Here’s What You Need To Know About A New Ruling Linking Burn Pits And Lung Disease

Veterans Benefits
A U.S. Marine disposes of trash at the burn pit in Forward Operating Base Zeebrudge, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 6, 2013.
U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz

A recent court decision by an administrative law judge for the Department of Labor found burn-pit exposure was linked to lung disease in a federal contractor’s case, Fox News reported on Thursday.


The case quickly fueled hopes among military veterans that the Department of Veterans Affairs may follow the ruling’s lead.

For years, veterans’ advocates have been pushing the VA to adopt burn-pit exposure as a presumptive-service connected disability, assumed to have been caused by serving in a specific area, during a period of time, under a certain set of circumstances. Instead, veterans’ burn-pit exposure claims are handled, slowly, on a case-by-case basis.

Related: ‘There Was No Escaping It’: Iraq Vets Are Becoming Terminally Ill And Burn Pits May Be To Blame »

For the more than 130,000 veterans who have submitted their names to the VA’s burn pit registry, this most recent case won’t have much of an impact on the department’s current policy. Here’s why.

The decision, made in a U.S. Department of Labor Office for Worker’s Compensation Programs case, blamed open-air burn pits where waste, hardware, uniforms, and other various flotsam were burned across military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan for respiratory problems and lung disease in federal contractors who filed the suit, Fox reports.

While this case could be a boon for federal contractors, the court ruling does not set a precedent for the VA, experts say.

“We don’t think it will impact the VA under Title 38 at all,” Ken Wiseman, the Veterans of Foreign Wars associate director for national legislative service, told Task & Purpose, referring to the federal statute covering the department’s benefits and medical care policies.

“That decision was made by an administrative law judge in a fund under the Department of Labor,” Wiseman said. Decisions made in those cases have no legal precedence the way a federal circuit court ruling would.

However, “It is likely that defense contractors will be aware of this decision, and, therefore, they may be more willing to settle claims such as this,” Doug Jackson, a veterans disability law attorney, told Task & Purpose. “This is a much bigger win for the civilian personnel involved in war than it is for the military personnel.”

That’s not to say the ruling doesn’t do anything to help veterans, advocates and lawyers seeking to change the VA’s stance on burn pit exposure.

Wiseman said the ruling reinforces “research already conducted associating exposure to burn pits and numerous conditions, including several that are lethal.”

Eventually, these rulings and reports can create a tipping point in policy — and in the meantime, they could add urgency to vets’ individual burn-pit claims at the VA: “Cancers and other problems,” Wiseman said, “don’t discriminate between civilians and service members.”

WATCH NEXT

(Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial, Inc./Facebook)

Military veterans from throughout Northeast Florida came together Saturday morning to honor comrades in arms who were prisoners of war or missing in action, and remember their sacrifice.

Read More
The remains of Army Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin arrived back to Fort Bragg a week after he was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

After the plane landed, Pope Army Airfield was silent on Saturday.

A chaplain prayed and a family member sobbed.

Tarah McLaughlin's fingers traced her husband's flag-draped coffin before she pressed two fingers to her lips then pressed her fingers to the coffin.

The remains of Staff Sgt. Ian McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, arrived back to Fort Bragg a week after he was killed Jan. 11 by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, also was killed in the same incident.

Read More

The Space Force has a name tape now

popular

The U.S. Space Force has a name tape for uniforms now. Get excited people.

In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.

Read More

PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the U.S. drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.

With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.

Read More

The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Read More