Central Texas widow encourages increased focus on ‘burn pit benefits’

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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) – Research shows more than 240,000 veterans signed up for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ burn pit registry, but 70% of applications were denied, leading a central Texas widow to raise awareness of the issue .

Lauren McAninch’s husband, Dr. Scott McAninch, died of lung cancer a few months ago. The couple believed he had developed the cancer due to his exposure to burn sites.

She said her exhibit would come in the 2000s during her three tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. They were lucky enough to receive all VA benefits, but Lauren McAninch said many other families weren’t so lucky.

“It was actually the pulmonologist who brought up the burn spots because Scott was a non-smoker,” Lauren McAninch said.

Scott McAninch, a well-known physician throughout Temple, was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2020. After his diagnosis, they began the process to try to get benefits.

It took about six months.

Even with photos, research and documents, Lauren McAninch said she believes there are still doubts about Scott McAninch’s qualification.

“One of the ladies I spoke with had made the comment, it’s going to be very hard for you to prove,” she said.

She was happy to hear the President mention the issue of fireplaces during his State of the Union address. Now, she hopes more can come from the president’s trip to Fort Worth to discuss the burn pit and other health benefits for veterans.

“I choose to be optimistic,” Lauren McAninch said.

She and others are also encouraged by a bill passed last week by the House of Representatives that expands benefits for those exposed to combustion fireplaces.

“A man from my church a few days ago in a restaurant, he asked me, ‘Have you watched the news?’ Yeah, he said, ‘well, I’ll call my rep and see how they voted,’ Lauren McAninch said.

His appeal to the public now is to seek out more families.

“Look out for those families who are in situations like ours,” Lauren McAninch said. “And write letters to their representatives on their behalf.”

Related link: Beloved Central Texas doctor loses battle with cancer

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