By: Doré Mobley, Communications Specialist, October 30, 2014
Marine Veteran Rebecca Crawford was so concerned with returning from her tour in Iraq with “two arms and two legs” intact that she didn’t give much thought to the fumes she was breathing while performing her routine job duties.
Tasked with providing base support, Rebecca’s duties alternated between sitting in a foxhole for 12 hours a day—securing the perimeter—to churning unknown mixtures of refuse, chemicals and human waste in open burn pits.
The use of burn pits was a common waste disposal practice at military sites outside the United States such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smoke from these pits contained substances that may have short- and long-term health effects, especially for those who were exposed for long periods or those more prone to illness such as individuals with pre-existing asthma or other lung or heart conditions.
“The registry is a tool to help … identify health conditions possibly related to burn pits.”
Some Veterans have reported respiratory symptoms and other health conditions that they believe are related to burn pits. There are studies that provide information about the health effects related to exposure, but not enough to determine the long-term impacts. In response, VA is conducting research on the issue and has created the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry for Veterans and service members.
The registry is a tool to help participants become more aware of their health and to identify health conditions possibly related to exposure to burn pits and other airborne hazards (e.g., sand, dust and particulates. Participation is voluntary and the enrollment questionnaire can be used to identify health concerns, guide discussions with a health care provider and document deployment-related exposures.
Sees Value in Enrolling
Still young and with more than 10 years since exposure, Rebecca is healthy and undecided about participating in the registry. She, however, sees value in receiving updated news and information about the long-term health effects of burn pits.
“I think one of the benefits of enrolling in the registry would be if some new concerns came up about inhaling the fumes or the smoke, I would be notified quickly since they have my name and contact information,” said Rebecca. “The registry would make it possible for VA to contact me and say that we know you were exposed to burn pits and this is what you should be thinking about now.”
All Veterans and active-duty service members are encouraged to check their eligibility and participate in the registry. VA will use deployment data provided by the Department of Defense (DOD) to determine eligibility.
To access the questionnaire, participants will need a DOD Self-Service level-2 logon (DS-Logon). The DS-Logon is a secure, self-service ID that allows Veterans and Servicemembers to access several websites, including VA’s eBenefits and the burn pit registry, using a single username and password. Ensure your web browser has “scripting” enabled.
Veterans who are eligible for the registry are also eligible to obtain an optional no-cost, in-person medical evaluation. Participants already enrolled in VA health care should contact their primary care provider to schedule an evaluation. Veterans not already enrolled should contact an Environmental Health Coordinator at the nearest VA facility or call 1-877-222-8387.
Active-duty service members, including activated Reserve and Guard personnel, should contact their local military hospital or clinic to schedule an appointment for a voluntary medical evaluation. Please state that you are calling for an appointment specifically to address “health concerns related to the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry exposures.”
Sign up for the registry – https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/#page/home
View frequently asked questions about the registry and how to sign up – https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/index.html#page/faq