WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has denied about 78% of disability claims related to toxic exposure, as thousands of veterans seek care from the agency for illnesses that they believe were caused by serving overseas near burn pits, an agency official said Wednesday.
Between 2007 and 2020, VA approved disability claims related to burn-pit exposure for 2,828 veterans out of 12,582, according to Laurine Carson, deputy executive director of policy and procedures for VA.
The gap in veterans who are approved for benefits drew the ire of lawmakers who argued the VA should give presumptive care for veterans, saying the agency does not have clear guidelines for who gets burn-pit compensation.
“Many people are saying this is the Agent Orange of the post-9/11 generation,” Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., chairwoman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subpanel on disability assistance and memorial affairs, said Wednesday during a hearing on the matter.
“We are now seeing young veterans in their 20s or 30s suddenly debilitated by cancers they would not reasonably contract unless they were heavy smokers or deep into old age,” Luria said. “We may not have all the answers on burn-pit exposure, if ever. What we do know is that it’s making people very sick. I can’t tell these people to sit down to wait another 10 years because quite frankly, some of them might not have another 10 years.”