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November 18, 2021

New Actions to Address Health Effects of Military Exposures Could Expand Benefits for Military Burn Pit Victims

As a part of the White House’s Veterans Day commemoration, the VA piloted a comprehensive military exposure model for evaluating possible relationships between in-service environmental hazards and medical conditions.  The Biden administration stated that “exposure to contaminants and environmental hazards poses a major health concern for veterans of all generations.” Thus, the goal of this new model is to lower the burden of proof for Veterans impacted by these exposures. The aims of the new plan are to (1) develop and test a model for establishing service connection; (2) add new presumptive conditions; (3) apply the new model to review evidence of service connection for rare respiratory cancers and constrictive bronchiolitis; (4) improve data on individual exposures; (5) raise awareness of VA benefits related to military exposures; (6) expand training for VA and non-VA providers; (7) establish a network of specialized providers and call center; and (8) extend the eligibility period for VA health care. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million troops were exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits over the last 20 years, so this new model could have a dramatic effect on many veterans. This presumptive decision model pilot will run from November 15, 2021 to April 1, 2022, and the results will be used to formalize the model when the pilot period ends.