VA Begins Paying Benefits to Service Members Exposed to Burn Pits in the Middle East

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) January 26, 2022 – The newly-announced presumptive benefits could impact more than 3.5 million veterans and active service members.

In recent news, the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) announced that it is adding three presumptive conditions to particulate matter exposure. These newly-added conditions include asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis. This development comes in response to years of complaints and lobbying efforts directed toward lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

To qualify for benefits, a service member must have served in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Syria or Uzbekistan since September 19, 2001, or in Southwest Asia since August 2, 1990. Benefits are available only if a service member developed one of the above-listed conditions within ten years of their separation from active service.

This policy acknowledges the hazards that service members face when exposed to potentially toxic airborne substances. Examples of situations that may lead to these hazards include smoke and fumes from burn pits, air pollution, aircraft or other machinery exhaust, and smoke from burning oil wells.

Perhaps the most common source of exposure comes from the burn pits, which were used extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan and other areas across Southwest Asia. Trash and other waste were often eliminated through open-air combustion, which released particulate matter into the air. According to the VA, factors that may increase the potential for long-term damage include the type of waste burned, the proximity, length and frequency of exposure, and the presence of other airborne or environmental hazards in the area.

Recently, Beth Murphy, Executive Director of Compensation Service with the VA, explained that the new presumptive benefits could impact as many as 3.5 million service members who were exposed to these hazards. However, she also notes that many veterans have previously been denied when seeking compensation based on what are now qualifying conditions. However, Murphy says that the VA has reached out to these veterans, encouraging them to reapply.

Attorney David W. Magann, a Florida veterans’ benefits lawyer, explains presumptive benefits as follows,

When the VA creates a presumptive benefit, it makes it easier for affected service members to obtain benefits. The VA assumes that certain disabilities or conditions are related to their service. This shifts the burden of proof from the veteran to the VA. Unless the VA can present evidence that the veteran’s condition was not related to their service, the veteran will be entitled to benefits. Of course, veterans must still prove that they fall within the class of service members covered under the presumptive benefit. 

According to VA estimates, there have been about 4,000 applications for benefits approved under the recently-announced policy, and there are two to three times as many being processed.

Magann is a Florida Veterans’ benefits lawyer with extensive experience helping veterans, service members and their family members obtain the benefits they are entitled to. Magann also helps veterans deal with the unique legal issues they face after leaving the service. As a proud Marine Corps veteran, Magann has overcome many of those issues himself and takes pride in helping fellow veterans. Magann handles social security disability, estate planning, veterans’ law and personal injury law out of his Brandon and Tampa offices. Learn more at

Learn more at David W. Magann, P.A. Main Office: 156 West Robertson Street Brandon, FL 33511 Call: (813) 657-9175 Tampa Office: 18715 N Dale Mabry Hwy Lutz, FL 33548