A retired army staff sergeant named Bill Thompson cries foul after suffering disastrous lung damage and cannot get full health benefits. After an analysis was done to the lungs by one Dr. Anthony Szema, black spots, scarring, partially combusted jet fuel, and metal were found inside Mr. Thompson’s lungs.
The veteran believes he got this catastrophic damage from breathing incinerated waste burned in open-air pits and other irritants during his Iraq service. He is still surviving on a second transplanted pair of lungs with the U.S Government still not convinced that his lung damage resulted from his claims.
Why He isYet to Receive Full Health Benefits
The U.S military has not linked the open burn pits to the illness. Therefore, those exposed to the open burn pits and are sick do not qualify for benefits.
Certain factors such as length of service, active or reserve status and deployment to combat zones are required to get retirement and health benefits in the U.S army. Additionally, the military considers whether the specific injuries or illnesses are service-related.
During a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on service members’ exposure to toxic substances, Mr. Thompson noted that he was denied the Army retirement because the illness is not a result of combat action.
The Issue is Not New in the U.S.
At least 3.5 million veterans have served in war zones since 2001where the U.S military has disposed of its trash by burning, according to VA estimates. Although it’s not clear how many people have gotten sick from the exposure, the VA’s online burn pit registry has recorded an enrollment of 234,000 soldiers.
According to veterans’ advocacy groups, most claims stemming from toxic exposure to the VA’s agency are denied. Even after former service members reporting having contact with toxins in their deployment, the U.S military has not responded to their benefits.
The action of congressional action seems high this year, with Democrats expressing interests. Additionally, President Joe Biden suspects burn pits are the cause of his son’s death. Presidents Joe Biden’s son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, aged 46 years. Beau had been deployed to Iraq, where he was exposed to two sites with burn pits, one at Baghdad and the other at Balad.
Although he can’t prove it, Biden believes the exposure to burn pits led to his son returning home with stage 4 glioblastoma