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If you are a United States Veteran who was deployed overseas after 9/11, you are probably familiar with the use of burn pits and the hazards they cause. Many veterans over the past several decades have become sick or ill as a result of exposure to the toxic fumes. Burn pits emit hazardous toxic waste when trash and sewage is burned. 

Gerling Law injury attorneys understand and recognize the seriousness of the illnesses our veterans have faced. If you believe you are suffering from a condition or illness as a result from being exposed to these toxic fumes, contact us today.

What Are Burn Pits?

In a war zone, there are limited options as to how to dispose of trash and sewage. There simply isn’t trash collection or sewers in many of these locations. Further, it often is not possible or safe to attempt to transport waste off military bases because of the threat of open fire or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). As a result, much of the waste is burned using jet fuel in open air pits as a means of disposal. 

Prolonged exposure to this toxic air can lead to serious illness that may affect you throughout your life. If you or a loved one had extended exposure to burn pits while serving overseas, let our attorneys help you get the recovery you deserve. 

What Is a Presumptive Benefit?

Typically, to receive disability benefits for any medical condition or illness caused as a result of your service, you must fill out a VA disability application. You must also provide supporting documentation, including medical records and any evidence that shows the casual relationship between your service and your illness.

A presumptive benefit cuts through some of the red tape to make it easier for veterans to apply for disability benefits. This classification allows veterans applying for disability benefits to waive certain required paperwork or medical exams. In short, presumptive benefit status allows a veteran to streamline the process of receiving disability benefits. Rather than proving the condition or illness is related to your service, it is instead presumed to be directly related. 

The PACT Act & Burn Pit Exposure Presumptive Conditions

The current law identifies only three conditions presumed to be service-related. They are:

  • Sinusitis,
  • Asthma, and
  • Rhinitis (i.e. nasal congestion).

In June of 2022, the Senate voted to expand presumptive benefits for burn pit exposure conditions, paving its way to be signed into law. With the passage of The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, there will be 23 presumptive conditions added to the burn pit presumptive conditions list. 

Importantly, the PACT Act will add nine rare respiratory-based cancers to the burn pit presumptive conditions list including:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx,
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea,
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea,
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea,
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung,
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung,
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung,
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung, and
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

For your condition to be presumed service-related, you must have served overseas sometime between September 11, 2001, and the present. Currently, your symptoms must manifest within 10 years from the date of separation of service. However, the PACT Act seeks to extend this window of eligibility for disability benefits.

The PACT Act will also add 31 major medical clinics across the country and employ thousands more claims processors and healthcare professionals.

Burn Pit Registry

It is often particularly difficult to establish burn pit illnesses as service-related. These particular conditions or illnesses can take years to manifest making it difficult to establish the connection between your service and your illness.

Due to the growing concern of burn pit exposure and resulting medical needs of our veterans, the VA created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. The registry allows you to add your name to create a record that you were exposed to burn pits and became ill. However, registering alone does not initiate your disability claim, which is a separate process. Although it’s helpful to add your name and illness to the registry, its purpose is more informational. Having the data compiled here allows Congress to track exposure and illness. It is imperative to file an independent VA disability claim, and our attorneys stand ready to help.

How Much Compensation Am I Eligible For?

The short answer is, it depends. Once the VA accepts your claim, you will receive monthly monetary benefits based on your disability rating and how many dependents you have. 

Disability ratings range from 0-100% in increments of ten. In other words, your disability rating cannot be 15% but rather must be 10% or 20%. If you are not married, have no dependents, and have a 50% disability rating, your monthly payment will be $958.44. If you are 100% disabled, your monthly payment will be $3,3302.06. If you have a spouse or children, your monthly payment will increase to account for the number of your dependents. 

Any amount of compensation received is federal-tax free and does not affect your retirement income, including military or federal civil service retirement or social security.

You can use the VA disability chart to calculate a more accurate payment based on your specific circumstances. Contact Gerling Law to get a better understanding of your eligibility. 

Gerling Law Cares About Our Veterans

If you served in the military overseas, post 9/11, and suffered prolonged exposure to the toxic fumes of burn pits, contact us today. The attorneys at Gerling Law are knowledgeable and experienced in burn pit presumptive conditions. The application for benefits is cumbersome and wrought with difficulty. The difficulty is compounded when dealing with conditions related to burn pit exposure. Our attorneys are committed to helping our veterans secure the benefits they deserve. Contact the Gerling Law team to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.

Author Photo

Gayle Gerling Pettinga

Born and raised in Evansville, Gayle is a respected, experienced lawyer and a valued community leader. She graduated near the top of her class at Indiana University’s prestigious Maurer School of Law. She’s practiced law with one of the largest firms in Indianapolis as well as one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. And that means she knows how big law firms and big companies think and how they operate – and she will put that knowledge to work for you.

Gayle has received numerous awards and honors including Martindale-Hubbell — Peer Review Rated: AV®, American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys 10 Best Attorneys in Indiana for Exceptional and Outstanding Client Service, and YWCA Evansville 100 Years, 100 Women Honoree, 2011.

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