Veteran with lung disease awarded compensation from burn pit exposure in Iraq

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COLORADO SPRINGS — After a long court battle, Veronica Landry, a former military base contractor, is now receiving compensation for the lung disease she developed while working in Iraq from 2004-2005.

Landry, who lives in Colorado Springs, said that she went to Iraq healthy and has been a non-smoker her entire life.

When she came back, she had trouble breathing issues and went to a doctor to discover that her lungs were severely impacted by the exposure to the toxins in the air, caused by burn pits that were used to destroy waste.

She said the burn pits operated 24/7 and burned everything including styrofoam, batteries, air conditioning parts, whole vehicles, hazardous materials, ammunition, and more.

When she initially tried to get compensation, she was denied by the workers’ compensation insurance company, AIG. A judge initially denied her compensation, telling her she was able to return to Iraq.

Landry was then diagnosed with subacute obliterative (constrictive) bronchiolitis due to inhalation of chemical fumes and vapors, chronic pleuritis, and fibrosis – all proven through open lung biopsy. Doctors advised that she not return to Iraq due to these conditions.

Landry also suffered from a hyperdynamic airway collapse with an 85-90% collapse of her trachea and mainstem bronchi. In addition, she has obstructive sleep apnea, hypoxemia, and toxic/hypoxic brain injury.

On a daily basis, Landry says she uses oxygen, inhalers, and nebulizers just to be able to breathe clearly. She says that normal activities such as walking and exercising are often difficult and it has affected her entire life.

She strives to eliminate dangerous toxins in her environment, creating her own natural cleaning products and eats organic as much as possible.

Landry had a tough four-year court battle, but recently had her case modified after a judge admitted that he made a mistake.

The judge awarded her worker’s compensation disability through the Defense Base Act. She says although the amount she received is not comparable to the amount she’s spent on medical bills and treatments- it’s a step in the right direction for legislation.

It’s been called ‘the war that’s followed us home,” and it’s been a really long journey. The results aren’t quite what I hoped what they would be but they are good enough. They are good enough to hopefully be a springboard to help others… veterans, contractors, anyone who was in those areas, where they had burn pits and were exposed to the toxins. My hope is that it will help everybody.

Veronica Landry

According to KDVR, many veterans dealing with burn pit health impacts are also struggling to get treatment covered. The Department of Veterans Affairs established a voluntary burn pit registry. More than 180,000 people have signed up.

Of the more than 12,000 claims filed, only about 2,500 have been accepted.

Landry hopes that if anyone is suffering from lung problems, and have been exposed to burn pit toxins, that they seek medical attention immediately.

She is also encouraging others to call legislators and request they co-sponsor HR 4574 otherwise known as, “The Right to Breath Act“. The Act would provide a presumption of service connection to nine pulmonary diseases. As a result, veterans exposed to burn pits would qualify to receive compensation benefits and free health care for such diseases.

Recently, Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” has spoken out to bring awareness of burn pits. Read about his efforts here.

>To learn more and read about burn pit exposure, and for more on Landry’s story, visit her Facebook Burn Pits Exposure.

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