Veterans Disability Info Blog

Decoding Burn Pits: Health Risks and Disability Claims

Veterans and their families who have developed conditions as a result of burn pit exposure can be entitled to expanded VA disability benefits through recent law.In August 2022, the PACT Act was signed into law, providing expanded VA disability compensation opportunities for veterans, their family members, and caregivers who have experienced injury or illness due to exposure to burn pit fumes, radiation, and environmental toxins. This means that if you already have a VA disability rating, you are able to add additional conditions to your rating that are connected to your active service through the expanded burn pit eligibility options through the PACT Act. 

To move forward with an appeal for a prior denial, connect with a VA disability lawyer from our firm to discuss your situation. Our experienced attorneys are standing by, ready to provide an assessment of your situation to identify whether or not you are eligible for PACT Act benefits. 

We will take the time to consider the unique circumstances of your situation, and if your case fits with our firm, we answer any questions you might have before getting started. Read on to learn more about burn pit toxins, related conditions, and how your VA disability attorney can help. 

The PACT Act Explained 

The Sergeant First Class Health Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, generally referred to as the PACT Act, provides expanded coverage for Gulf War veterans and other qualifying service members filing claims connected to burn pits, environmental toxins, and radiation. The purpose of filing a claim is to receive comprehensive medical coverage in addition to financial compensation. 

Filing a VA disability claim for your burn pit or other qualifying toxin injury can lead to the following coverage from the VA:

  • Healthcare coverage – any and all healthcare and related costs connected to your qualifying injury are covered by the VA, including surgeries, rehabilitation, medications, and mental health services 
  • Tax-free compensation payments – when you have a qualifying disability that impacts your ability to generate income, the VA provides you with monthly tax-free payments meant to cover the loss in earnings ability due to your service-connected injury 

To qualify for the benefits provided through the PACT Act, it is necessary that a veteran meet the service and location requirements, in addition to a current diagnosis from a medical professional of a health condition that is on the VA presumptive burn pit exposure list of conditions. Your diagnosis must demonstrate current symptoms for one of the conditions that the VA has recognized as being presumably connected to exposure to burn pit chemicals. 

It is helpful to work with a medical professional who is familiar with the requirements of a VA application. While you might not know where to begin to find a medical expert who knows how to write a report that fits with your VA application, your VA disability lawyer from our firm can connect you with a medical professional from our extended network.  

Requirements to Qualify for PACT Act Benefits and Coverage

The PACT Act benefits are only available to veterans and their families who lived or worked in particular locations during specific time periods. The PACT Act added additional date and location requirements.

Active service members who were in active military, Air Force, or Navy on or after September 11, 2001 in, or in the airspace above, the following countries may qualify for PACT Act benefits: 

  • Yemen
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Jordan
  • Uzbekistan
  • Afghanistan 

If you served in the active military, Air Force, or Navy on or following August 2, 1990, in or in the airspace over the following, you may also qualify: 

  • Kuwait
  • Bahrain
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Iraq
  • Somalia

Not only are former military members eligible to collect VA healthcare benefits and potentially financial compensation, but also family members and caregivers in some circumstances. Whether or not coverage may be available depends upon whether or not the current condition or bundle of symptoms are on the burn pit exposure list. 

Burn Pit Exposure and Related Conditions 

Persons who served in qualifying active duty may have been exposed to various chemicals due to the use of open-air burn pits. These were used during the Gulf War as a method to dispose of waste products ranging from food and medical waste to metal, aluminum, munitions, chemicals, lubricants, petroleum, styrofoam, wood, plastic, and rubber. The chemicals and fumes released into the air include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), particulate matter, furans, dioxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

Exposure to the various chemicals emanating from the burn pits has been connected to a variety of health conditions, including several cancers, skin conditions, and respiratory conditions. Individuals working and living in the vicinity could not avoid the airborne particulate matter and toxic smoke released by the burn pits. 

In 2022, officials in the VA determined that there was a “biological plausibility between airborne hazards and carcinogenesis of the respiratory tract,” with carcinogenesis being the development of cancer. It was further noted that “the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of service connection.” Due to the PACT Act, 23 health conditions have been presumptively connected to burn pit exposure. This means that a veteran or qualifying individual who was in a particular location as listed above is presumed to have a service connection if they have the following conditions: 

  • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Head cancer
  • Tracheal cancer
  • Respiratory cancer
  • Reproductive cancer
  • Salivary gland carcinomas
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Sarcoidosis 
  • Glioblastoma 
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Pleuritis 
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Chronic sinusitis 
  • Chronic rhinitis 
  • Emphysema 
  • Brain cancer
  • Asthma
  • Lung cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Lymphatic cancer
  • Lng sarcomatoid carcinoma 
  • Constructive bronchiolitis 
  • Chronic bronchitis 
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

These are some of the conditions that exposure to burn pits during qualifying periods of military service will have a presumptive service connection. If you were exposed to burn pit toxins, you could qualify for financial compensation, and a VA disability attorney can help. 

How Can a VA Disability Lawyer Help? 

For your initial VA disability claim, you are able to receive free assistance from the VA in addition to VA-accredited representatives to prepare it. You can visit your nearest VA medical center to receive your Compensation and Pension Exam (C&P Exam), during which your condition will be thoroughly assessed. In some instances, you are able to receive an assessment from your own medical provider and then submit that information in place of a C&P Exam, as determined by the VA. 

The time to contact a VA disability lawyer is when you have had your VA disability claim denied or you need to add a new condition to your existing VA disability rating. For your appeal, your VA disability attorney will: 

  • Help you schedule appointments with medical professionals to accurately assess your current condition and determine its nexus or link to your service 
  • Use the medical information gathered in the drafting of your appeal, which we complete in full on your behalf 
  • The filing of your appeal on your behalf with the VA 
  • Negotiating the best possible outcome with VA representatives to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve 

Working with our VA disability law firm provides you with support through every step of the process, from gathering evidence through drafting and filing. Your initial consultation is free, and if we can help with your claim, we will only get paid if we win. We will discuss if we are able to take your case before we get started. 

Connect with a VA Disability Lawyer for Help 

Our firm works exclusively with veterans who need to file an appeal to collect on a denied claim. Your VA disability rating determines the amount in tax-free monthly payments you are entitled to and can be added when you determine additional conditions are connected to your service. 
To learn how we can help, call us at 888-878-9350 or visit our site to schedule your free initial consultation.

We are Here to Help

If you are having trouble obtaining benefits, contact us online or at 888.878.9350 to discuss your case.