Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are becoming increasingly concerned that exposure to toxins produced by burn pits during deployments will parallel the experiences with VA suffered by the Vietnam generation’s Agent Orange. In an effort to help address these concerns, earlier this year Congress passed the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. This Act marks the first major step by Congress to research how burn pits affected veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, while this legislation is another step forward in helping veterans suffering from exposure to burn pits, a true solution for burn pit exposure is most likely still years away.
Following the example set by the Social Security Administration, the US Department of Veterans Affairs has implemented a 2% cost of living adjustment ("COLA") for 2018 for service connected disability benefits. Under this change, monthly payments for a veteran without dependents rated at 100% will be $2,973.86. Changes for all rating levels can be viewed at this link. Although the 2018 COLA was published in the Federal Register on February 18, the rate changes are effective December 1, 2017.
To the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the word veteran has a very specific meaning. The U.S. government defines the word veteran at 38 U.S.C. § 101(2). This provision states that the term “veteran” means a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” This definition seems to be straightforward on its face. However, as with anything involving lawyers or bureaucracy, it is not as simple as it seems.
Attorneys Shana Dunn and Travis West provide perspective on practicing veterans law. The attorneys discuss the challenges of operating a practice dedicated to assisting veterans, and why those challenges may result in fewer lawyers venturing into the area of law. They also discuss their personal motivations for creating West & Dunn, and why they believe providing assistance to veterans is important.