Iowa Veterans Lawyer

VA Accredited Attorney, Practicing throughout Iowa in Veterans Disability, Pensions/Survivors Benefits, and VA Appeals

Category: Service Connected Disability

Compensation for Exposure to Burn Pits

Deployed vets worldwide have been exposed to a range of respiratory ailments associated with burn pits.  This is a growing area of disability among veterans, particularly those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Burn pits are open areas where trash was burned to facilitate disposal.  Smoke from materials that were combusted in these pits contained many substances that, when breathed, cause acute and chronic health issues.  Due to the presence of plastics, chemicals, paints, medical and human waste, ordnance, rubber, oils and lubricants, and wood in these burn pits, veterans were exposed to a wide variety of chemical and toxic agents.  These toxins can end up affecting the skin, respiratory organs, eyes, and even heart, gastrointestinal (stomach/intestines), and other organ systems.

While it’s recognized by the VA and the scientific community that exposure to many of these burned materials can be harmful, there is still some dispute as to the role of these materials in health and disability.  The VA is studying exposure and the health of those who have been exposed.

VA has established an Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry.  Most vets who deployed after August 2nd, 1990 can join the registry (SW Asian theater) or Afghanistan or Djibouti after September 11th, 2001.

Access the Burn Pit Registry at  Those eligible to participate in the registry are also eligible to obtain an optional, no-cost, in-person medical evaluation (not a formal disability examination).

Most VA medical centers also have an individual who is assigned as an Environmental Health Coordinator, who can provide additional information.  Any veteran can file a claim for disability compensation for health problems they believe have an origin in burn pit exposure.  For assistance with any denial of a claim for benefits, contact Iowa veterans’ attorney Joel Fenton at 515-480-1542 or

The Importance of the Claim File – Part Two

There are a number of hidden nuggets of information in most claim files that help your representative get to the key issues in the case.  One of these is the ‘code sheet’ – a document that is generally prepared along with a ratings decision.  The code sheet is the VA’s shorthand reference to important data from a veteran’s entire record.  Think of it as a road map detailing the VA’s route to a denial or a minimal grant of disability.  By examining the described effective dates, impairment ratings, and opinions regarding issues such as service-connectedness and degree of disability, I can generally pinpoint the critical issues that need developed in the case.

The Compensation and Pension Exam is another event where full documentation may only exist in the depths of the claim file.  You’d think that records from this exam would be part of the veteran’s medical record, or something that is routinely given to the veteran as part of his or her care.  This isn’t commonly the case.  Many denials are rooted in an adverse C&P Exam report – it’s critical to get a copy and see what evidence needs to be supplied to overcome a conclusion that there is no nexus between the disability claimed and military service.

Please feel free to contact me at 515-480-1542, e-mail me at, or use the contact link on this website to discuss your claim.

The Importance of the Claim File – Part One

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the claims file in a VA claim.  The claims file is the master set of documents and records that document such important factors as the cause and extent of disability or impairment for the veteran who is seeking benefits and/or compensation.  The records contained in this file can be divided into medical and non-medical records.

Medical records are often, but not always from VA facilities and document routine visits, emergency care, long term therapy, test results, and similar records that are generated any time someone seeks health care.

Non-medical records are supplementary but still very relevant to the issues of cause and extent of disability.  These can include statements of fact from the veteran or someone who served alongside him or her (often called a “buddy statement”). Service records, employment records, records of past VA claims, and miscellaneous files can also be a part of the claims file.

Typically I will order a c-file from the regional office once I have consulted with a veteran, reviewed their latest claim decision, and agreed to investigate his or her claim.  Some claim files are small, others are massive collections of thousands of pages of records.  The first task is to determine if there are parts missing.  Like most bureaucracies, the VA can and does lose track of records, misfiles records and documents, or fails to send an entire file to a requesting party.  I take the file and prepare an organizing index to help me determine what might be missing, and what the file needs in terms of development to successfully argue the veterans’ claim, and what complications there might be in terms of legal arguments or medical facts that will need to be addressed.

Please feel free to contact me at 515-480-1542, e-mail me at, or use the contact link on this website to discuss your claim.

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