Season 1
Episode 1

Burn pits were standard military practice during the wars we waged in the Middle East and now tens of thousands of our veterans are suffering from respiratory diseases, cancers, and other illnesses caused by exposure to the toxic black smoke the pits emitted. That is awful enough, but the Department of Veterans Affairs was also routinely refusing to acknowledge that these illnesses were connected to veterans’ service and was denying them benefits.

Scroll down to learn more about how the veterans we had on our episode and other advocacy groups worked tirelessly to pass legislation that expands access to care for veterans exposed to toxins during service.

Take action

Now that the PACT Act has been passed, it's all about making sure it is implemented in a way that ensures veterans can access their care and benefits in a simple and timely manner.

1) Help eligible veterans

The process for getting veterans who served near burn pits their benefits is now a lot more streamlined. However, it still involves navigating some government bureaucracy. So if there's anyone in your life who is eligible for benefits under the PACT Act, tell them what you've learned and offer to help them get the process going.

Burn Pits 360 and other Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) will also be closely watching how the VA implements these reforms and making sure they're giving veterans what they've been promised. So keep your eyes on their calls to action and reach out to your representatives when you're needed.

2) Other issues facing vets

Burn pit exposure is far from the only issue our vets are confronting. They struggle with unemployment and homelessness. They're also at higher risk for substance abuse, mental health conditions, and suicide. (If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.)

There are many organizations out there helping veterans navigate their lives and health after service. Many of them have volunteer opportunities, if you have time you can donate — that might mean making phone calls or helping vets to fill out paperwork, but every organization has different needs. So if you’ve got special skills (anything from house painting to fundraising), offer them up. You can find local groups by searching in your area or connect with a VSO that's helping vets on a national level:

The American Legion

Veterans of Foreign Wars

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America