Department of Defense to work with VA on environmental health concerns

During a press conference earlier this week, defense secretary Mark Esper stated that he would like to collaborate with the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to ensure that all who are ill as a result of environmental exposures related to service in the military have access to the care they need.

According to an article published by, “Responding to a question on the health risks, including various cancers, of military environmental exposures, Esper said the VA “has the lead” on determining whether an illness is presumed to be related to military service — a decision that accelerates benefits awards. But, he added, as secretary, he wants to “make sure [DoD] is doing everything we can to assist soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as they transition out of service. We want to make sure we tackle some of the things [being talked] about,” Esper said, referring to a question about incidents of cancer and other illnesses among service members and young military veterans.”

Esper created a task force to study chemical substances in firefighting foam as one of his first tasks as secretary. These substances have contaminated over 400 military bases and are assumed to be connected to cancer and a number of other illnesses.

The VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry was created to track these health consequences of those exposed to burn pits and other environmental conditions such as respiratory illnesses, cancer, rashes, and other unexplained symptoms.

Troops, veterans, and other communities and families that are located near military bases also have voiced concerns around ground and water contamination that including lead and heavy metals, depleted uranium, airborne pollutants, chemical and nerve agents, and radiation. Recent studies have shown that while the rates of some cancers are lower in military personnel, others that including breast and prostate cancers are significantly higher.

To address this, twelve veterans and health organizations joined forces earlier this year to pressure Congress for more studies and support on military environmental exposures. This same group of organizations plans to asses all available resources addressing exposure and advocate for additional research, medical treatment and disability compensation for those affected.

To learn more about this important news affecting veterans, click HERE.

Relevant pages: Veterans Disability