Army To Provide Medical Care For Thousands Of Veterans Who Were Check Subjects
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After thousands of U.S. veterans received a class action suit against the military over being found in chemical and biological assessment, the Army says it will pay for their medical care. But the group’s lawyers say the support is falling short of interacting with its obligations – and that it is withholding details veterans would like about what agents they were exposed to.
The Army says veterans could be treated for just about any injuries or diseases caused following the service used the soldiers as research subjects in the time from 1942 to 1975.
As for how exactly to apply for treatment or insurance policy coverage through this program, the Army says its Medical Command (MEDCOM) is conducting “a great exhaustive search” for veterans and also require been research subjects, “so that no person that may benefit from medical care is inadvertently omitted.”
The lawsuit dates to 2009. It was filed by the Vietnam Veterans of America and other plaintiffs who wished to know what chemical agents that they had been subjected to – and whether those agents might have caused health problems. A court chose in the plaintiffs’ favor in early 2016.
As the Army has sent letters to at least a number of the plaintiffs, it hasn’t issued broad notifications, as expected by court documents. And while the communications the Army can be sending out this fall inform veterans that they are eligible for medical care, they’re not really answering veterans’ questions about which specific agents they were exposed to.
“The Army still has not provided notice to test subject veterans regarding the specific chemical and biological assessments to which they had been subjected-and their practical health effects,” says attorney Ben Patterson of the law company Morrison and Foerster, which represents veterans in the case. Patterson says a court ordered the Army to reveal detailed details to the ex – soldiers four years ago, within an injunction from November 2013.
Patterson said the Army is imposing unnecessary hurdles in the process, “within an apparent try to discourage and stop veterans from deciding on the program and obtaining the medical care to that they are entitled under the Army’s own regulation.”
NPR has contacted the Army with a good request for comment and clarify its strategies. We’ll update this post when the support responds or even more news emerges.
Within the class action lawsuit’s resolution, the Army must use a number of methods to contact former test subjects, from notification letters and a “publicly attainable website” to general public notifications and sociable media accounts. The support has posted its plan to uphold its obligation on the Army Medicine military website. But there’s no mention of the plan on several social press accounts, including the official Army Medicine Twitter feed.
“The law strong representing the veterans estimates at least 70,000 troops were found in the assessment, including World War II veterans subjected to mustard gas,” NPR reported back in 2015, in a follow-up to our reporting on WWII vets.
As for who’s eligible for insurance policy coverage, the Army lists these requirements:
A DD Form 214 or War Section (WD) discharge/separation form(s) or functional equivalent.
Served as a research subject matter in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance assessment program, including the receipt of prescription drugs or vaccines under the U.S. Army investigational medicine review.
Have a diagnosed condition that you believe to be a direct result of the participation in U.S. Army chemical or biological substance assessment.
One veteran, Frank Rochelle, was injected in 1968 with a medicine that made him hallucinate for nearly two days. He knows its identification only by its code brand – CAR 302668.
“We were guaranteed that everything that continued inside the clinic, we had been likely to be under completely observation; they were likely to do nothing at all to damage us,” Rochelle advised NPR in 2015. “And also we were sure we would be studied care of later on if anything happened. Instead we were still left to hang out to dry.”
Previous month, Rochelle received a letter from the Army – but rather than a detailed account of his medical history, it was an application letter, telling him that if he had volunteered to get “medications or vaccines,” he could be eligible for medical care.
The military said it ended chemical and biological testing in 1975, following its chief of medical research admitted in a congressional hearing that his office didn’t have in any manner to monitor research subjects’ health following the tests were conducted.
In its FAQ about the treatment plan, the Army also addressed the medical concerns of veterans who’ve served in more recent decades.
To the next question:
“I believe I have a disease or condition because of this of Army chemical or biological substance assessment at FT McClellan (or other Army installations) during the 1980s (or 1990s), can I apply for medical care benefits under this medical care injunction?”
The military replies:
“No. This system is only open to former participants of the MILITARY who have a personal injury or disease caused by their participation in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance assessment program.”
NPR Librarian Barbara Van Woerkom contributed to this report.