Armed Forces News

A bulldozer dumps a load of trash into a burn pit near the runway at Bagram Airfield. The Army noted that during colder months the smoke created a putrid fog that held over large swaths of housing areas at the base as well as the village of Bagram. (Army photo)

Veterans exposed to toxins that emanated from burn pits and elsewhere could qualify for treatment and benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs, under measures pending before both houses of Congress. The bills would require VA to presume that burn pit fumes contributed to illnesses that sickened or killed veterans who were exposed to them.

Some 3.5 million veterans are currently eligible to sign on to the VA’s burn pit registry, which is open to any Veteran or Active Duty Servicemember who served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations after August 2, 1990, or in Afghanistan or Djibouti, Africa after September 11, 2001.

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Burn pits were used extensively in the Persian Gulf to dispose of trash and toxic materials. Veterans of service in the theater, dating back to the Gulf War 30 years ago, have long claimed the clouds of smoke emanating from the pits caused cancer, respiratory disorders and other maladies. To date, however, VA has denied 80 percent of such claims.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, sponsored the Senate legislation, S. 4572. Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., sponsored the identical House measure, H.R. 8261. Both are pending before the chambers’ respective Veterans’ Affairs committees. The House Armed Services and Education and Labor committees also are considering the legislation.

The bills have garnered support from several veterans’ service organizations, to include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and the American Legion. David Shulkin, who served as VA secretary under President Trump, also voiced his support.

Burn Pit Registry Reminder

Bill Would Improve Data on Burn Pit Exposure; Another Introduced to Establish Presumption for Benefits (Sept. 2020)

Burn pit exposure?
Join 200,000 other veterans and sign up now: VA Burn Pit Registry