Veterans are hoping a database to be set up by the Department of Veterans Affairs will help shed light on illnesses among soldiers who served near burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The burn pits were used to get rid of the garbage that accumulates at military bases, everything from Styrofoam and metal to paints, solvents and medical waste.
Scores of veterans and their families have complained over the years about illnesses they attribute to exposure to smoke from the burn pits. An Institute of Medicine report, however, was inconclusive about long-term health effects.
Lawmakers passed legislation requiring the new registry despite objections from the VA, which questioned its effectiveness.
Veterans groups say the registry could pave the way for some veterans to get disability benefits.