VCS Helps Expose Cessation of Funding for Unique Burn Pit Exposure Research Program

(Veterans for Common Sense – Dec. 26, 2015) – Veterans for Common Sense helped expose, in a series of news stories by Military.com reporters, that funding has been quietly dropped for a unique federal Burn Pit Exposure medical research program.

The cessation of funding was first reported in a Wednesday, December 23, 2015 story by Military.com (“Congress drops Burn Pit Exposure from Pentagon research list,” Bryant Jordan reporting) after VCS first shared the information with Military.com.

The Burn Pit Exposure medical research program was a “topic” under the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s (CDMRP) Fiscal Year 2015 Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP).  According to the program’s publicly available program announcements, its aims were:

  1. Research on the etiology and treatment of adverse health events related to military deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan associated with exposure to airborne hazards and open pit burning of solid waste and other materials.
  2. Toxicological studies to ascertain toxicity of natural dust, burn pit combustion products, interactions between pollutants, and mechanisms of action.
  3. Characterization of emissions from open air burns, burn boxes, and incinerators. This includes determining relative contributions of background anthropogenic and geogenic sources.
  4. Development and validation of exposure assessment instruments for use in research and clinical validation.

With the possible exception of certain treatment aims of other respiratory health “topics”, these aims were not duplicated elsewhere.

The Dec. 23 story quoted the following:

“‘There’s nothing comparable,’ said Anthony Hardie, director of Veterans for Common Sense. ‘There’s very little [burn pit exposure] research inside the [Department of Veterans Affairs].'”

“Ron Brown, president of the National Gulf War Research Center …. said he didn’t know why the topic was discontinued.”

A follow-on story on Thursday, December 24 (“VA ordered to report to Congress on Burn Pits Registry findings,” Bryant Jordan reporting) reported that in newly passed legislation authored by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NC), the federal VA, “has been directed to report to Congress early next year on the findings of its Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, where veterans can detail health problems linked to exposure to burn-pits, oil well fires or other toxins or pollutants during deployments.”

The second story again referred to the discontinued burn pit exposure funding:

“Udall’s directive to VA comes even as the health consequences of burn pit exposure failed to make the 2016 list of peer-reviewed medical research programs that Congress requires the Pentagon to conduct.

“Anthony Hardie, director of Veterans for Common Sense, expressed concern over the loss of the item in the list after being included in the 2015 legislation.

“‘There’s nothing comparable,’ he said on Wednesday. ‘There’s very little [burn pit exposure] research inside the [Department of Veterans Affairs].'”

According to one of the commenters to the second story:

“Typical Congress: they want VA to waste time and money on a report that no one will read, but won’t fund a study that will help define the full nature and scope of the problem.” -Motive25

A radio show with Brendan McGarry, an award-winning Military.com reporter and editor followed the two online stories, adding more exposure to these Burn Pit Exposure funding and reporting issues.

 

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