Burn Pit Registry

September 17, 2014

Written by: Stephen Beaty

Anywhere you find people these days, you will find trash.  And somehow, someone must dispose of that trash.  Over the last 24 years of conflict in southwest Asia, the United States Military has burned a tremendous amount of trash.  As recently as mid-2008, officials at Joint Base Balad (also known colloquially as Camp Anaconda), near Balad, Iraq, acknowledged that approximately 147 tons of waste were being burned in open pits each day.  At that time, the military had installed 3 incinerators burning an additional 120 tons of waste.  The logical assumption is that prior to the incinerators, the entire daily trash supply was being burned in the open pits.  Every major military base in southwest Asia had burn pits.

Various opinions rage back and forth regarding the danger this smoke created for the inhabitants of the various military posts.  The debate centers around whether breathing the smoke from these burn pits was simply a hazard while it was being inhaled or whether it might create chronic disability in the years to come for the Servicemembers caught in the smog.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has set up a place for Servicemembers and veterans to register if they were exposed to smoke from the burn pits.  According to the VA website, the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry is designed to aid Veterans and Servicemembers “to become more aware of their health, to receive information about ongoing health studies and VA services, and to create a ‘snapshot’ of their health to assist discussing their health concerns with a health care provider.”  Veterans who are not currently receiving VA medical care are eligible for a free VA medical evaluation.  By registering and answering the online questionnaire, veterans and Servicemembers also help the VA to “monitor certain diseases and health conditions.”

To be eligible for the registry, people must either be an active duty Servicemember or a Veteran.  Like other VA benefits, dishonorably discharged Servicemembers are not eligible.  In addition, the Servicemember must meet certain time and location qualifications.  Personnel must have served with the United States Military in Afghanistan or Djibouti in support of OEF after 11 September 2001 or in the Southwest Asia theater of operations (as defined in 38 CFR 3.317 (e)(2)) region after 2 August 1990.  This theater includes the following countries, bodies of water, and the air space above these locations: Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and waters of the Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea.

For more information please visit: https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry.

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