Pass Legislation to Provide Care for Toxic Exposures

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

Pass Legislation to Provide Care and Benefits for Toxic Exposures and Burn Pits

GET UP TO SPEED ON PASSING LEGISLATION TO PROVIDE CARE AND BENEFITS

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WHAT IS IAVA’S PLAN?

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Pass Legislation to Provide VA Health Care and Benefits for those with Toxic Exposures, including from Burn Pits

For many that feel they are suffering from their exposure to burn pits or other toxic exposures, accessing quality care can be a challenge. At VA, barriers to care are even more apparent, as the VA does not recognize claims connecting injury or illness to burn pit exposure.

Like those who fought for recognition of the effects of Agent Orange, the hope for those exposed to burn pits and other airborne toxic exposures is that they will one day be able to claim certain illnesses and injuries as presumptive service-connected illnesses or injuries due to their exposure. Until the VA recognizes the damage burn pits had on the health of those who served around them, access to VA benefits and health care will be challenging.

IAVA's Recommendations

  • Add all conditions with a link to burn pits and other toxic exposures to VA’s Presumptive List
  • Ensure clear understanding among VA’s Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) claims professionals around the rules and regulations for accepting a toxic exposure related claim
  • Create a disability classification for servicemembers and veterans impacted by burn pits and other toxic airborne exposures

IAVA's Policy Priorities

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