Respiratory Conditions To Be Added To List Of Presumptions For Veterans

Respiratory Conditions To Be Added To List Of Presumptions For Veterans

July 07, 2021

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Recently introduced legislation, called the True Cost of War Recognition Act (TCWR), recognizes that numerous respiratory conditions and cancers suffered by veterans of the Persian Gulf and post-9/11 eras are linked to toxic burn pit exposure. 

The dangers of exposure to burn pits have been discussed for years after many veterans who served in areas where they were used have been diagnosed with a host of serious health conditions. The military has utilized burn pits to dispose of waste in combat zones. They can be acres-wide and used to burn wastes like fuel, producing highly toxic fumes and byproducts released into the air. 

VA Secretary Denis McDonough announced that the department will begin changing the rules regarding these conditions for over four million veterans. He stated that the VA is taking these cases very seriously and will work quickly to get sick veterans the benefits they deserve.

Those who served in the following regions and periods were potentially affected by burn pits:

  • Iraq from August 1990 to March 1991 and from March 2003 until the present day
  • Afghanistan from September 2001 until the present day
  • Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar from August 1990 until the present day
  • Djibouti, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Yemen from September 2001 until the present day
  • Any other area to be determined by a federal agency where burn pits were used by the military overseas.

The nine new respiratory conditions to be granted a presumptive link to burn pit exposure include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Interstitial lung disease
  • Sarcoidosis

Qualifying veterans diagnosed with any form of respiratory cancer or glioblastoma (brain cancer) would be granted presumptive benefits status.

The True Cost of War Recognition Act would also add hypertension to the list of presumptives caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War and extend presumptive status to Vietnam-era vets who served in other areas. The VA has been hesitant for many years to acknowledge a link between Agent Orange exposure and high blood pressure, saying it needed more definitive proof that they are related despite independent studies that show a strong correlation between the two. 

Estimates show that this change alone would affect 160,000 veterans and cost $15 billion over ten years. Agent Orange presumptive status would also be granted to individuals who served in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, American Samoa and Guam during the 1960s and 1970s.

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