A rare lung disease plaguing some veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan was recently added to the Social Security Administration "compassionate allowances" list, something which could make it easier for them to receive disability benefits later on, Military Times reports.
The condition is known as constrictive bronchiolitis, and is present in some veterans who were exposed to burn pits and fires over the last decade. The disease is caused when scar tissue narrows tiny passageways in the lungs, and often presents itself with symptoms similar to asthma, emphysema or pneumonia.
Constrictive bronchiolitis is one of more than 50 other conditions added to the compassionate allowances list, and has been hailed as a significant victory for a number of veterans. Many servicemembers worked at or near pits used to burn waste material, a practice which often created toxic smoke.
"This is a huge breakthrough for us," Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Neil Roger, who was diagnosed with the disease, told the publication. "It practically guarantees us benefits."
Though it is a step in the right direction, the issue of burn pit-related injuries and illnesses is still a significant one for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Specifically, the VA is looking for ways to assess the number of troops with such injuries, however it shot down the idea of a registry earlier this year, according to Army Times.