The thousands of U.S. military personnel and private contractors whose health was compromised by the dense black smoke of burn pits – and who were then denied proper treatment – may finally be vindicated by a recent court ruling.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs found in February that open-air burn pits — where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan — are connected to lung disease.
The decision constitutes a real victory for the almost 64,000 active duty service members and retirees who added their names to the Burn Pit Registry created by the Veterans Administration. Even more important than the moral victory will be the reality of being one step closer to getting adequate medical coverage, something that has never been guaranteed. Private contractors who were also exposed to the burn pit toxins have also been denied coverage.
Soldiers have fallen gravely ill—some have even died— from exposure to burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq. Civilian workers and private contractors have also experienced related illnesses including cancer, respiratory problems and blood disorders. Like the military victims, they say they are being ignored.
“I believe this is a case of common sense and victory for military contractors and we can only hope that the same common sense is applied to our military war heroes and their widows,” Rosie Torres, founder of Burn Pits 360, an advocacy group for service members who have fallen ill, told FoxNews.com.
Torres, whose husband, LeRoy Torres, became ill almost immediately after his return from Iraq in 2008, said that the federal ruling grants them evidence that determines that there is a strong association between lung disease and exposure to burn pits.
“Thousands of Veterans have lost their careers, some have taken their own lives and their widows are left without benefits,” Torres said. “The actual numbers are obscured by a broken system. Unless we address this honestly, unknown thousands even millions will fade into history as the invisible and unacknowledged casualties of our country’s longest war.”
Burn Pits 360 recently cohosted a screening of Delay, Deny, Hope You Die: How America Poisoned Its Soldiers, an award-winning documentary by Gregory Lovett on the plight of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who are suffering from exposure to toxins from open burn pits operated on our military bases.
Veterans who wish to sign up for the Burn Pit Registry can find it here
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