Many New Orleans and Louisiana veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan had exposure to toxic and harmful fumes and smoke emitted from burn pits. Burn pits dispose of nearly every conceivable sort of materials.
Experienced New Orleans VA disability attorneys can help you in the application process if you are a veteran and you think you have a disability related to exposure to burn pits when you were in-service. The most common medical conditions to date have been affecting the lungs, but, increasingly, claims related to cancer and neurological disorders appear too.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys — VA Burn Pit Registry and Theaters of Operation
In July 2017, the Veterans Administration opened an online Airborne Hazard and Burn Pit Registry. See link here.
According to the VA, burn pits might be a recognized possible health hazard for veterans or service members who were deployed the Southwest Asia theater of operations after August 1990. It could be a hazard to those who were in Afghanistan or the Gulf States after September 2001.
Specifically, these nations/regions including the nearby bodies of water and the airspace above these locations:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
- The Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea
The purpose of the registry is to help identify locations, exposure levels, and exposure types and to help medical researchers correlate exposure with various health conditions, ailments, and diseases. Participation in the registry is voluntary and does not impact — one way or the other — a veteran’s application for benefits.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys — Burn Pits and Medical Conditions
As of the end of 2018, the VA does not accept that exposure to burn pits automatically qualifies a veteran for disability benefits. The VA claims there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate long-term harm from exposure. The VA cites a 2011 research study, for example, that found insufficient evidence of a causal relationship between exposure to toxic fumes and airborne chemicals and medical diseases like cancer, respiratory distress, circulatory diseases, neurological diseases, and adverse reproductive and developmental outcomes. See summary here.
That being said, many other medical researchers have reported and opined that exposure to the burn pits is causally linked to many medical conditions including:
- respiratory diseases and failures
- neurological disorders
- reproductive degeneration
- immune system failures
- liver disease
- kidney disease
- cancer of various forms
As a result, when applying for VA disability here in New Orleans and Louisiana, burn pit exposure may be a valid basis for a disability claim even though the claim is not automatic. To succeed in a disability claim related to burn pit exposure, it is necessary to “connect-up” your in-service exposure to your current medical condition.
This requires the following evidence:
- Medical records, tests and physician opinions/reports concerning your medical condition;
- Service records showing burn pit exposure or, at a minimum, that you were in the theater of operations;
- Buddy statements and other evidence needs to be supplied;
- Medical studies, scientific data, academic articles and research showing a link between your medical condition and the exposure to the burn pit
- It is very helpful if your physician can provide an opinion linking your condition to your exposure (not just general medical studies)
If the VA can be provided with all of the foregoing information and data, then the chances are higher that the VA will make a disability finding.
New Orleans VA Disability Attorneys — Keep Trying if You Are Denied
If your application is denied, there are appeal options. You should definitely seek help from talented and proven New Orleans VA disability attorneys. You should act quickly since there are time deadlines for an appeal.
Just as importantly, if you are denied, do not give up. Sometimes the VA changes its procedures and protocols. With Agent Orange, for example, the VA did not agree that exposure was automatically the basis for a valid disability claim. Agent Orange was used massively in the Vietnam and Southeast Asia conflict. But the VA changed its procedures and exposure to Agent Orange was deemed an automatic qualifier for some conditions.
That also happened with what is now known as Gulf War Syndrome. This might well happen for burn pit exposure claims. In addition, Congress and the President have the power to modify how the VA handles claims. Finally, the court system can provide the impetus for change. In one opinion related to that litigation, the judge stated this: “… the Court is not unsympathetic to the claims of the [service member] Plaintiffs. Many of them have injuries by the use of open burn pits or by the water that they drank.
Likewise, do not give up because medical science is likely to advance. Also, it is likely to better document the link between exposure and various medical conditions.
Contact New Orleans SSDI/VA Benefits Law Firm Ascend Disability Today
For veterans that are disabled from exposure to burn pits, contact the experienced New Orleans VA disability benefits attorneys here at Ascend Disability Lawyers, LLC. Burn pit cases are tough; we can help. We have a team of dedicated lawyers and staff that have years of experience. Contact us via email or by calling (855) 631-2544. Call today.