Our members have made it clear: 2018 is the year IAVA will educate Americans about burn pits and airborne toxic exposures and the devastating potential impact they could be having on the health and welfare of millions of Post-9/11 veterans and their families. According to IAVA’s most recent member survey, 80% of respondents were exposed to burn pits during their deployments and over 60% of those exposed reported having symptoms. Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly between 2001 and 2010. There are other hazards beyond burn pits that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan that may pose danger for respiratory illnesses, including high levels of fine dust and exposure to other airborne hazards. Year after year, we have seen an upward trend in the number of members reporting symptoms associated with burn pit exposure. IAVA will sound the alarm for all Americas: burn pits could be the Agent Orange for our generation of veterans.
In 2017, an IAVA-backed provision was included in the NDAA to require the VA to coordinate efforts related to burn pit- related diseases and effective treatments for those diseases. While this provision is a step forward, we’ll continue to fight for more resources to address burn pit and toxic exposure issues.
In 2018 IAVA will:
- Advocate for increased funding for research into the association between toxic exposures, burn pits, and diseases expected to be associated with such exposure.
- Press for VA clinicians to be trained to query and identify illnesses tied to toxic exposure. (Currently, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pits registry is self selected; from our latest member survey only 35% of IAVA members exposed to burn pits are registered.)
- Press for mandatory screening for toxic exposure for all veterans entering VA, similar to the screenings conducted for Military Sexual Assault.
- Encourage DoD to identify all those exposed to burn pits and other toxins both at bases in CONUS or while deployed and work with the VA to proactively reach out to encourage enrollment in the Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.
- Continue to connect, unite and empower post-9/11 veterans facing health issues they believe may be associated with toxin exposures through our digital resources, our local VetTogether events and our nationally-recognized Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP).