Veterans Voices: Vermont National Guard members exposed to burn pits face health risks

Veterans Voices

Members of the Vermont National Guard could face serious health risks if they were exposed to burn pits, an area of a military base used to dispose of waste. The Guard is urging veterans to apply for benefits under the Department of Veterans Affairs burn pit registry. 

Mike Davis, public affairs superintendent for Vermont National Guard, is one of 700 U.S guardsmen exposed to burn pits. Davis was deployed to Iraq with the Vermont Air National Guard.

“It was in 2006 and then in 2007,” Davis said. “Each lasted three months.”

“I don’t have any symptoms that I know of,” he added. 

In August, the VA added 3 presumptive conditions related to particulate matter exposure: asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis. To be eligible for benefits, vets must have developed one of these conditions within 10 years of leaving active duty.

Jeffrey Stebbins, chief of the 158th Fighter Wing Command, said everything went into the burn pit. “What I witnessed was anything from water bottles to the dining facility plates, spoons, plastic wear and tires,” he said. 

Stebbins said the registry is important “because as time goes on, more and more cases are popping up that don’t have answers. I think if more soldiers and airmen register on the site, it’s data.”

Any veteran who thinks they qualify for the benefits should contact the Vermont National Guard veteran outreach specialist.

“To the airmen, soldiers, marines and the coast guards that are ever exposed to burn pits, it’s a good opportunity to get your information into the VA burn pit registry.”

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