Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry Reaches Participation Milestone, Over 200,000 Members
In June of 2014, a registry was established by the VA for those affected by toxic exposure. It allows for current and former service members to self-report toxic exposures and health concerns via an online questionnaire. The purpose is to provide a resource that can be used to help discuss health issues with doctors and providers.
As of May 5th, more that 204,000 veterans and service members have signed up which is an extraordinary feat according to the VA. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said that “Concerns about the long-term effects of exposure to burn pits remain a priority. By joining the registry, veterans, service members and the department will further understand the impact of deployment-related exposures on health.”
The VA also attributed some of the boosts in enrollment to the Defense Department. The Pentagon sent out a letter encouraging over 700,00 active-duty, National Guard, and reserve members to participate in the registry.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, growing participation faces a roadblock. In order to become a member, service members and veterans need to complete the questionnaire and receive an in-person exam. The latter has been deferred amidst the pandemic to prevent the spread of the virus.
There is growing concern among veterans, advocates, and lawmakers about the veterans that have been exposed to toxins during their service. Many worry that those affected have not been adequately warned about their susceptibility to infection. It was reported that some veterans on the registry have received information about VOCID-19 and toxic exposures, while others have not.
However, the growth in numbers for the registry can only mean more informed veterans and service members. Tom Porter, spokesman for the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said that “(This is a) good byproduct of VSOs and Congress stepping up the conversation around toxic exposures.” Nevertheless, toxic exposure will continue to be one of veteran service organizations’ main focuses moving forward.