI or digestive tract, from the esophagus to the colon.
Reproductive cancers – These affect the reproductive organs of both men and women, including ovarian, cervical, testicular, and prostate cancers.
Lymphoma – This cancer of the lymphatic system includes both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and involves the body’s immune system.
Lymphatic cancer – This cancer of the lymphatic system may include lymph nodes or glands, the spleen, bone marrow, and the thymus gland.
Kidney cancer – Also known as renal cancer, this cancer starts in the kidneys but can spread to other organs or systems.
Brain cancer – This cancer usually causes tumors in the brain that do not normally spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that starts in the cells that affect the skin’s pigment and can occur anywhere in your body.
Pancreatic cancer – This cancer starts in the pancreas and is often not diagnosed until late in its progress. It is difficult to treat, and the long-term prognosis is usually not good.
How Can Burn Pit Exposure Lead to These Presumptive Conditions?
The military exposed many of our service members they deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to open burn pits used to get rid of waste and other materials, especially during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The military burned the waste in open areas, sometimes over many acres, and created acrid and toxic smoke inhaled by those in the vicinity.
Among the many items burned in these open pits, the military confirms these substances:
A wide variety of chemicals
Medical waste items
Metal and aluminum cans and containers
Munitions and unexploded ordnance
Being exposed to the smoke from these fires has been linked to burn pit exposure symptoms in Veterans, both internally through inhalation and by direct contact with the skin, eyes, and mouth.
After several studies confirmed these links, the VA created the list of presumed burn pit symptoms, which makes it easier for Veterans to apply for and receive VA benefits.
Contact Berry Law to Learn More About Whether Your Burn Pit Symptoms Qualify for VA Benefits
If you are considering an application for VA benefits due to burn pit symptoms suffered after being deployed, or if your application was already denied, consult a team of legal professionals who understand the VA system. At Berry Law, we’ve been fighting for Veterans’ rights since 1965, and we’re ready to go to battle for you.
The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.
This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.
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