According to a report recently released by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill, the U.S. military conducted secret mustard gas experiments on thousands of service members during World War II. Sadly, since these service members were sworn to secrecy about their participation in the classified experiments, many of them have had to endure chronic and disabling conditions for years without realizing they may be entitled to benefits and compensation.
Hopefully, however, the suffering will not continue much longer as Sen. McCaskill recently introduced legislation that will, if passed, help veterans exposed to mustard gas during WWII get the veterans' benefits they need and deserve.
The problem - and a potential solution
As noted in Sen. McCaskill's recent report, 60,000 service members were subjected to human testing in the military's chemical defense program by the end of WWII - with roughly 4,000 receiving high levels of mustard-gas exposure.
Unfortunately, according to the report, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) failed to properly notify exposed veterans that they might be eligible for benefits. In fact, of the 4,000 vets who received high levels of exposure, one estimate found that only 610 were identified by the VA, as stated in to the report.
What is worse, of those veterans who actually applied for benefits, the VA denied a majority of their claims. In many cases, the VA based its denial on the lack of evidence of mustard gas exposure, despite the fact that many of the official records of the secret experiments were missing, destroyed or never created in the first place.
In an effort to right these wrongs, Sen. McCaskill introduced a bill - otherwise known as The Arla Harrell Act - that will, if passed, make it much easier for these vets to obtain benefits. Some of the more important provisions in the proposed legislation include:
- The VA must presume that a veteran experienced full-body exposure to mustard gas, unless it can be definitely proven otherwise
- The VA cannot use the information in the Department of Defense (DoD) and VA Chemical Biological Warfare Database as the sole reason for determining whether a veteran suffered full-body exposure to mustard gas or not
While this legislation is an important first step in protecting those who serve our country, it also shows just how difficult it can be for disabled veterans to get the benefits they need, regardless of when they served. Fortunately, they do not have to face this battle alone; help is available.
If you believe you may be entitled to veterans' disability benefits, it is important to seek assistance as soon as possible. An experienced advocate can help explain your rights and guide you through the complex web of government rules and regulations.