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April 15, 2021

Recently Introduced Legislation Would Create Presumption for Veterans Exposed to Burn Pit and Other Toxins

U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently announced bipartisan and bicameral legislation, titled the Presumptive Benefits for War Fighters Exposed to Burn Pits and Other Toxins Act, which would remove the burden of proof from the veteran and provide a presumptive service connection for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxins during service. During the Gulf War and the Global War on Terror, the U.S. Military used open-air burn pits to burn garbage, medical waste, plastics and other waste – with the largest site being a 10-acre plot at Balad Air Base, Iraq, that was used solely for burning trash 24 hours a day. The smoke from these burns released chemicals that veterans’ advocates have now linked to a variety of lung diseases, cancers, and respiratory illnesses. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million service members could have been exposed to burn pits. Under this new legislation, veterans would only be required to show a current qualifying health condition and provide proof that he or she served in the Gulf War or the Global War on Terror to receive disability compensation. The presumed conditions would include any head cancer, neck cancer, respiratory cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, reproductive cancer, lymphoma cancer, kidney cancer, brain cancer, melanoma, and many other diseases.