Navy Reservists and active duty personnel don their MCU-2P Nuclear-Biological-and Chemical Warfare gas masks during an Individual Augmentee Training Course at the McCrady Training Center, Ft. Jackson, SC. (U.S. Navy Photo)
VETERANS vs. U.S: Chemical Weapons Testing Case Drags On
The power of investigative reporting is still alive in the hearts and minds of Americans, as shown by the victory of the movie "The Spotlight" as best picture in the recent Academy Awards.
The honored movie tells how a team of reporters from The Boston Globe exposed sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests. That is a continuing sad saga that has cost the church millions of dollars and loss of support from members who feel betrayed.
But the church's betrayal is no less egregious than that suffered by military veterans who were used as guinea pigs in chemical weapons testing by the government up to 1975.
We continue to follow an ongoing story about health problems suffered by military veterans subjected to chemical weapons testing as discussed in my latest book, "The G-34 Paradox: Inside the Army's Secret Mustard Gas Project at Dow Chemical in World War I."
The book reveals the government's outrageous defense in denying adequate help to the veterans: divine right of kings! In other words, we will do what we choose with you, regardless of the health consequences to you. Too bad.
Nothing in my 25-year career as a newspaper reporter compares with what I learned these veterans had suffered, and the government's crass, heartless response to their injuries.
This situation deserves the kind of public scrutiny given the church by the Boston Globe but, unfortunately, has not caught the eye of many reporters and editors except for National Public Radio and a few outlying publications. So we will try to inform readers here of the latest developments in this forum.
A news release tells how a team of lawyers from the nationwide law firm of Morrison & Foerster LLP (working pro bono -- i.e., without charge) recently secured a victory on behalf of veterans organizations and individual service members at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals when the court denied the government's petition for rehearing and rehearing en banc of the appellate panel's June 30, 2015 decision.
Last year, the appellate panel affirmed an injunction requiring the U.S. Army to keep affected veterans apprised of health information relating to their participation in chemical and biological tests spanning five decades. The decision also required the Army to provide medical treatment to these veterans for any "disabilities, injuries, or illnesses" caused by their participation in the testing programs. The latest decision leaves the appellate panel's rulings intact.
Note: This case is not as remote as you might think: we have talked to several Vietnam era veterans from Bay City who went through the same kind of chemical testing and have long-lasting health effects.
The Morrison & Foerster team working on behalf of the plaintiffs consists of partners James Bennett and Stacey Sprenkel, and associates Ben Patterson and Grant Schrader.
The firm has handled the case pro bono since it was filed as an individual and class action in 2009, naming the Army, Defense Department, and others as defendants and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.
The research programs at issue, many of which were concentrated at the Army's facilities at the Edgewood Arsenal and Fort Detrick, Maryland, allegedly involved the testing of more than 400 different chemical and biological substances during a period spanning five decades, and involved tens of thousands of active duty military personnel.
The substances tested ranged from drugs or chemicals (sarin, LSD, BZ, mustard gas, and a THC analog called 'red oil') to biological weapon agents such as tularemia and Q-Fever. The plaintiffs claimed that the Army did not pass on scientific and health information to the former test subjects as it became available and that the Army withheld treatment for conditions arising from the testing.
In 2013, U.S. Senior District Judge Claudia Wilken concluded that the Army was obligated to treat veterans involved in the tests, but that an injunction was unnecessary in light of veterans' access to medical care from the VA. The appellate panel vacated this portion of the lower court's decision, writing, "we cannot agree that the Army's duty to provide care is excused by the availability of medical care from another government agency, even if that care that would overlap to some degree and in some manner with the care that the Army is required to provide."
The panel instructed the district court to formulate an appropriate injunction on remand.
For more information about this case, see http://www.edgewoodtestvets.org.
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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