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Veterans Affairs Chief Optimistic On Potential Of Burn Pit Registry For Vets

Lisa Ferdinando
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie delivered the Veterans Day address at Arlington National Cemetery in November 2018.

Open air burn pits were once a common method of waste disposal used by the U.S. military. More than 250 burned in Iraq and Afghanistan — and thousands of veterans exposed to the fumes have since reported health problems. The Department of Veterans Affairs keeps a nationwide registry of those affected but critics say it’s not comprehensive enough.


Over 18,000 Texas veterans have entered their names into that registry — among the highest participation of any state. 

A bill making its way through Texas legislature would create a statewide burn pit registry with broader parameters than the VA’s registry. It would allow veterans to enter updates about their health over time and give families the ability to input information on behalf of those who have died. Architects of the bill say adding those categories would paint a more accurate picture of veteran mortality. 

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie spoke about the status of the Open Burn Pit Registry, how frequently burn pit-related disability claims are being accepted by the VA, and the template set by the controversy over Agent Orange. 

Carson Frame can be reached at Carson@TPR.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame.

Carson Frame was Texas Public Radio's military and veterans' issues reporter from July 2017 until March 2024.