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The Veterans Affairs Department’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget contains no funding to establish or maintain a registry for service members exposed to open-air burn pits.
The 2012 Dignified Burial and Veterans Benefits Improvement Act, signed by President Obama on Jan. 10, requires VA to establish a burn-pit registry by January 2014.
And VA officials say they are working to develop one. But they could not provide a cost estimate for starting or completing the project and say they now are conducting budget assessments to determine how much money will be needed.
“The fiscal 2014 budget was developed prior to enactment of Public Law 112-260,” VA spokeswoman Gina Jackson said. “VA has already begun work to meet the Jan. 10, 2014, mandate to establish and maintain the Open Burn Pit Registry using available fiscal 2013 funds.”
The law seeks to determine how many veterans were exposed to burn-pit smoke while deployed so VA can track their medical histories and keep them apprised of new treatments for associated conditions.
Some troops who lived and worked near burn pits in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere have complained of ailments and symptoms ranging from shortness of breath and general malaise to rare lung diseases and cancerous tumors.
Troops deployed in support of contingency operations and stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used will be eligible to register.
The VA’s military exposures website encourages active and former troops who have concerns to speak with their doctors.
VA will announce directions for signing up when the registry becomes available, according to the site.