TAPS Statement on Military Burn Pit Court Decision


ARLINGTON, Va. -– The following statement is attributable to Bonnie Carroll, President and Founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS):

TAPS cares for the families of our fallen military heroes. Many of these service members may have returned home from a combat zone seemingly healthy, but later died as a result of long-term effects from their deployment, including as a result of illnesses. Millions of service members are estimated to have been exposed to environmental toxins since 9/11.  These exposures include, but are not limited to, exposure to emissions from open-air burn pits. In 2017, nearly a quarter of the new surviving military family members who came to TAPS for support did so after their loved one succumbed to an illness. Illness is second only to suicide as the manner of death for new surviving family members coming to TAPS for support, and now far exceeds the number of deaths due to hostile action.

Fox News recently reported on a January ruling by a judge under the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office for Workers’ Compensation Programs.  The ruling stated that, “open-air burn pits – where thousands of chemicals were released into the air after trash and other waste were incinerated at American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan – are connected to lung disease.”

For surviving families, this is positive progress toward recognizing the probable connection between toxic exposure and illness for the nearly 64,000 active-duty and former service members who have identified themselves on the Department of Veterans Affairs Burn Pit Registry, as well as for the estimated 3.5 million potentially exposed to environmental toxins and contaminates while in uniform. While surviving families are not able to posthumously register their deceased loved ones on the registry, it is still viewed as a step toward recognizing a potential for service connection.

TAPS is dedicated to serving and advocating on behalf of all those who have lost their loved ones as a result of military service whether that be from hostile action or from illnesses in the months or years following their service. We stand committed to assisting all families in obtaining the benefits that were earned during their loved one’s service to our nation.


The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes and has offered support to more than 75,000 surviving family members of our fallen military and their caregivers since 1994. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, grief seminars and retreats for adults, Good Grief Camps for children, case work assistance, connections to community-based care, online and in-person support groups and a 24/7 resource and information helpline for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to www.taps.org or call the toll-free TAPS resource and information helpline at 1.800.959.TAPS (8277).