Veteran Service Officer (VSO) speaking to Veteran: Hello, how can I help you?
Veteran: I’d like to file for Burn Pits.
VSO: You’d like to file for…
Veteran: I deployed to Afghanistan. I want to file for Burn Pits.
VSO: You…you can’t file for burn pits.
Veterans will say ‘I was in Vietnam, can I file for Agent Orange?’ or ‘I was in the Gulf War, I want to file for Burn Pits.’ Here’s the thing, it doesn’t quite work like that. I was talking to a Veteran the other day who wanted to file for ‘the extra money that the burn pit legislation talked about’.
The new PACT Act which went into effect last week doesn’t mean that all Veterans who deployed for the Gulf War, or the wars afterward, will get extra money. The PACT Act made over 20 illnesses / disabilities presumptive for people who have been deployed during the Gulf War and the wars afterward.
What does this mean? It means that a Veteran has to start with a diagnosis of some type of illness or disability.
Filing a case for a presumptive disability is much easier than other disabilities. A Veteran does not have to prove service connection. IF their military records shows their presence in one of the affected countries (or areas for Agent Orange) AND they are diagnosed with the presumptive illness, service connection is no longer a concern. The VA presumes that the illness is due to their service.
To start, there are three things needed for a claim to be successful with the VA. The first is a current diagnosis. This applies even for presumptive illnesses. Let’s illustrate.
If a Veteran was deployed to Iraq anytime from Aug 7, 1990 until today, they are ELIGIBLE to file for presumptive illnesses. But, they must be diagnosed with one of those illnesses before filing a claim. IF that Veteran is diagnosed next week with asthma, or with some respiratory cancer, or any of those 23 presumptive illnesses to the right…THEN they can file a claim with the VA.
Diagnosis = Disability
Without a diagnosis, there is no claim. Without an illness / disability, there is nothing to file for. This is why we say that a Veteran cannot file for Agent Orange, or for Burn Pits. Agent Orange is not a diagnosis. Neither is burn pits. Exposure to Agent Orange or Burn Pits are known to have caused certain illnesses and disabilities. Once you have actually been diagnosed with one of those particular illnesses, then you apply for VA compensation.
Burn Pit Presumptives
- Head Cancer of any type
- Neck Cancer of any type
- Respiratory Cancer of any type
- Gastrointestinal Cancer of any type
- Reproductive Cancer of any type
- Lymphoma Cancer of any type
- Lymphomatic Cancer of any type
- Kidney Cancer
- Brain Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Granulomatous Disease
- Interstitial Lung Disease
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
- Chronic Sinusitis
- Chronic Rhinitis
When Do I File?
That is easy. If you currently have a diagnosis of one of these conditions, file NOW. You can file online, or make an appointment with your local Veteran Service Officer and file with them. But don’t wait until the ‘effective date’ published in the PACT Act. The VA is advising anyone who has a diagnosis with one of these conditions to go ahead and file now.
What do I need in order to file?
You will need your DD214 to prove military service. In addition, you will need your Medical records from any doctor you have seen that is outside the VA Medical system. Specifically, you will need the medical records that pertain to the condition you are filing the claim about.
Veteran will need a copy of their marriage certificate, and if they have dependent children under the age of 18 they will need a copy of the birth certificates.
If they have been divorced and remarried, they should also have a copy of any and all previous marriage certificates and divorce decrees.
The Veteran is prepared to file a claim with this information. The previous marriage certificates and divorce decrees are necessary since the VA will make sure that the current marriage is legal.
Hurry Up and Wait
Finally, hurry up and wait. The VA is advising all Veterans who are diagnosed with one of the presumptive illnesses to file now. However, this will result in an influx of new cases when the VA is currently tens of thousands of cases behind. Therefore, Veterans should file their claim, but be patient while waiting for the VA to respond with a decision. And there you have it. IF you have any of the presumptive illnesses, file now. If you do not, let your fellow Veterans know about them.