Military members who were involved in Afghanistan and Iraq understood many of the risks of warfare. However, many members of the military returned home to the U.S. and began to suffer from illnesses they could not explain. These injuries were not caused by enemy forces but by the U.S. and private contractors putting service members in harm's way.
Burn Pit Exposure in the Military
A burn pit is an area where waste is burned in the open on a deployed military base. Burn pits get rid of the waste but release noxious fumes and smoke in the process. Anyone downwind of the burn pit is at risk of inhaling the toxic gases and particulates, including service members. Many active duty personnel began to report headaches, breathing problems, and other issues related to the burn pits.
One service member developed lung disease and has struggled to receive care for his illness. Leroy Torres served in the Army Reserve for 23 years. While stationed at Balad Air Base in Iraq, Torres was exposed to burn pit smoke. A year later, when he returned home, Torres had to be hospitalized. During a congressional hearing, Torres said he was receiving VA denial letters for compensation because his illness was not recognized by the VA. Torres' wife said it was disgusting how America turned its back on its war heroes.
The VA has since started a burn pit registry to track and evaluate health issues of veterans exposed to burn pits. The Airborne Hazards and Open Pit Registry is an online database of health information form service members collected through a questionnaire about their exposure to airborne hazards.
There are other ways to more safely dispose of waste, including burial, incinerators, and landfills. Some of the materials burned in the pits included plastics, medical waste, electronic waste, paints, and chemicals. These burns emitted highly toxic dioxins, pollutants, and particulate matter.
Veterans Injury Claims Denied
Hundreds of veterans joined a class action lawsuit against military contractor KBR, Inc. The lawsuits claimed KBR was negligent and in breach of contract with the military by exposing troops to dangerous toxins. After about a decade, these veterans and their families were denied their injury claims when the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit found that KBR was under military direction when they burned medical waste, tires, and other toxic substances next to soldiers' barracks. Under military direction, KBR would not be held liable for their actions in sickening the service men and women.
The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) charity is calling for Congress to enact legislation to concede burn pit exposure for eligible veterans, to remove the barriers to disability claims related to toxic exposure.
Medical Conditions That May Be Linked to Burn Pits
There are a number of health conditions and symptoms that could be linked to chemical and particulate exposure, including:
- Heart conditions
- Respiratory irritation
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Respiratory failure
- Chronic bronchitis
Exposure to Toxic Chemicals
The personal injury and malpractice attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian are committed to helping our clients obtain the financial compensation they deserve to rebuild their lives after an injury. To discuss your case with a member of our legal team, fill out an online evaluation form or call (800) 529-6162 today.