New York State Bar Association Honors Attorney for Pioneering Burn Pit Exposure Case
The Veterans Committee of the New York State Bar Association recognized Daniel C. Perrone who successfully fought the Veterans Administration and won a settlement for his client Wes Black at a virtual ceremony Tuesday. Black died from colon cancer following exposure to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In accepting the award, Perrone deferred to the sacrifice of his client Wes and his family. “It’s important to reflect back on where we have come and look to the work ahead of us,” he said. ” I thank my client Wes for his service and dedication.”
His case centered around a malpractice claim against the Veterans Administration Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, for misdiagnosis of colon cancer as irritable bowel syndrome. According to Perrone, the VA did not consider Black’s wartime exposure to burn pits in the diagnosis. The federal government settled the case for $3 million, which was the first successful suit dealing with the effects of burn pit exposure.
Veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq are fighting a different war on the home front. Exposed to toxic fumes, chemicals and burning waste, many veterans are battling and dying from rare and aggressive cancers. The Veterans Administration acknowledges many health conditions resulting from military service due to burn pit exposure and is actively studying the issue.
In an interview with WCAX in Burlington, Perrone said the Black case was already helping other veterans. “It puts the VA medical center in a position in having to change the way they treat our veterans. It’s going to force them to take a look at the harmful effects that burn pit exposure is having on our troops,” he said. “This is a battle worth fighting.”
NYSBA Veterans Committee co-chair Chad Lennon says Perrone’s work is breaking new ground in fighting for veterans’ healthcare.
“We honor Dan Perrone for his hard work in successfully litigating this issue that will benefit future veterans,” Lennon said. “The work is not done, but we are on our way to holding the government accountable for these injuries.”
The award is named for Judge Robert T. Russell who founded the first Veterans’ Treatment Court in Buffalo in 2008. Judge Russell retired from the bench in 2021, but his legacy continues in the 500 specialized courts now across the country addressing the needs of veterans.