VA finally accepting claims related to SW Asia service burn pits

| August 3, 2021

Many people were exposed to burn pits while in the sandbox and have had lingering, unexplained health effects since. It’s been an uphill battle, but the VA is now accepting claims on a presumptive basis. KoB sends in this Fox News article;

Veterans who claim they were made sick from the toxic smoke emanating from burn pits on their military bases during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan won a small victory after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it they will begin taking claims on presumptive conditions due to their service.

Effective on Monday, the VA has begun processing disability claims for respiratory conditions like asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis on a presumptive basis. The processing of claims is based on presumed exposure to particulate matter during military service in the Southwest Asia theater of operations, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan. the initiative comes after being announced this past May.

“Through this process, I determined that the evidence provided was sufficient to establish presumptions of service connection for these three respiratory conditions,” Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough said in a released statement. “This is the right decision, and VA will continue to use a holistic approach in determining toxic exposure presumptives moving forward.”

It was also announced by the department that will be conducting an outreach initiative to inform impacted veterans of their eligibility.

The Investigative Unit at Fox News has reported extensively on the fears that veterans have been made sick by exposure to fumes from burn pits. Many soldiers said the pits were a crude method of incineration in which every piece of waste was burned, including plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, dead animals and even human waste.

The items often were set ablaze with jet fuel as the accelerant. The pits burned more than 1,000 different chemical compounds day and night. Most service members breathed in toxic fumes with no protection. According to a registry created by the VA, over 200,000 vets said the exposure made them ill, but the department denied assistance to many of them.

Many veterans and their families have said that their experience trying to obtain assistance with health care coverage left them feeling as if they were being treated as if they were attempting to run a scam to obtain money from the federal government.

More at the source.


Category: "Your Tax Dollars At Work", Disposable Warriors, Veteran Health Care, Veterans Issues, Veterans' Affairs Department

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Good, but too stinkin’ slow on the VA’s part – as per usual.


You got that right Graybeard. Our Generation of Troops dealt with the Agent Orange, DS 1 with the oil fire smoke and troopers sitting on cases of depleted uranium shells and now the burn pit issues taking out more.

Seems like the exposure issues to all of the above has taken out more people than the Combat did. Just my opinion. I know a lot of folks that served in country that were killed in SEA, but didn’t die till years later.


I wouldn’t make much of “sitting on cases of depleted uranium shells”, KoB.

Depleted uranium (DU) is far less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium. Further, the primary radiological threats from DU are alpha and beta rays – which can be stopped by a sheet of paper or aluminum foil. Those pose little threat if the source is external to the body. DU emits very little gamma radiation or neutrons.

If the DU is internal to the body, that’s a different matter. The primary health threats from DU come if becomes an internal source – i.e., if it’s ingested or is inhaled in smoke particles. If ingested, the threat is primarily from heavy metal poisoning vice radiation – biologically, uranium is a fairly toxic metal, particularly to the kidneys. The radiological threat from ingested DU is rather low, because unlike strontium uranium doesn’t go to the bones and stay there for years irradiating the bone marrow.

You really don’t want to breathe smoke from burning DU, though. In that case (inhaled tiny particles, either of the metal itself or of combustion by-products containing DU), there is a distinct radiological threat of acquiring lung damage from internal alpha and/or beta exposure to lung tissue. Not sure if that’s greater than the threat of damage through DU’s chemical toxicity to lung tissue or not, but as I recall both are there.


Roger that Hondo, and Thanks. Forgot where I saw it a few years back. There was a report/study that there seemed to be a larger number of prostate cancer cases amongst the track toads and dismounts/11C. That was a theory being talked about.

As discussed so many times, here and elsewhere, if we quit paying the slackers/phonies/shamers and got rid of the bloat and pure waste in the VA, we may have plenty of $ to full fill the Primary Mission of the VA, ie…take care of the ones whose ailments are directly related to their Service.


KoB: as far as I know, prostate cancer is not a form of cancer considered strongly linked to radiation exposure. While a handful of studies of radiation workers do show a potential (and I stress, “potential”) link, those studies show at best a weak link. Heredity and lifestyle (e.g., diet) appear to be far more important in determining who does and does not get prostate cancer.

Further, studies of atomic bomb survivors appear to show no statistically significant increase in prostate cancer among that group. This rather strongly argues that short-term exposure – even at relatively high levels – would likely not be causative in general.

FWIW, prostate cancer is not among those specified as covered under the Energy Employees
Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act. Other cancers with stronger linkages are.


Thanks Hondo. Like I said, the article was kicking around different theories, mostly what I know about DU is those shells make a pile of junk out of anything they hit. Another theory was, as you mentioned, diet (eating nothing but MREs? for months and another was “lack of nookie” for months on end.

I have lost a boatload of friends to Agent Orange related illness, cancers/lung/heart ect, whose lifestyle would not have been a contributing factor. Some gene pools stronger than others. I always figured when my time was up, it was up. Something going take me out, eventually if not sooner.


“… prostate cancer cases amongst the track toads and dismounts/11C…”

Caused perhaps by rambling about the countryside whilst sitting on ones arse in those “padded” seats.


KOB: One of my buddies from college days is suffering the effects of Agent Orange still.

A great man, and you can bet your bottom dollar his grandkids know beyond a doubt he loves them.

Have to concur about the VA’s need to get their house in order to perform their primary mission. Airborne Son still fighting their inept garbage.

Hondo: thanks for the clarification.


Seems like we have heard similar songs in the past – the VA is more concerned with paying out legitimate claims than with the thousands of fakers they compensate every day.

Whodda thunk that exposure to air born toxins might cause stuff like COPD, asthma, et al? Guess they’ve been so busy blaming smoking for every respiratory ill of the world that they haven’t had time to consider other things which we all breathed, like smoke from the oil well fires and burn pits. It was all really, really stinky stuff, and often caused immediate respiratory distress. But, no, couldn’t possibly cause long term problems.

Meanwhile, that guy two doors down who smokes cigarettes is the devil incarnate and harming children all over the ‘hood. The family members who smoke mj around their kiddies aren’t harming them at all, right?

OK, strayed a bit there but the soapbox has been unoccupied for a while.

Pay the guys who need it and get on down the road. Stop paying the fakers.


The few months I spent at Balad (2006) was like one long asthma attack due the burn pit there. It was the worst I saw, with the prevailing winds carrying the whatever-laden smoke over most of the installation. I registered with the VA last week, we’ll see what happens.


It was still pretty bad in 2008.


Same here. Balad from early ’04, to mid ’05 (also flew out from Anaconda in mid ’08). Our Platoon operated the NECP, which was not only downwind of the burn pit, but shared road access to the concrete plant and rock grinder.

If we weren’t sucking black smoke that day, were were cementing our noses closed, and hocking up some fairly disgusting, even by Army standards, loogies from hell.

I registered years ago. I wonder if that list even exists.

Mike B USAF Retired

And those of us deployed to K2, Uzbekistan (And nowhere else) are barred from registering for burn pit exposure.

God only knows when the K2 incident will actually gain momentum…..

Mike B USAF Retired

I stand corrected, they threw Uzbekistan it on the list.

“…It also applies to veterans who served in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti from Sept. 19, 2001, to now. To qualify, the conditions must have manifested within 10 years of a veteran’s deployment.”

Weird as we were not allowed to register under the Burn Pit Registry…..

Don’t know if it was because of the Chemicals that were purported to have been there and the pending hearings at the time.

Mike B USAF Retired

I still have the pictures taken of us pulling our equipment from the contaminated HAS, followed by us going through decontamination.

This was done in June 2002, after our office tested positive for residual chemical agents.

When I went for my VA screening in Dec 2009, the VA didn’t want to hear about it, didn’t care about, and stated there was NO EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT THAT CLAIM.

Hell they threw away, the Health Risk document and my statement in front of me.


When obtaining a burn permit on line I make sure the agent orange soaked
depleted uranium brush pile is ready to torch as soon as the printer spits
out the permit because sure as shit the fire warden is going to show up
looking for old tires etc.
By the time he arrives the only evidence left is the bead wires from the tires.


Burn pit veteran here.
Iraq missile detonation pits, too.
And the Kuwait oil field fires.
Oh, and Pyridostigmine tablets (from the Netherlands).

My 1st VA visit and experience in fall 1991 was my shocker.
Loss of feeling and movement in my ankles and shins.
So I went to the VA.
I was kept at the front area,
and questioned in an office in the admin wing.
After 2 visits like this (30 mile drive at the time),
being sent away with nothing but more questions,
I was invited in (the back door), by a neurologist,
who sent me to the room with the old Asian nurse with the electrodes.
When I kicked like a horse from jolts to the thighs,
but only tingled from the shins and ankles,
only then was I scheduled for a legitimate appointment,
and soon after received my VA card.

(I was then quietly told about the years of fake medical claims by Vietnam era veterans, and that the influx of new fake claims by Desert Shield / Desert Storm era veterans was already well underway.)

And some out there (spouses, relatives, friends)
wonder why their loved ones can’t get VA care,
why we have POW shot stabbed tortured types
having trouble getting VA medical care,
and then various veterans with VA troubles
turning up as liars, fakes, and phonies on the internet.


They are “accepting” claims.

No word on if or when anyone will be compensating.

We can add to this list:
DPU dust
Petrochemical exposure

And I want to know when those of us downwind of or at Khamisayah will be dealt with for Nerve Agent exposure.


Microwave exposure. Barracks built underneath 130 ft tall tropo structures.


Had a hometown kid that was in the engineer unit that did a lot of the demo at Khamisayah. Developed every textbook symptom of nerve agent poisoning after returning, it finally killed him.


It is acknowledged and listed on their web page at least…
That’s something??


A little late for a lot of those that had serious issues secondary to the exposure of whatever was released to the atmosphere including our very own John Lilyea who complained many times about respiratory issues before ALS made the final claim on his too short life.
Schneider John from Milwaukee is missed to this day from his succumbing to respiratory ailments over ten years ago after 3 tours in Iraq.
God Bless those that have fought in support of finally getting this recognition.


“…rhinitis and sinusitis on a presumptive basis”

Is this a joke?
And all this time I thought it was the state of Maryland, since it started when I moved there. Maybe it was all those second-hand C rations (aka shit) soaked in diesel oil that I inhaled.

Might as well file a claim, I guess.