On Veteran's Day, Connecticut's U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called on the Department of Defense to explain why it covered up instances when Iraq War veterans were exposed to chemical weapons. The Senator is also asking for the DOD to assist these veterans in seeking benefit claims for their injuries.
A New York Times investigation reported last month that dozens of servicemembers in Iraq encountered chemical weapons from the 1980s. Some were injured from them but they received inadequate medical care. The Pentagon has since disclosed at least 629 Iraq war veterans had told the military of being exposed to aging ordnances that contained deadly chemicals like the nerve agent, sarin.
Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said the DOD has to explain its conduct. He said, “The chemical weapons were inactive but still contained highly toxic substances that could do grave damage to these servicemen. And the failure to track and treat the potential health effects is absolutely unconscionable.” Blumenthal is calling on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to adopt a plan that identifies anyone exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq and treat any health problems promptly. He said the number of known instances will only rise when factoring in the cases the military did not report.
It's not the first time service members have been exposed to toxic chemicals. In response to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, the Senator has introduced a bill called the Toxic Exposure Research Act which calls on the DOD to declassify incidents and study the long term effects of toxic exposure on veterans and their children.