Evan Craighead All materialsWrite to the authorEarlier this month, US President Joe Biden’s White House announced that it would undertake a number of initiatives geared toward preventing suicides among both active and veteran service members. At the time, the White House noted that suicide among US service members is both a public health and a national security crisis. Biden’s White House commemorated Veterans Day in the US by announcing that the government intends to enhance its support of American troops exposed to contaminants and environmental hazards during their service. Per the Thursday memo, service members exposed to burn pits and other hazardous environments may be eligible for a series of disability claims, including asthma, rhinitis and sinusitis. The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been processing such claims since August, according to the release. Additionally, a new presumptive model has been adopted, allowing the VA to compile a database of veterans who may have been exposed to harmful substances while on duty.
"VA will further test the new presumptive model to assess potential associations between military environmental exposures and constrictive bronchiolitis, lung cancers, and rare respiratory cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx or trachea and salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea," reads the release.
The expanded disability benefits will not be offered to veterans who are more than 10 years out of service.
“The administration will continue to prioritize efforts to support veterans who were exposed to environmental hazards during their military service,” the memo detailed. “At the same time, the administration will work with Congress on its encouraging ongoing efforts to ensure we are able to quickly and fairly recognize additional presumptions of service-connected disabilities, in order to live up to our sacred obligation to provide veterans the care they have earned.” Although no dates were provided, the memo also highlighted that the VA intends to hold Q&A sessions on the implementation of new presumptive disabilities.The White House’s new initiative is likely close to the president’s heart as he has publicly proclaimed that burn pits may have been linked to the brain cancer that killed his son, Beau Biden, in 2015. However, there is no scientific evidence to back up Biden’s suggestion.
The Biden administration is also seeking to lessen the number of suicides among US veterans, who make up 7.9% of the country’s population, but account for approximately 13.5% of suicides in the nation.