How Our VA Benefits Attorney Fights for the Rights of Service Members Sickened By Dust and Particles

For years, veterans have been denied health care and benefits for respiratory illnesses they developed after exposure to dust and particles. These hazards are connected to numerous lung illnesses that have taken away veterans’ quality of life and put their health in danger. However, the PACT Act makes obtaining vital health care and benefits easier for veterans. Sean Kendall, Attorney at Law, can help you navigate the system and secure the benefits you deserve. Our team will do everything in our power to ensure that your rights are respected and help you work within the system. We get results for our clients who trust us with their future. 

The Respiratory Risks to Service Members Both Overseas and at Home 

The United States has fought three wars in desert locations, beginning with Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm over three decades ago. More recently, millions of military personnel were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, often for multiple tours of deployment. The conditions at these locations resulted in exposure to both sand and other polluted particles in the air. 

  • Afghanistan is known to have some of the worst pollution in the world, especially in the Kabul area, where many troops were deployed. At one point, 30 percent of air samples in Kabul contained particles of feces. 
  • One study showed that 69 percent of personnel returning from Afghanistan and Iraq developed some type of respiratory disorder. Beyond the Middle East and desert areas, service members have also been stationed in Southeast Asia, which has some of the world’s highest concentrations of dust particles. 

Sand particles don’t present a danger just for individuals deployed overseas. Many service members are stationed in U.S. desert areas at some point in their military careers. Others work with or in proximity to vehicles or in industrial environments, where they are exposed to dust particles. For example, they could be supervising or working on projects at construction sites, where there are high concentrations of dust and sand.

The Dangers of Burn Pits

People who served in close proximity to burn pits suffered another acute health hazard. They were exposed to particles and dust and inhaled toxic chemicals for a prolonged period. Burn pits are connected to numerous deadly illnesses such as chronic respiratory conditions and cancer. At Sean Kendall Law, we know by helping people claim veterans’ benefits that there are at least 20 types of presumptive cancers related to burn pit exposures.

Respiratory Illnesses From Exposure to Dust and Particles Black woman using asthma inhaler

Active and former service members exposed to dust and particles are at risk of developing respiratory conditions and other illnesses. Sandstorms present a problem because the particles are small enough not to be expelled from the lungs. In some cases, larger particles pass from the lungs easier, or never even make their way into the lungs at all. 

For example, service members who were deployed to Iraq have been diagnosed with the following respiratory conditions:

  • Bronchiolitis. This infection of the bronchioles impacts the lung’s airways. Bronchiolitis is usually temporary, but some may suffer from serious long-term complications.
  • Shortness of breath. Dust or particles often compromise your ability to take full, normal breaths, which affects many daily activities.  
  • Asthma. Exposure to dust causes airways to narrow and potentially produce extra mucus, restricting breathing. These particles can also aggravate an existing asthma condition and worsen it. 
  • Eosinophilic pneumonia. This disease is excess white blood cells building in your lungs, disrupting normal function.
  • Small airway disease. This is a family of illnesses caused by inhaled toxins and extensive lung inflammation.

Exposure to dust and particles isn’t always a short-term issue for service members. While some may be able to expel the particles when they sneeze or cough, others retain them in their lungs for years or even decades without being fully released. The dust will remain there for years or decades and never be permanently expelled. As a result, service members have developed serious conditions over time that can change the course of their lives, such as delayed pulmonary edema, respiratory muscle dysfunction, or a combination of illnesses. 

How the PACT Act Changed the Legal Situation for Injured Veterans

For many years, veterans have been frustrated in their attempts to get disability benefits for respiratory conditions. Many of them had their applications denied, as the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) often took the position that the service member’s illness wasn’t connected with their military service. It was difficult for many veterans to prove there was a direct correlation that could establish benefit entitlement. 

The PACT Act changed the landscape for military personnel who developed respiratory conditions in the line of duty. Signed into law by President Joe Biden in August 2022, the PACT Act now allows numerous respiratory illnesses to be presumptively connected to active service. This means a veteran applying for VA disability benefits no longer has to provide evidence of the connection like before. 

Here’s how the PACT Act recognizes your circumstances. 

  • First, you automatically qualify for VA health care if you were exposed to toxins or other hazards during military service at home or abroad. 
  • Then, you could qualify for a disability rating and benefits if you’re diagnosed with the following respiratory illnesses:
    • Asthma that was diagnosed after service
    • Chronic bronchitis
    • Constrictive bronchiolitis or obliterative bronchiolitis
    • Emphysema
    • Interstitial lung disease

The changes made by the PACT Act are intended to make life easier for service members who were sickened but couldn’t qualify for benefits. However, many veterans report that the VA is still making it difficult for veterans to obtain the benefits.

Attorney Sean Kendall Works Hard to Get the Benefits Service Members Deserve

When dealing with the VA, it helps to have an attorney with successful experience handling these claims and working with the agency. Sean Kendall and his team work exclusively on veterans' benefits and disability issues. We’ve won cases for our clients worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

The VA is a large bureaucracy, and the claims process is often difficult to navigate. You need an experienced veterans benefits attorney who can fight for your rights when necessary. Sean has passionately advocated for veterans for nearly four decades. He’s guided thousands of veterans through the VA disability process—even on complicated appeals—fighting for them to get the care and disability benefits they deserve when they have paid the price for their service with their health. Download our VA Benefits Handbook to learn more about how we can help you not settle for rejection.