03 Apr Burn pit veterans in the dark on coronavirus risk
Initially, U.S. health organizations warned high-risk populations about their increased susceptibility to COVID-19. The Dept. of VA, however, has not warned veterans in high-risk categories, especially those who were exposed to burn pits and other airborne toxins during their military service.
As per VA Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, more than 200,000 veterans have self-identified as being exposed to burn pits. These veterans are at risk of COVID-19 severe infection and other respiratory diseases due to exposure to airborne toxins in the past.
More than 3.5 million veterans served in locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Djibouti, and Syria, where service members eliminated products including human and medical waste, hazardous chemicals, unexploded ordinance, metal, plastic, wood, and paint.
Many veteran service organizations claim that such prolonged exposure is the reason behind various health issues, including lung diseases, rare cancers, and other respiratory problems endured by veterans.
Check Your Eligibility For VA Home Loan
In the past, the VA took 15 years before acknowledging the health risks faced by Veterans exposed to chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange. With the rapidly evolving coronavirus pandemic, if VA doesn’t gear up and provide extra assistance to the Veterans at risk, a more significant crisis could be at hand.
The VA department must issue some clear guidelines and provide information to the Veterans at risk. Additional testing should be done, and any at-risk Veterans should be offered free access to healthcare and necessary VA resources.
Not only should the VA reform its information propagation to all veterans, but it also must take all means to alert groups of veterans, including those with compromised health due to burn pit exposure, that they may be at amplified risk for developing severe complications if infected with the coronavirus.