Huntsville, AL: The addition of a pulmonary condition to the list of compassionate allowances for modern-day war veterans returning home may help those who have suffered breathing and lung problems from burn pit exposure overseas, and also serves as a vindication for anyone fighting a burn pit lawsuit.
However, such a narrow response does not help any service personnel, or anyone for that matter diagnosed with any other condition, such as Parkinson's, that can also trace back to military burn pits.
Such was the case with Russell Keith. As told in a column published by the Huntsville Times (8/16/12), Keith came back from Iraq and Afghanistan only to have his return home to friends and family ravaged by posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Parkinson's disease.
Keith was in Iraq twice, serving as a paramedic. However, while there he and a number of others were exposed to a 10-acre burn pit, which is described as having 'constantly simmered' with smoke and dust. Many a burn pit lawsuit has been filed against Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), and a subsidiary at the time of the goliathan Halliburton Inc. No fewer than 200 plaintiffs scattered across 42 states allege health problems tied to the Balad burn pit.
Keith was one of those plaintiffs. He died, during the second week of August this past summer, at the age of 53.
Keith was not reported to have suffered from constrictive bronchitis—also known as obliterative bronchiolitis or bronchiolitis obliterates—pulmonary conditions which have now been recognized by the Social Security Administration as a compassionate allowance.
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The allowance was added following medical research that identified the pulmonary condition as being causally related to dust and fumes stemming from open pit burning in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But that didn't help Keith, who was also a civilian employee of KBR. He had put Iraq and Afghanistan behind him. He had also put his burn pit litigation behind him. Sadly, his life is also behind him now. Mark McCarter, a columnist for the Huntsville Times, regards Keith as a casualty of war.
Keith's neurologist, according to McCarter, noted his patient's Parkinson's disease was due to exposure to Iraq burn pits.
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