Military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are exposed to many dangers of varying degree every day. While one may expect dangers related to hostile actions by enemy combatants, those related to environmental concerns often receive less attention. As of Aug. 11, however, military personnel exposed to harmful materials found in burn pits have been added to the "compassionate allowances" list to expedite the approval process for Social Security disability benefits.
While serving in the Middle East, a large number of Army and military personnel were routinely exposed to toxic smoke from burn pits and fires. The toxins emitted into the air have resulted in some veterans developing an irreversible disease called constrictive or obliterative bronchiolitis. The disease causes narrowing or constricting to occur in the small airways of the lungs.
Individuals who suffer from constrictive bronchiolitis are typically not able to perform physical tasks that require mobility. Likewise, they may have difficulty walking or breathing on their own and may need the assistance of a respirator to breath. One former military helicopter pilot developed the disease after performing missions near burning sulfur mines in Iraq.
Discharged from the military for medical reasons, the formerly fit and active veteran now has difficulty walking more than a few steps without feeling winded and out of breath. He is one of many veterans who were exposed to the toxic fumes associated with the mass open burn pits used for waste disposal. Many of these pits were often located near military living quarters and were used to dispose of various waste materials including plastics, batteries and even body parts.
The decision by the Social Security Administration to add obliterative bronchiolitis to their list of compassionate allowances, virtually guarantees that veterans found to be suffering from the debilitating disease will quickly qualify for and receive disability benefits.
Source: Army Times, "Lung disease put on list for faster benefits," Patricia Kime, Aug. 11, 2012