Bill Proposes Recognizing Iraq and Afghanistan Service as Health Hazard

Two United States Senators, Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have teamed up on a bipartisan bill that would classify military service in certain places and times in Iraq and Afghanistan as a health hazard. The “Veterans Burn Pit Exposure Recognition” bill is a response to health concerns over service members’ exposure to “burn pits,” which are places where the military burns waste. In proposing this bill, they hope to make it easier for veterans affected by certain diseases to get disability benefits.

The importance of the legislation relates to the standards for applying for disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Normally, when a person wants to claim disability benefits from the VA, they need to prove any ailments they are suffering from are the result of their military service. However, if the veterans served in areas recognized as a health hazard, their disabilities will be presumed to relate to their service, significantly simplifying the process of applying for benefits.

The purpose of the bill is to classify service in the Persian Gulf War in 1990-91, as well as service in Afghanistan after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, or service in Iraq from 2003 onward, as health hazards. This is in recognition of many veterans’ exposure to burn pits, where toxic materials were often disposed of without concern for the potential health impact of those exposed to the smoke. While no specific diseases are named in the bill as relating to the burn pits, it would (if passed) at least ease the burden of proof faced by veterans with certain disabilities in applying for VA benefits.

The attorneys of Sullivan & Kehoe place a special focus on assisting disabled veterans. With over 50 years of combined experience between its lawyers, our attorneys may be able to assist you or a loved one in obtaining VA disability benefits. Call our office at (800) 395 -7830 to schedule a consultation in our New York City, Garden City, Kings Park, Riverhead, or White Plains office, or visit our contact page.

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