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McCaskill questions defense secretary on mustard gas experiments
McCaskill questions defense secretary on mustard gas experiments

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 27, 2015) — After questions earlier this year failed to provide U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill with answers on World War II-era experiments that exposed U.S. servicemembers to mustard gas, she today continued her advocacy at a Senate panel featuring Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. McCaskill asked Secretary Carter to provide her office with access to a Department of Defense database listing individuals that were victims of these experiments.

“I don’t understand why this is so hard. Why is everyone not opening up these records and doing everything we can to get the word to these people? ... I need a commitment (from DoD) that you will get me this information,” McCaskill said. McCaskill is seeking access to the database to better understand where the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to contact the servicemembers who were part of these experiments fell short.

“We’ll make sure that we support your request,” Secretary Carter told McCaskill.

McCaskill is also asking all servicemembers who were exposed to mustard gas by these experiments to contact her office so that she and her staff can individually advocate for them as they pursue compensation for their injuries from the VA. 

Any participant or loved one of a participant is encouraged to go to McCaskill’s website at mccaskill.senate.gov/mustard-gas-tests and provide information about their experience.

“We’re failing the men subjected to these terrible experiments,” said McCaskill, daughter of a World War II veteran. “It’s already too late for many of these servicemembers, and it’s important that we act now in order to help as many people as we can. These men were intentionally exposed to a chemical weapon by our government, and the fact that seven decades later we have yet to fully acknowledge and account for that treatment is a disgrace.”

After the United States government declassified the mustard gas experiments in the early 1990s, new guidance and regulations were issued that were intended to create a process for the victims of these experiments to be compensated. However, according to press reports, in the intervening years, the VA’s outreach efforts were inadequate and incomplete. A report by National Public Radio earlier this year detailed how the VA repeatedly fought attempts by these veterans to collect compensation for their permanent and often severe injuries.

As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, McCaskill and her staff previously requested briefings and information from both DoD and VA on the government’s unsuccessful attempts to ensure that these servicemembers received compensation.

Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/accountability to learn more about McCaskill’s fight for stronger accountability in Washington.

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