Yesterday someone sent me a link to the website of an attorney who’s been following “burn pit” stories and activities, and keeping an updated collection of burn pit claims in the news. There, I found a link to an official Department of Veterans Affairs document which outlines, among other things “guidance on handling claims for disabilities potentially resulting from exposure to environmental hazards while on active duty.” I was heartened to see, in this document, the weight to be assigned to the Veteran’s own testimony about his or her illness:
Because scientific studies regarding health effects from exposures are in the preliminary stages, raters should carefully review the nature, dates, and locations of the Veteran’s military service, and apply the law under a broad and liberal manner, consistent with all available facts and circumstances. Claims should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with evidentiary weight given to medical examinations and opinions from both private and VA physicians. In all cases, the benefit of the doubt shall be given to the Veteran.
The VA has also put up a burn pit website. The photo here is from the “officially unclassified” account that was published by the 203rd MI BN’s own account of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Beth says that there were probably “dozens” of these burn pit barrels burning at any given time. It’s hard to avoid exposure on a day to day basis, much less avoiding exposure when you’re working on these things.
This photo was taken at the Talil Air Base, Iraq (now is Ali Air Base). It’s been officially released by the 203rd MI BN in their unclassified (CD .ppt) account of Operation Iraqi Freedom, November 2002-November 2003. Beth also was located at the Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), Iraq, and she did quite a bit of running in Northern Iraq, around Mosul. (She was nearby when Saddam’s sons were killed in a gunfight).