Veterans Affairs officials will review whether three more types of cancer should be added to the list of conditions presumed to be caused by exposure to toxic smoke from military burn pits and poor air quality throughout combat zones in the recent wars, potentially paving the way for thousands more veterans to receive expedited disability benefits.
On Tuesday, department leaders announced they are conducting new scientific studies to determine whether acute leukemias, chronic leukemias, and multiple myeloma outside of the head and neck in veterans are likely connected to military service in Iraq, Afghanistan and much of Southwest Asia. Troops there breathed in a combination of dust, pollution and smoke from giant military waste fires, all of which may have led to the formation of the diseases.
The move is part of the administration’s ongoing focus on toxic exposure issues, which ramped up one year ago following the passage of the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (better known as the PACT Act).
That legislation mandated presumptive benefit status for 12 types of cancer and 12 other respiratory illnesses linked to burn pit exposure in the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan and the War in Iraq, as well as the same status for conditions like hypertension among Vietnam veterans and radiation-related illnesses for veterans who served in the 1960s and early 1970s.