Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ruling on Burn Pits Could Impact Veterans

Latest news from Burn Pits 360
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March Newsletter
Burn Pits 360's Rosie Torres Featured in Article on Burn Pit Court Ruling

KBR and Burn Pits

KBR stated that they operated burn pits "safely and effectively at the direction and under the control of the U.S. military."  However, we now know that burn pits emitted toxic inhalants and particulate matter that can cause severe long-term health effects, including respiratory and cardiovascular issues, as well as cancers.  Ms. Landry testified that she was exposed to the smoke from the burn pits on a daily basis and that "every plastic water bottle that every soldier drank out of was also burned in the burn pits."  The burning of plastic, metals, fuels, and general human and medical waste emitted toxic fumes that spread over military bases and exposed service members to dangerous chemicals.

Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, is quoted in the article saying she hopes that this ruling will be applied "to our military heroes and their widows."

The ruling directly impacts private contractors exposed to burn pits during their work in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Burn Pits 360 hopes this ruling can include military members exposed to those same burn pits and who now suffer from serious long-term health issues. 
The VA created the Burn Pit Registry for service members who were exposed to burn pits in an effort to study the possible health impacts of the burn pits.  

Impact on Veterans

While the VA has not conceded that exposure to burn pits causes long-term health effects in service members, the Department of Labor ruling could provide a footing for veterans and advocates fighting for the VA to recognize certain diseases as presumptively related to burn pit exposure.  The ruling directly impacts private contractors exposed to burn pits during their work in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Burn Pits 360 hopes this ruling will have a positive impact for military members exposed to those same burn pits and who now suffer from serious long-term health issues.

Veterans with health issues caused by burn pits also have difficulty getting adequate medical care from the VA, especially if they have not been service-connected for that disability.  VA examiners and medical staff may not be aware of the exposures to chemicals veterans experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This ruling could bring veterans a step closer to receiving medical care and increasing awareness among VA medical professionals.  It is not clear exactly how many veterans and service members were exposed to burn pits, or how many suffer long-term health effects from their exposure, but this ruling could shine a light on an issue that has often been ignored by the VA.

A recent ruling form a judge under the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Program states that open-air burn pits used in Iraq and Afghanistan are connected to lung disease.  The ruling stems from a case brought against the company Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) by a private contractor, Veronica Landry, who was stationed at Mosul Air Force Base and testified to being exposed to burn pits.  Ms. Landry developed lung disease and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following her time at Mosul while working for KBR.  When she returned home, AIG, KBR's insurance company, refused to pay the medical expenses that accumulated from being in and out of the hospital for ten years due to her conditions.  The judge's ruling stated that the "evidence is sufficient to establish [the contractor] suffers from deployment-related lung disease," and the ruling determined that AIG and KBR should cover medical expenses related to her condition.

Read the article here.
Take Action to Prove the Connection Between Burn Pit Exposure and Illness by Participating in the Burn Pits 360 Registry Research Study

The Burn Pits 360 Registry is a research study, collecting data on burn pit exposures and related illnesses.  The goal is to prove the connection between burn pit exposure and illness.  Before now, this information was only available to the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.  So far, over 5,000 individuals have participated.  Your data will enable Burn Pits 360 to advocate and lobby on behalf of the veteran community for VA benefits, policy change, and specialized health care. To participate, visit us on our website here.
Burn pits Blamed for Veterans' Illnesses in Iraq and Afghanistan

Andrea Neutzling is a U.S. Army Veteran who suffers from a rare lung disease called constrictive bronchiolitis, a condition she states is related to her exposure to burn pits during her deployment to Iraq.  Burn pits were supposed to be a temporary method of waste disposal on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, but their use left thousands of veterans, including. Ms. Neutzling, with serious, life-altering health conditions.  The VA continues to deny claims for compensation for conditions caused by burn pit exposure.  Ms. Neutzling's health problems began a year after her deployment was over and she was denied for VA benefits in 2011.  After undergoing a lung biopsy, the only way to diagnose constrictive bronchiolitis, she was awarded VA disability in 2015.

Kerry Baker, a specialist in VA disability claims, states: "The VA says there is no science behind" the link between burn pit exposure and certain illness "but that's debatable. They have done some studies, but I think it's a case of 'garbage in, garbage out,' because they either can't produce the data they studied, or they don't have the data."

Read the article here. 
Study on Constrictive Bronchiolitis in Iraq and Afghanistan Service Members Published by New England Journal of Medicine

A study recently released by the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 80 soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and experience exertional dyspnea to evaluate pulmonary functioning through lung biopsies and pulmonary functioning tests.  All samples of the 49 soldiers who underwent lung biopsies were found to be abnormal.  Constrictive bronchiolitis, a rare lung disease not typically found in young, healthy persons, was found in 38 soldiers who had underwent lung biopsies, possibly associated with exposure to inhalants in Iraq and Afghanistan. The soldiers were each referred to the study because they were unable to meet the fitness standard for deployment due to their difficulty breathing.

Of the group of soldiers, 28 served in northern Iraq in 2003 and said to have been exposed to smoke from the Mosul sulfur-mine fire.  However, 11 of the soldiers reported no exposure to inhalants. The study suggests an association "between constrictive bronchiolitis and exercise limitation in a cohort of soldiers who served in the Middle East."  
Burn Pits 360 Honors A Soldier

Each month, Burn Pits 360 honors a fallen soldier.  Staff Sergeant Brett Kerkhof of the United States Marines passed away from a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar heptacellular carcinoma. He is pictured here with his wife and daughter.
Legal Help for Veterans

Disability Benefits:  If VA has denied your disability compensation claim, assigned you the wrong impairment rating, or if you are entitled to an earlier effective date, contact Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick for assistance.  CCK is also experienced at helping eligible veterans get VA benefits for special monthly compensation (SMC) or total disability rating based on individual unemployability (TDIU).  Contact CCK toll free at 844-291-8569 or visit CCK online at
Donate to Burn Pits 360

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Burn Pits 360 is community of veterans with burn pit-related illness, their families, and advocates with the common goal of exposing the harms of toxic burn pit exposure and obtaining benefits and policy change. Join us. Like us on Facebook!
Meet the Burn Pits 360 Team

Founder: CPT (Ret.) Le Roy Torres
Executive Director: Rosie Torres
Secretary: Tammy McCracken
Program Manager: Will Wisner
Legislative Liaison: Cindy Aman
Director of Development:Daniella Molina

Rocio Alvarado (California)
Diane Slape (Texas)

Advisory Board
Ret. Colonel David Sutherland
Dr. Steven Coughlin
Ret. Lt. Col Gregg Deeb
Dr. Robert Miller
Ret. Lt. Col. Brian Lawler
Kerry Baker 

Solomon Ortiz Jr  former Texas House of Representatives, District 33;
Solomon Ortiz Sr., former Congressman for the 27th District of Texas;
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Burn Pits 360 Veterans Organization
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