Hold DoD Accountable

IAVA's Policy Agenda for the 117th Congress

Current Policy Priorities

IAVA has recommended specific policy priorities to address the issues that matter most to post-9/11 veterans.

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Support for Injuries from Burn Pits and Toxic Exposures

GET UP TO SPEED ON BURN PITS AND TOXIC EXPOSURES

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WHAT IS IAVA’S PLAN?

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Support for Injuries from Burn Pits and Toxic Exposures

According to IAVA’s most recent member survey, 86% of IAVA members were exposed to burn pits during their deployments and over 88% of those exposed believe they already have or may have symptoms.

Year after year, the concern grows surrounding the health impacts of burn pits and toxic exposures in recent conflicts. Burn pits were a common way to get rid of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly between 2001 and 2010. The effect of burn pits is not just the chemicals in the smoke, but the particulate matter these men and women breathed in from the ashes and dust from the fires themselves.

There are other hazards beyond burn pits that occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan that may pose danger for respiratory illnesses including human waste, irritant gases, high levels of fine dust, heavy metals in urban environments, explosives and depleted uranium used in munitions. Furthermore, shortly after 9/11, U.S. servicemembers served at the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2), a former Soviet base in Uzbekistan that had held chemical weapons enriched with Uranium. Thousands of veterans were exposed to these dangerous toxins at this base, and many now suffer from rare cancers and other ailments. A study was directed by a January 2021 executive order on impacts on those who served at K2 and should be submitted with findings to the president by the secretary of Defense.

Without due attention, this issue is becoming the Agent Orange of the post-9/11 era of veterans. It is past time that comprehensive action is taken to address the growing concern that these exposures have had severe impacts on veterans’ long term health.

Similarly, like burn pit toxic exposure and radiation exposure, blast exposure is both extremely dangerous to servicemember health and very difficult to detect without technology.

IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force (QRF) works with veterans who are suffering from the impacts of burn pits and toxic exposures. QRF can assist veterans with access to quality medical care, enrollment in the VA’s Burn Pit Registry, and advocacy on their behalf.

IAVA's Approach

Hold Department of Defense Accountable for Toxic Exposures

GET UP TO SPEED ON DRIVING PUBLIC AWARENESS

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WHAT IS IAVA’S PLAN?

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Hold Department of Defense Accountable for Toxic Exposures

Three million servicemembers have served in combat operations since the September 11th attacks. During these deployments, most of those servicemembers lived, worked, and exercised near burn pits. After returning home, many of these same servicemembers began developing health issues. Years later, these same servicemembers are now veterans and IAVA members who report health conditions that they feel are tied to these burn pit exposures. But DoD failed to track burn pit or toxic exposures. Even now, a full list of burn pit sites is not publicly available from DoD. DoD must be held accountable when it comes to burn pits and other toxic exposures. They must release any exposure data they have collected and track these exposures in servicemember medical records.

In 2016, the GAO reported that health effects of burn pit exposure were still not fully understood. Over four years later, the DoD has still failed to fully study the effects of this exposure. It is past time that DoD fully studies these exposures and works with VA to ensure that all veterans can get the health care and benefits that they deserve.

IAVA's Recommendations

  • Release information on where and when burn pits were active since 1990
  • Release information on air quality samples from active bases since 1990
  • Track toxic exposures among current servicemembers and add to military health records
  • Retroactively include toxic exposures in veterans’ service records
  • Encourage DoD to support, train and educate servicemembers on burn pits and toxic exposures and their effects so that servicemembers can proactively report their exposures and health impacts

IAVA's Policy Priorities

Select a topic from the list below to learn about IAVA’s policy recommendations for the 117th Congress.