Recently passed legislation directs Veterans Affairs to establish a Burn Pit Center of Excellence. Burn pits have been described as the Agent Orange of the Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom generation. More than 157,000 veterans have signed up for VA’s Burn Pit Registry. The law requires Veterans Affairs to “establish a center of excellence in the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits and other environmental exposures.”
The Center will be responsible for studying the short- and long-term effects of exposure to burn pits. It will also study treatments for veterans suffering from conditions related to burn pit exposure. One problem the Center will face is a lack of data. Although numerous veterans have signed up for the registry, officials believe up to two million troops were exposed to burn pits. The registry also requires veterans to self report, and does not allow for the registry of deceased veterans. Many veterans groups support H.R. 5671, a bill pending in the House of Representatives which would require DoD to conduct periodic health assessments and automatically enroll exposed veterans into the registry.