For decades, veterans exposed to burn pits have suffered harrowing health concerns. One veteran, Bill Thompson, was found to have black scars on his lungs, partially due to jet fuel and metal. Doctors believe the scarring was due to his exposure to burn pits in Iraq.
Burn pits are areas of open-air burning waste. They were commonly used in military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, they have been used before it. Thompson is just one of many victims of burn pit exposure.
A retired Army sergeant, Thomspon was exposed to toxic substances and metals that permeated his lung tissue. Thompson is still alive, living on his second set of transplanted lungs. Tales like this, however, have not convinced the U.S. Government of the health complications linked to burning pit exposure.
The military has yet to link any illness to burn pits, which means anyone who was exposed and developed symptoms does not qualify for any benefits under any V.A program.
Health and retirement benefits are crucial for members of the military. While Thompson has secured benefits through the Department of Veteran Affairs for treating his chronic lung disease, he has yet to receive a form of early retirement pay.
It is not fully understood how many people former serving members have gotten sick from pit burn exposure. Only 234,000 have enrolled in the VBA’s burn pit registry, which is merely a fraction of the 3.5million veterans who served in zones where exposure to burn pits was common.
Congress has done little work to address the issue with burn pits. However, there is growing bipartisan support for the problem. The Senate’s VA hearing promised to confront our military’s current inability to provide care for members who had suffered poisoning during deployments.