Creation of New Burn Pit Registry Applauded by Veterans’ Groups

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — Veterans’ groups are applauding a new law creating an Open Burn Pit Registry, which was passed by Congress over the VA’s objections.

In 2004, smoke billows in from all sides as Sgt. Richard Ganske, 84th Combat Engineer Battalion, pushes the bulldozer deep into the flames of the burn pit at Logistics Support Area Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, to keep burnable items constantly ablaze, disposing of them so they do not clutter up the post. — Photo by Sgt. Abel Trevino

The Dignified Burial and Other Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2012, signed into law last month by President Barack Obama, requires VA to create and maintain an open burn pit registry for veterans who may have been exposed to toxins caused by open burn pits in Iraq or Afghanistan. VA also must develop a public-information campaign about the open burn pit registry, including how to register and the benefits of registering; and periodically notify eligible individuals “of significant developments in the study and treatment of conditions associated with exposure to toxic airborne chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits.”

Those advocating for a registry, such as Rosie Lopez-Torres, cofounder of Burn Pits 360, called the law a “huge victory.” Her organization started a burn pit registry in the absence of a federal registry. It now includes nearly 2,000 servicemembers or family members of the deceased who voluntarily reported data, she told U.S. Medicine.

“This registry has proven the need for a registry,” she said.

VA said on its military exposures website that the agency will announce how to sign up once the registry is available.

“The new registry will enhance VA’s ability to monitor the effects of exposure and keep veterans informed about studies and treatments,” the agency stated.

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