The VA expanded the list of conditions and illnesses presumed to be caused by burn pit exposure to include–for the first time–certain types of cancer.
VA disability law added the following nine rare respiratory cancers to the list of burn pit presumptive conditions:
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx
- Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea
- Adenocarcinoma of the trachea
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea
- Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung
- Large cell carcinoma of the lung
- Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung
- Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung
- Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung
When the VA recognizes presumptive conditions, veterans do not have to prove a medical connection to their service–called a medical nexus–to receive disability payments. To be eligible for benefits, they must have a diagnosis of one of these cancers and must have served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations since Aug. 2, 1990, to the present, or in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti since Sept. 19, 2001, to the present.
The VA is still learning about burn pits
The VA first began recognizing presumptive conditions for burn pit exposure in August 2021. It ruled that veterans exposed to burn pits who were diagnosed with asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis were eligible for VA benefits within 10 years of service.
Congress is considering an expansive toxic exposure bill that would add 23 more conditions to the presumptive list. If this law passes, it will significantly expand healthcare for toxic exposures. 42 veterans service organizations (VSOs) have hosted public rallies and lobbied elected officials in support of the law. The Honoring Our Pact Act finally passed in the House 256-174. The $408 billion law has stalled in the Senate as some senators have hesitated because of the cost.
Open-air burn pits are areas the military uses to dispose of garbage including tires, plastics, styrofoam, food, ammunition, pesticide containers, batteries, and human and medical waste. The fires burned next to where service members lived and worked, regularly exposing them to toxic smoke. A 2010 Government Accountability report found more than 1,000 toxins and carcinogens in samples from burn pits.
Since 1990, as many as 3.7 million service members may have been exposed to toxic smoke from open-air military burn pits during their service, resulting in possible adverse health effects.
How to get VA disability benefits from burn-pit-related illness
If you served near an open-air burn pit and developed one of these conditions, you can file a new claim. If you were previously denied a claim for these conditions, the VA recommends filing a supplemental claim.
How Woods and Woods can help
Woods and Woods has represented thousands of veterans and works hard to stay on top of the VA’s changes to its disability compensation program to ensure you are getting the support you need. Contact our team, and let us help you with your application today. We never charge for helping you with your initial application. If we help you appeal a decision, you won’t pay us unless we win your case.
Talk to Us About Your Claim: (866) 232-5777