The VA has responded to years of lobbying and legislative pressure by granting presumptive disability status for certain conditions linked to burn pit exposure. Termed particulate matter exposure by the VA, it includes any sort of airborne containment or potentially toxic substance that could be breathed in. Examples include smoke and fumes from open burn pits, smoke from oil well fires, and mechanical fumes, among others. By granting presumptive disability status, veterans will only need to show they served in the Southwest Asia theater of operations (Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and more) from August 1990 to the present and Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Syria or Djibouti from Sept. 19, 2001 to the present, to establish a connection to their military service.

Initially only covering Veteran’s suffering from asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis if the conditions manifested within 10 years of active service, VA officials have stated that more conditions may be added in future. The VA will be reaching out to potentially eligible veterans and survivors. Veterans who already have pending claims for these conditions do not need to take any action as the VA will take the recent changes into consideration when deciding their claim.

More information can be found at the VA’s official webpage for Airborne Hazard’s and Burn Pit Exposures. Veterans should also consider joining the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) at which collects information from veterans in order to better understand the long-term consequences of exposure to airborne hazards.