By Debbie Gregory.
National Guard veteran Amie Muller succumbed to pancreatic cancer in February, 2017. She believed her illness was a result of deployments to Iraq and exposure to burn pits.
Muller battled to win recognition from the United States government for victims of the burn pits. A recent court ruling that came too late for Muller may help the nearly 130,000 veterans who have signed on to the VA’s Burn Pit Registry.
Last month, a judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs ruled that open-air burn pits are connected to lung disease.
During the OEF and OIF wars, government contractors burned up to 227 metric tons of hazardous waste at forward operating bases using jet fuel in large ground pits. Items burned included: batteries, medical waste, amputated body parts, plastics, ammunition, human waste, animal carcasses, rubber, chemicals, & more.
In addition to lung disease such as life-threatening constrictive bronchiolitis and cancer, those who were exposed say they suffer from a range of diseases including gastrointestinal disorders and neurological problems.
The ruling will help to shine an overdue light on the complications that have arisen for those exposed to burn pit fumes while serving their country.
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. Instead, veterans’ burn-pit exposure claims are handled, slowly, on a case-by-case basis.