Unlocking Compensation: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Claim Burn Pit Exposure

Key Takeaways

Veterans can file a claim for burn pit exposure.
How to claim burn pit exposure: gather evidence, file claim, and complete questionnaire.
Soldiers were exposed to burn pits during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.
Military used burn pits to dispose of waste during deployments.
VA Disability includes 20+ presumptive conditions and locations for burn pits.
Wettermark Keith can help file an appeal for a denied claim for burn pit exposure.

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Unlocking Compensation: A Comprehensive Guide on How to Claim Burn Pit Exposure

Key Takeaways

Veterans can file a claim for burn pit exposure.
How to claim burn pit exposure: gather evidence, file claim, and complete questionnaire.
Soldiers were exposed to burn pits during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.
Military used burn pits to dispose of waste during deployments.
VA Disability includes 20+ presumptive conditions and locations for burn pits.
Wettermark Keith can help file an appeal for a denied claim for burn pit exposure.

United State service members risk their lives when they are deployed for service. Unfortunately, more often than not, their lives remain threatened by illnesses and injuries they contracted in-service, even after they return home. Thousands of American service members were exposed to toxic burn pits during their deployments leading up to and during the Iraq War.

Burns pits were used by the military to dispose of waste on deployment sites, including plastics, chemicals, heavy metals, electronics, and human waste. This produced thick smoke and ash that was carried across U.S. military bases and into the bodies of its members. Many service members have experienced health problems related to this exposure to burn pits, and they can often turn into severe conditions.

Due to the PACT Act, the VA now has a process in which veterans can claim burn pit exposure in their VA Disability claims, which helps them receive compensation for their medical conditions. If you or a loved one were exposed to burn pits during military service, you can understand and navigate the VA claims process using this article in order to get the compensation you rightly deserve.

How do service members claim burn pit exposure with the VA?

Service members who believe they were exposed to burn pits during their military service and are experiencing health issues related to that exposure may file a claim for disability compensation with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
To file a claim for burn pit exposure, the service member must:

1. Gather relevant documentation

This may include military deployment orders, service medical records, and any other relevant medical documents.

2. Submit a claim

The service member should file a claim for disability compensation with the VA. This can be done online through the VA website, by mail, or in person at a VA regional office.

3. Complete a burn pit registry questionnaire

The VA maintains an Open Burn Pit Registry for service members who were potentially exposed to burn pits. When signing up, the service member will complete a questionnaire on the registry to document their exposure and any associated health problems.

4. Provide medical evidence

The service member should provide medical evidence that shows a link between their health problems and burn pit exposure.
The VA will then review the claim and supporting evidence to determine if the service member is eligible for disability compensation based on their burn pit exposure. The process of receiving disability compensation through a VA claim is lengthy and often requires additional evidence or medical evaluations.

What are presumptive conditions associated with burn pits by the VA?

Based on the PACT Act, the VA has added more than 20 burn pit and other toxic exposure conditions to the list of conditions that qualify for VA Disability. Presumptive conditions are ones that the VA presumes to be related to a veteran's military service. If a veteran has a condition from the list of presumptive conditions and can show that they were exposed to certain hazards during their military service, the VA will presume that the condition is related to their service. Then, they will provide disability compensation and other benefits to this veteran.

These presumptive conditions include:


  • Brain Cancer
  • Gastrointestinal cancer of any type
  • Glioblastoma
  • Head cancer of any type
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lymphoma of any type
  • Melanoma
  • Neck cancer of any type
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Reproductive cancer of any type
  • Respiratory cancer of any type


  • Asthma diagnosed post-service
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Chronic rhinitis
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
  • Emphysema
  • Granulomatous disease
  • Interstitial lung disease (ILD)
  • Pleuritis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sarcoidosis

How do you know if you have had presumptive exposure to a military burn pit?

If you completed your service in any of the below locations and during the specified time periods, then the VA considers that you were exposed to burn pits.

These places and locations include:

Any of these locations on or after September 11, 2001:

  • Afghanistan
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Jordan
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Uzbekistan
  • Yemen
  • Airspace in any of these locations

Any of these locations on or after August 2, 1990:

  • Bahrain
  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Somalia
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Airspace above these locations

The VA often updates their lists and makes changes to their qualifications. Therefore, it is always a good idea to contact an attorney from Wettermark Keith if denied disability.

What if I was not located in areas on the presumptive conditions list of where burn pits were used?

If you were not on active-duty in any of the locations or on the dates listed on the VA’s presumptive conditions list, then you can still apply for disability compensation. You will need to demonstrate more evidence to the VA on how you were exposed to a burn pit, as well as medical records detailing how your condition connects to your service.

What was burned in a burn pit?

Burn pits are large open-air pits that were used by the military to burn waste generated at military installations. These types of waste include:
Garbage and food waste
This includes items such as uneaten food, packaging materials, and other organic waste.
Medical waste
This includes items such as blood-soaked bandages, syringes, and other medical equipment.
Chemicals and hazardous materials
This includes items such as paint, batteries, and solvents.
Munitions and other military equipment
This includes items such as unexploded ordnance, vehicles, and other military equipment that was no longer needed.

The above materials produced hazards, like smoke and ash, that contained a range of toxic chemicals and particulate matter.

What substances are released into the air by burn pits?

Burn pits released smoke and ash that contained a wide range of hazardous, toxic chemicals that were detrimental to the soldiers posted in the surrounding areas. Some of the most common toxins and pollutants associated with burn pits include:

1. Particular Matter (PM)

This includes tiny particles of dust, soot, and other microscopic materials that can be inhaled, causing major respiratory problems.

2. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) 

These are toxic compounds that are released after wood, plastic, and rubber are burned.

3. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

These are chemicals released from a variety of materials, which includes solvents, paints, and other chemicals.

4. Dioxins

These are extremely toxic chemicals that are released when plastics, along with other synthetic materials, are burned.

5. Heavy Metals

These materials, including lead, mercury, and other metals, are released when electronics and other items containing heavy metal are burned.

If you were in the vicinity of any of the above materials being burned on a military site, then you have been exposed to highly dangerous toxins and may have a service-connected disability.

What are the most common illnesses that arise from burn pit exposure?

As previously stated, burn pit exposure is associated with a variety of health problems due to the hazards it produces. While the specific illnesses that arise do change depending on the type and duration of exposure, some of the most commonly reported illnesses among service members include:

1. Respiratory problems

Exposure to toxins in pit emissions causes respiratory problems, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

2. Skin conditions

Exposure to burn pits has been linked to skin conditions, such as rashes, blisters, and skin irritation.

3. Neurological problems

Burn pits may be associated with neurological problems like headaches, dizziness, and memory loss.

4. Cancer

Burn pit emissions have been linked to several cancers, including lung cancer, bladder cancer, and lymphoma.

5. Gastrointestinal problems

Exposure to these emissions has been linked to gastrointestinal problems, which include abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Due to ongoing research and discoveries, the full extent of the health effects of burn pit exposure is not yet fully understood, and these common conditions are likely to change over time.

Burn Pit Exposure

How does this compare to agent orange?

Burn pits release Toxic Organic Halogenated Dioxins and Furans, which are a group of harmful chemicals that can cause damage to the immune system, reproductive system, and several types of cancer. Due to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, the VA has become well aware of the risks associated with dioxins. The most toxic dioxin, 2,3,7,8 TCDD, which is also a byproduct of Agent Orange production, was detected in the air of some of these presumptive condition burn pit sites.

While TCDD was found in the air from both Agent Orange and burn pits, it was released along with many other chemicals from burn pits, making it more challenging to study its effects. Around two-thirds of the chemicals detected in burn pits are Class A human carcinogens, which means they are substances that can cause cancer. This is why the VA acknowledges the link between exposure and certain health conditions, and the veteran does not have to prove the connection between the illness and the exposure when they are considered presumptive.

Wettermark Keith: Veterans Affairs Attorneys Can Help With Burn Pit Claims

When applying for a disability claim in regard to your exposure to burn pits, there is a possibility that your application will be denied by the VA. That’s where Wettermark Keith can help. When you partner with Wettermark Keith, you’ll have a team of knowledgeable individuals working for you, making sure that you don’t back down from getting your deserved VA toxic exposure benefits from your claim. Our VA Attorneys are accredited by the Veterans Administration to represent veterans in claims for benefits before the Department of Veterans Affairs, and our only goal is to obtain the resources you need to live the rest of your life with comfort and support.

With offices located throughout Alabama, Tennessee and Florida, Wettermark Keith has an excellent reputation as one of the most accomplished personal injury firms in the country. We have a diverse range of practice areas, including Veterans Affairs. We practice with care and compassion, making sure we understand your disability and convey that to the VA as best as we can. We do this by building strong relationships based on constant communication, trust, and a dedication to the truth. Caring for you is our goal, and winning is just how we show it. Contact us to set up your free consultation with an attorney at Wettermark Keith by calling us or contacting us through our online form.

Frequently Asked Questions

The VA rating for burn pit exposure depends on the specific health condition or conditions that the veteran is experiencing and the severity. The VA uses a disability rating system that ranges from 0% to 100% in increments of 10%-- higher ratings indicating more severe disabilities. The disability rating assigned by the VA determines the amount of compensation the veteran is eligible to receive. Veterans with burn pit exposure-related health conditions can receive disability ratings ranging from 0% to 100% depending on the severity and impact on their life. As much as we would love to give a more precise average, the complexity of the circumstances are too great. There are a long list of factors that determine the given rating. Please reach out to our VA Attorneys so that we can gather more information about your circumstances so that we can be more precise in how we guide you through this process.

To get VA disability for burn pit exposure, you need to file a claim with the VA and provide evidence that your health condition is related to your military service and exposure to burn pits. This involves gathering evidence, filing a claim online or by mail, attending a VA exam to evaluate your health condition, and waiting for a decision from the VA. If you have presumptive conditions, then you have less evidence to produce than others.

The amount of disability compensation you can receive for burn pit exposure depends on the severity of your health condition and how much it impacts your daily life activities. The amount of compensation also depends on whether you are single, married, or have any dependents. Therefore, you must wait until the VA reviews your condition to know more specifics about your own condition. In order to get a good idea of the compensation you will receive, check out our VA Calculator.

Although burn pit exposure is not limited to exactly 23 conditions, the VA has listed the following as presumptive conditions: Gastrointestinal cancer of any type, Glioblastoma, head cancer of any type, kidney cancer, Lymphoma of any type, Melanoma, neck cancer of any type, Pancreatic cancer, reproductive cancer of any type, respiratory cancer of any type, Asthma diagnosed post-service, Chronic Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Chronic Rhinitis, Chronic Sinusitis, Constrictive Bronchiolitis or Obliterative Bronchiolitis, Emphysema, Granulomatous Disease, Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD), Pleuritis, Pulmonary Fibrosis, and Sarcoidosis.

Burn pit exposure typically refers to the inhalation of toxic smoke and fumes that were released by the burning of various waste materials by the military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These materials produced by smoke form a burn pit may include chemicals, plastics, medical and human waste, paint, batteries, and other hazardous materials.

You can prove exposure to burn pits by providing evidence that you served in Iraq or Afghanistan during the relevant period and were stationed near a burn pit. You can also submit statements from other service members who witnessed the burn pits and any medical records that show symptoms of exposure.

After you file your claim, the VA will review your evidence and medical records and may schedule you for a Compensation and Pension (C&P) exam. If your claim is approved, you will receive a disability rating and monthly compensation payments. If your burn pit claim is denied, you can file an appeal with an attorney from Wettermark Keith.

The VA claims process can be lengthy, and the time it takes to receive a decision on your claim can vary. On average, it can take several months to a year or more to receive a decision, depending on the complexity of your case.

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