New veteran disability benefits for burn pit victims may still take time to process

veteran disability caused by burn pits

Veterans Affairs officials expect to publish new rules granting presumptive benefits status for military burn pit victims as early as next week, but payouts still may take time for some veterans.

On Monday, department officials announced plans to give presumptive status for disability benefits to veterans who contracted asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis after serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other overseas war zones.

The move comes after years of lobbying by advocates for more lenient evaluation of disability claims regarding toxic exposure issues overseas, and after months of legislative work on the issue from the House and the Senate.

VA Secretary Denis McDonough said an internal review of available research on burn pits and particulate matter pollution supported the change, and promised to “use a holistic approach in determining toxic exposure presumptives moving forward.”

But getting payouts in the hands of affected veterans will still take time. The department will publish an interim final rule this week. VA will be able to process claims and begin payouts after that happens.

For claims already in the system, those payouts could take a few days or weeks to start. For individuals submitting news claims, or resubmitting old claims, the wait could be much longer.

VA officials are reaching out to individuals who have filed claims in the past for the three illnesses to determine their eligibility

The department estimated more than 3.5 million troops were exposed to the toxic smoke from burn pits during overseas deployments over the last 20 years. Individuals eligible for the presumptive benefits status had to have developed one of the illnesses within 10 years of separation from the military, and had to have served in one of the following areas: (continue reading)

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