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How does the Department of Labor Decision on Burn Pits Affect Veterans?

A Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge recently found a link between lung disease and a contractor’s exposure to burn pits.  The claimant, Veronica Landry, was a contractor on two FOBs near Mosul, Iraq between March 2004 and February 2005.  Landry testified that she was exposed to burn pit smoke every day.  She identified a list of hazardous materials (e.g. plastic water bottles, vehicle parts, paint thinner, and even ammunition) which were disposed of in her FOBs’ burn pits.  A biopsy showed her lung disease was related to exposure to these chemicals.  Landry submitted the testimony of two doctors who opined that burn pit exposure caused her lung disease.

This decision by a Department of Labor judge has no authority or jurisdiction over Veterans Affairs.  If anything, this case underscores the importance of medical testimony linking an individual’s burn pit exposure to an illness.  Even in the absence of a list of presumptive disabilities (like those tied to Agent Orange exposure), a veteran can still be rated if they can show medical proof that a respiratory illness, cancer, or other ailment is linked to their burn pit exposure.  Most importantly, a veteran is not required to rely on VA’s exam; like any other serious medical diagnosis, you should seek a second opinion.  If Veterans Affairs has denied your claim for a disability you believe is related to exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, we can review your claim file and help you decide whether or not to appeal the decision.

The case is Veronica M. Landry v. Service Employees International, Inc. and Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, Case No. 2017-LDA-00210/00211.  The decision can be found here.


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