Veterans and Burn Pit Exposure

In recent years, burn pits have emerged as one of the most widely publicized topics in conversations around veteran health. Open-air burn pits were commonly used by the military in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and many former servicemembers are still reaping the consequences of being exposed to the toxic smoke produced from burning chemicals, paint, human and medical waste, metal, petroleum and plastic products, rubber, munitions, and more. 

The Impact of Burn Pit Exposure

Research on the long-term health impacts of military burn pits is still ongoing; however, in April of 2022, the VA formally acknowledged the presumed connection between burn pit exposure and nine rare respiratory cancers, which will now be treated as service-connected disabilities. Burn pits are also believed to be linked to a slew of other serious health conditions, including heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), increased risk of death, and more.

The number of veterans suffering the consequences of burn pit exposure is estimated to be in the millions. For years, many of those individuals have been denied disability compensation benefits if they were not able to definitively prove that their condition stems from burn pit exposure. As a result, many veterans were put in the impossible situation of choosing between foregoing healthcare or paying out of pocket for treatment. 

After many years of lobbying and multiple legislative setbacks, on August 2nd, 2022, the US Senate finally passed the Honoring our PACT Act, which expanded healthcare benefits for veterans who experienced burn pit exposure. While the bill is groundbreaking in terms of its scope, in practice, it may take time to fully rectify the plight of some veterans who have been affected by burn pits. 

National Veterans Homeless Support seeks to eliminate homelessness among veterans in Central Florida and nationwide. NVHS takes a proactive, intervention-based approach to homelessness by meeting homeless veterans where they are and helping them from there. Through programs like Search and Rescue Outreach, NVHS helps homeless veterans get the supplies they need to survive, connects them with support and resources, and helps them transition off the streets and into temporary or permanent housing. If you’re able, consider supporting our mission by donating or signing on as a volunteer