Occupational Health News Roundup

44-year-old Iraq veteran Tim Wymore suffers from brain lesions, a blood disorder, and other health problems that leave him unable to walk unassisted. His wife, Shanna, quit her job to be his full-time caregiver. Wymore is one of several hundred veterans who’ve fired lawsuits related to exposure to open-air burn pits at US miliatry installations. Yet he’s struggling to get benefits for himself and his family. Phillip O’Connor reports in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The Department of Veterans Affairs acknowledges that Wymore’s health problems are war-related.

But the VA believes his condition may improve. Because of that, the VA has yet to declare Wymore permanently disabled. As a result, his family is not eligible for many benefits. Those include medical insurance for his wife and college costs for their three sons. Also, Wymore worries that should he die, the VA will not pay a survivor’s benefit to his wife unless she can prove his death is directly related to his military service, a challenge he doesn’t want to put her through.

“I took the oath and did what was asked of me,” he said. “Now, I feel it’s time for the military to do their part. I’m tired of fighting them.”

Veterans and their survivors from 42 states are suing KBR, the contractor that operated many of the base burn pits. The lawsuits have been consolidated in Maryland, and a federal judge ruled earlier this month that the case can go forward.

In other news:

Washington Post: Activists groups in India say that this year eleven people have been killed – or found dead under mysterious circumstances – after exposing corruption. The demand for a law to protect whistleblowers has been intensifying, and the Indian government has now introduced legislation that proposes a way to deal with corruption and penalties for those who disclose whistleblowers’ identities.

OSHA: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published interim final rules on whistleblower procedures and is accepting comments on it until November 1, 2010.

New York Times: Discussions about increasing the retirement age must take into account the one in three workers over age 58 who do physically demanding jobs and would find it difficult to work for many more years.

Lexington Herald-Leader: During a series of special inspections, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has written hundreds of citations to coal mines, many of them for significant alleged safety violations.

Environmental Health Perspectives: We have too little hard data on the health of emergency responders, but there’s hope that research on Deepwater Horizon responders will yield useful lessons.