Pols Want Gao To Analyze Iraq Burn Pit Data
And Jim Strickland offers advice to vets who may have been exposed to toxins from Iraq burn pits.
05.28.09


----------------------------------------

Note:  Letters in my Q&A columns are reprinted just as they come to me. Spelling and grammar are left as is and only small corrections are made to improve readability, ensure anonymity or delete expletives that may offend some readers. This is not legal advice. You should always seek the advice of an attorney who is qualified in Veterans' law before you make any decisions about your own benefits.

----------------------------------------

Letter:
Jim,
I've completed 2 tours in Iraq. After being stop-lossed and spending a lot more time than I ever expected to in the Army I'm finally home. I was lucky, didn't get wounded although it was close on a lot of occasions. I'm adjusting to civilian life and it's a struggle to adapt to it but I think I'll be OK. I'm slowly becoming aware that I have some health problems though. I'm short of breath mostly. I'm sometimes dizzy and I get waves of nausea for no reason...it just hits me.

I've started reading VA Watchdog dot Org and now I think I understand what may be wrong. I spent a lot of my time guarding one of those burn pits during my second deployment.

My VA doctors don't seem to understand what I'm talking about when I tell them how much smoke I inhaled. I'm not severely ill so they don't seem very concerned about my breathing problems or my dizzy spells.

I'm afraid this is getting worse and it doesn't seem like anyone is paying attention. Is VA aware of any of this and should I be compensated for it? Thanks.


Reply:
This is the sort of thing that gives me nightmares. As is so often the case, the DOD and the DVA don't seem to want to act swiftly and surely to get a good grip on what's the truth about these massive burn pits. Every time I read of the toxins we're producing in our latest war I think of the national tragedy that is Agent Orange. (Original "Curtis Burn Pit Memo" is here.)

It was apparent early on that dioxin was a carcinogen with a long list of deleterious health effects. It didn't require a degree in advanced rocket science to see that the herbicides we smothered our troops and the country of Vietnam in was causing deadly problems. The stuff affected the genetic makeup of a veterans sperm and passed on broken strands of DNA to future generations. To this day we don't clearly understand how many future generations may be affected.

Our government did the best it could to silence the people who were raising alarms. Unlike some other governments we don't throw our scientists into gulags in Siberia or behead dissenters in a public square. We organize them into government controlled projects and fund them with grants and then we study the issue to death over periods of decades. We choke them down with requiring more and more data and research and data until the problem has literally died out and little action is required.

Thus...the powers that be can avoid committing to plans of action early on that may save the lives of tens of thousands.

The data is there, it's being collected and there are some groups of scientists and representatives who are interested in you and your brothers and sisters in arms. Much to their credit, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization is a driver of much of the positive action occurring here. I'm told that the DAV investigation is aggressive and that DAV is turning up more data each day. An alarming trend is that a significant percentage of veterans who have health issues related to burn pits are developing cancers at a statistically anomalous rate.

Larry Scott, Founder & Editor of VA Watchdog dot Org, has done a great job of organizing a lot of the published literature and articles here
( http://vawatchdog.org/iraqwartoxins.htm ) You'd be doing yourself a favor to read all of that.

I've been pleasantly surprised to see The Army Times reporting on this and not trying to whitewash the issues ( http://tinyurl.com/o55uz6 )  (Latest Army Times report is here.)

Of great interest is this document.  This is impressive in that there are 13 signatures of Senators and Representatives requesting a GAO review of the CHHPM/AFOIH study. I'd like to think that we may be ahead of the curve this time.

There are numerous studies and fact sheets available and more are coming each day. You may want to review the military report:  SCREENING HEALTH RISK ASSESSMENT BURN PIT EXPOSURES BALAD AIR BASE.

This is the report that states:

   Findings indicate that measured exposure levels from burn pit operations are not routinely above deployment military exposure guidelines (MEGs) for exposures up to 1 year.

It also reassures us:

   These results indicate an “acceptable” health risk for both cancer and non-cancer long-term health effects.

IMPORTANT!

I advise that anyone who can document that they were exposed to the noxious fumes of burn pits while they were deployed and who may be experiencing untoward health problems to proceed to filing a disability compensation claim. If you're short of breath (SOB) today, you need to begin that long process of providing evidence that your condition is caused by your service.

If you file a claim for shortness of breath/breathing problems the C & P exam should include a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) and that will be an important baseline marker for your future. If your SOB is worse next year or five years from now, you'll have the PFT in your records to measure against so you know just how much the problem has progressed.

Google