Advocates Take the Next Step on Burn Pit Injury Legislation
The attorneys at Cantrell Green have been closely following and reporting on burn pit injuries for many years. This could finally be the year that a major bill passes through Congress to recognize and redress these horrific injuries – if advocates can head of a demoralizing defeat by conservative opponents of the legislation.
Burn Pit Recap
If you are reading this article, you are probably already aware that, for decades, the military used open-air burn pits to dispose of garbage and waste, including everything from paint, to plastics, to jet fuel and electronics, as well as human waste. As a result, millions of veterans and civilian contractors working abroad on military bases became gravely (often fatally) ill from cancers and other illnesses caused by breathing in the toxic fumes emitted by the burn pits.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 3.5 million veterans were exposed to toxic burn pits. Yet 75% have been denied health care and disability compensation for illness believe to be related to this exposure. And these figures do not even include the countless additional military contractors on these bases that were also exposed and made ill by burn pit fume inhalation.
In fact, to date, no official, reliable figures have even been released estimating the number of civilian military contractors exposed to, or made sick by, burn pit exposure.
While it remains unclear how many veterans have been made sick or died due to burn pit exposure, according to the VA, 13,936 veterans filed burn pit claims between 2007 and 2021 and a stunning 9,380 (67%) were denied.
Advocates for Burn Pit Legislation
The VA has maintained for decades that medical science is “unclear” on the link between burn pit exposure and diseases such as cancer – despite the overwhelming evidence that is available.
Advocates, including Rosie Torres and former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, have been lobbying heavily to pass legislation entitled The Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act – sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
The bill, which also was proposed last year and failed, would remove the burden of proof from a veteran to show that they got sick from service. As long as the service person proved that they served in one of the 34 countries named in the bill during burn pit use, they would be eligible for health care and disability compensation for their illness(es). A House version was introduced by Reps. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
Currently, the bill’s chances for success look promising, since Democrats (who support the bill) have control of Congress – albeit by a slim margin. And John Stewart’s celebrity platform has brought a lot of attention from media. Additionally, President Joe Biden himself supports the legislation – after his son Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015 due to what his father suspects was the result of burn pit exposure in Iraq.
Why Has Burn Pit Legislation Stalled?
An official White House spokesperson told the website Military.com, “The administration is committed to understanding and addressing the effects of toxic exposures, including to exposure to burn pits, for military service members and veterans.”
But many legislators, especially Republicans, fear the overall cost of the bill’s passage – which could be enormous if all of the injured veterans get the compensation they deserve. The VA is the second largest federal agency, and its budget is already enormous – with no slowing of growth in sight. President Biden’s budget plan already calls for an 8.2% increase in discretionary funding for the department, which is an increase of $8.5 billion, that would bring discretionary spending to $113.1 billion.
As John Stewart put it, veterans “… come home, and now the enemy is negligence, bureaucracy and apathy.” And the same hold true for civilian military contractors who were also injured by burn pits while working on bases overseas.
Advocates are fed up with waiting while more and more veterans succumb to illness and die at relatively young ages, while congress conducts “studies” but does nothing.
DBA Burn Pit Compensation for Military Contractors
While passage of this important legislation is a giant step forward for veterans injured by burn pits, it does not affect or provide any additional compensation or assistance for the thousands of civilian military contractors who were exposed to burn pit toxins. Nonetheless, our attorneys are hopeful that this “step in the right direction” will make all victims made ill by military burn pit negligence more visible and acknowledged – and less easily dismissed by heartless employers and their DBA insurance companies.
If you were employed as a civilian military contractor overseas at or near a burn pit, and are now suffering from cancer, respiratory or pulmonary illness, skin lesions, rashes, a heart condition, liver or kidney problems, or are experiencing other serious health issues, you have the right to pursue compensation under the Defense Base Act.
Many times your employer or their insurance company will deny that your current illness is the result of burn pit exposure. But medical experts and Defense Base Act attorneys can help you clearly prove otherwise.
DBA Burn Pit Attorneys for Civilian Military Contractors
Retaining a Defense Based Act law firm that has experience handling burn pit cases is very important. Our attorneys will ensure that you receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled, to provide you with medical care, an income and peace of mind during your treatment. And, a Defense Base Act attorney is completely FREE, because your lawyer fees are payable by the insurance company, once approved by the United States Department of Labor.
The attorneys at Cantrell Green are among very few who are specialized in Defense Base Act cases who have handled several burn pit cases. We are here to help you collect the compensation you and your family deserve for the devastating illness you have suffered as a result of your employer’s negligence in exposing you to toxic burn pits.
Free Consultation with a DBA Burn Pit Attorney: 800-964-8047