Following a fierce legal battle inside and outside courtrooms that lasted a decade, veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars lost their final chance to receive compensation for illnesses caused by toxic smoke while serving overseas.
The group of veterans had sued the military contractor KBR, Inc. for running huge burn pits, which burned tires and medical waste, near to military installations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those burn pits created clouds of toxic smoke.
The case was initially heard by a U.S. district court and then by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Both of the courts ruled in favor of KBR, Inc., and now the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal by the group, leaving hundreds of veterans seriously sick but without compensation. The rulings reasoned that KBR, Inc. was under the jurisdiction of the U.S. military when it ran the burn pits, and consequently cannot be held responsible.
“I returned home from war to face a health care system that failed me and an employer too afraid to understand an uncommon war injury resulting in termination of my law enforcement career,” said Leroy Torres, who served in the Army Reserve for 23 years and came back from Iraq with a serious lung disease. “[I’m] subsequently facing foreclosure, while at the same time receiving VA denial letters for compensation for illnesses still not recognized by VA.”