Survey Details Disturbing Trends Related to Burn PitsTuesday, November 19, 2019
The Wounded Warrior Project conducts and annual survey that aims to give veterans a voice and a platform to be heard by individuals and organizations that can initiate change. This year’s survey shed light on a disturbing trend related to toxin exposure from burn pits.
This was the first time that exposure to toxic substances was addressed in the survey’s ten-year history. According the survey, 70% of respondents said that they had been exposed to toxins during their time in service. Approximately 31% were enrolled in the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry. Another 12% of these respondents said that they had attempted but were unsuccessful in getting treatment at the VA for toxic-exposure related illnesses. Of these respondents that were exposed, only 9% of them have received treatment for their exposure at the VA.
Joe Plenzler, WWP communications director for government and community relations, stated that “Although we do not clearly know why so few veterans seem to be receiving treatment at VA, our assumption is that access issues are driven by a lack of communication with veterans on this topic and the difficulty of establishing service connection for illnesses believed to be caused by toxic exposure.” He also emphasized the significance of the number of surveyed Warriors that reported seeking treatment for exposure to toxins.
Respondents that reported exposure to toxins were also more likely to be in poor health – almost 90% of people who said their health was either poor or fair in the WWP survey also said they had been exposed to environmental hazards during their military service.
According to Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the VA’s Deputy Under Secretary of Discovery, Education and Affiliate Networks, the VA currently lacks the scientific evidence to establish a causal relationship between exposure to burn pits and a variety of illnesses, but this survey will be taken under consideration. In response to these questions Clancy stated “We’re learning a lot about it. We won’t stop until we get some of these answers,” about these illnesses.
The Wounded Warrior Project has presented its findings to Congress at a Senate Affairs hearing on the VA’s decision-making process for toxic exposure disability benefits. Despite these efforts, the VA has maintained that the scientific evidence is lacking. Their website states that “At this time, research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits. VA continues to study the health of deployed Veterans.”
Though the WWP’s findings have not led to any significant change in the VA, it has led to the creation of a group of VSO’s, researchers and advocates, and the Toxic Exposure in the American Military coalition. All of which are working to create legislation that addresses the problem of toxic exposure in the military.
If you or a loved one has suffered from exposure to toxic substances and wish to speak to an experienced attorney, please contact us today!