NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A debate among doctors could determine whether tens of thousands of soldiers are diagnosed as disabled and entitled to benefits.
It comes down to what kind of test is appropriate for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe breathing problems.
Vanderbilt Pulmonologist, Doctor Robert Miller, told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that many soldiers have permanent lung damage that is not detected on standard tests.
But military doctors have openly criticized Doctor Miller's use of an invasive test and even questioned results that show so many sick soldiers.
Many of the soldiers blame their problems on exposure to open air burn pits while they were deployed.
Burn pits are huge holes located beside many bases in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the army dumped its trash and set it on fire.
In May, of last year the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction blasted the military for continuing to use burn pits at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan "endangering the health of U.S. military personnel."
Colonel Linda Brown is a doctor at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, and she has seen soldiers returning from service with breathing problems.
Like the Department of Defense, Dr. Brown is reluctant to blame burn pits for widespread breathing problems in soldiers.
"We don't have any studies yet," Colonel Brown said. "That doesn't mean studies aren't going to be ongoing....