Veterans Medical Center launches education campaign on burn pit registry

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

SALISBURY — To increase participation in the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, the W.G. (Bill) Hefner Salisbury Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) has launched a new education campaign intended to reach Persian Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans and service members.

The campaign is designed to bolster patient-knowledge for eligible individuals who may have been exposed to airborne chemicals and fumes caused by open burn pits in the Southwest Asia theater of operations.

“By joining the registry, veterans and service members can provide information that will help VA provide better care to all veterans,” said John J. Melton, executive director of the VA’s Salisbury healthcare system. “VA uses the information to research how we can expand eligibility for VA healthcare and benefits for veterans exposed to airborne hazards and open burn pits during service.”

The registry, which began in June 2014, allows veterans and service members to self-report their exposures and health concerns in an online questionnaire that can be used to initiate discussions of health concerns with a provider. Specifically, the registry focuses on exposure to airborne hazards such as burn pit, smoke, sand and dust. In addition to completing a questionnaire, registry participation involves an optional in-person exam by a provider.

Earlier this year, the VA launched a new addition to the registry questionnaire, which included an opt-out feature for adding information on short deployments. This will save participants time when they complete the questionnaire. The VA recently used registry data to inform its decisions to authorize the award of presumptive service-connection or three respiratory conditions and nine rare respiratory cancers.

In addition, the VA made improvements to the registry’s questionnaire which included access. Registry participants can now return to the questionnaire portal at any time after completion to add additional deployments. Previously, registrants were only allowed one time access.

In 2021, the VA expanded eligibility for veterans and service members who can participate in the registry if they deployed to Syria or Uzbekistan since Sept. 11, 2001, and Egypt since August 1990. Other veterans and service members who can participate include those who deployed to the Southwest Asia theater of operations any time after Aug. 2, 1990, or Afghanistan or Djibouti on or after Sept. 11, 2001.

As of Sept. 19, 2022, more than 334,000 participants have joined the registry.

Due to a pause in registry exams secondary to COVID-19, the VA’s medical facilities are proactively reaching out to participants to schedule an examination if they opted to have an exam through the registry. Veterans may also contact their local Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule an exam especially if they have changed addresses or email contact since joining the registry

 Learn more about this Registry, including eligibility.