It’s no secret that there are a number of risks of serving in the military. However, not all such risks are necessarily combat-related.
In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis placed on researching and understanding the potential impacts of exposure to airborne hazards on the lives and health of veterans and active service members.
In furtherance of this goal, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry (AHOBPR) in 2014.
But what exactly is the VA burn pit registry and how might it affect you? Use our guide to learn more.
If you’ve sustained injuries as a result of exposure to airborne hazards in the course of working as a government contractor, our defense base act legal team is here to help. Contact the Grossman Attorneys at Law to see how we can help you recover.
Burn Pit Registry (VA): What You Need to Know
The VA established the burn pit registry in an effort to better track and understand the potential health effects of airborne hazard exposures on members of the United States military. Below are a few important things to know before you decide whether to join.
What Is the Burn Pit Registry?
The burn pit registry helps the VA to track the health status of veterans who may have been exposed to airborne hazards in the course of their military service. Eligible veterans can join the registry by completing an online questionnaire. There is also an optional environmental health evaluation that you may schedule after the completion of the questionnaire.
Notably, joining the registry is completely voluntary and not at all required. Nevertheless, doing so can provide valuable information that will help support ongoing research efforts and can ultimately allow the VA to better serve and care for veterans in the future.
What Constitutes an Airborne Hazard?
Generally speaking, an airborne hazard is any type of exposure through the air to potentially toxic substances. In fact, in the course of active duty, military members often risk exposure to airborne hazards such as:
- Sand, dust, and particulate matter;
- Air pollution;
- Fuel and aircraft exhaust; and
- Smoke from oil well fires.
Additionally, smoke and fumes from open burn pits is a common source of exposure to airborne hazards.
A burn pit is an area of land used for open-air combustion of trash and debris. In the past, the U.S. military’s use of burn pits to dispose of waste was prevalent in areas throughout Southwest Asia and Afghanistan.
Burn bits were seen as an effective—and sometimes only—way to dispose of refuse and other debris in the remote areas in which bases were located. However, this practice resulted in the release of many toxic substances into the air.
Although the Department of Defense has worked to close out most remaining burn pits, many veterans are still feeling their effects. If you think you may have been exposed to airborne hazards in the course of your military service, you may want to consider joining the VA burn pit registry.
Who Is Eligible to Join the Burn Pit Registry?
Not all military service members may join the burn pit registry. Registration is available to those who were deployed to the following regions and countries:
- Saudi Arabia,
- Gulf of Aden,
- Gulf of Oman,
- United Arab Emirates,
- Waters of the Persian Gulf,
- Arabian Sea, and
- Red Sea.
However, eligibility is available for those who were deployed to the Southwest Asia theater of operations only after August 2, 1990, or to Afghanistan or Djibouti on or after September 11, 2001.
Specific operations and campaigns that fall within the scope of eligibility include:
- Desert Shield and Desert Storm (ODS/S),
- Iraqi Freedom (OIF),
- Enduring Freedom (OEF), and
- New Dawn (OND).
Additionally, you don’t have to be a veteran to qualify. You may also be eligible for the registry if you are an active duty service member, a reservist, or if you have returned to active service.
If you believe you may have been exposed to potential airborne hazards in one of these regions or operations, contact our team today to discuss your options moving forward.
How to Verify VA Burn Pit Registry Eligibility
To verify your eligibility, you can log into your Premium DS Logon Level 2 account. You can use the same credentials for the registry as you would for your VA benefits or My HealtheVet premium account.
However, it’s also important to note that you do not have to have been exposed to any particular airborne hazards to participate in the registry. Nor do you have to have any current health concerns. In fact, even if you’re not certain that you were exposed to any airborne hazards, the VA encourages registration.
Potential Impact of Burn Pit Registry on VA Claims
If you’re wondering whether your VA burn pit registration will have any impact on your VA claim, you are not alone. This is a question that many veterans and active-duty service members frequently have.
Fortunately, participating in the registry cannot negatively impact your VA claim. Nor can it have any impact on your health care from the VA or your ability to receive any benefits or compensation.
What to Do After Exposure to Airborne Hazards
If you’ve been exposed to airborne toxins in the course of your military service, you may be able to join the VA burn pit registry. However, while doing so is great for tracking and studying health impacts on veterans, it doesn’t necessarily address your immediate injuries.
Prolonged exposure to certain airborne hazards can result in a number of severe health conditions such as:
- High blood pressure,
- Heart disease,
- Fertility and reproductive problems,
- Kidney disease,
- Damage to the immune system, and
Joining the burn pit registry alone won’t help you address these issues directly. Fortunately, there are ways for you to seek monetary compensation to help you recover from these types of injuries.
In some cases, you may be able to receive disability benefits under the Defense Base Act for injuries and medical conditions arising out of your exposure to airborne toxins. But you must be able to show a causal connection between your service and your resulting illness or disability.
Doing so isn’t always easy. However, having a knowledgeable burn pit compensation attorney in your corner can greatly increase your chances of recovery.
Grossman Attorneys at Law: Your Veteran Burn Pit Registry Law Firm
Airborne hazards affect countless veterans and can have long-lasting effects. If you’ve sustained injuries or illnesses due to exposure to such toxins, you may be entitled to relief.
At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we’ve made it our mission to fight for the rights of military service members who have fought so hard for our country. We can help you assess your claims, navigate the recovery process, and fight zealously for your rights at every step along the way.
Contact us today to discuss your case with an experienced Defense Base Act attorney and see what our team can do for you.