Two members of Congress want the federal government to finally provide health care to veterans who were likely exposed to Vietnam War-era chemical and germ warfare tests that were overseen by Utah-based Army scientists.

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., have introduced a bill to require the Veterans Affairs Department to assume that toxins in the tests known as Project 112 and Project SHAD caused injury to the veterans, which would make them eligible for medical benefits and/or compensation for illnesses.

The tests were first disclosed by the Deseret News in 1995 through use of the Freedom of Information Act. That happened when the newspaper's help was sought by sailors who participated in at-sea portions of such tests, during which ships sailed through clouds of chemical and germ warfare agents. Sailors suspect that the tests caused unusual illnesses later in their lives.

The tests were overseen by the old Deseret Test Center, which was based at different times at Utah's Fort Douglas and Dugway Proving Ground.

Despite stories by the Deseret News and other media, the Pentagon for years officially denied that the tests occurred. Finally in 2002, the Pentagon said research verified that the tests had happened. But Thompson and Rehberg said many veterans still have been denied health care because they could not prove tests were connected to unusual diseases that many of them suffer. The bill would instruct the VA to make that assumption and provide care.

"For 10 years, I've been fighting to get the government to acknowledge that these extremely dangerous tests made some of our brave veterans sick and even caused some of their deaths," Thompson said.

"These men risked their lives for their country, and in return, the government treated them like guinea pigs and has for years turned its back on them. This legislation will make sure they don't have to wait any longer for the help they need and deserve," he said.

Rehberg added, "Project 112 is one test the Department of Defense has undoubtedly flunked. Now, these brave men and women who served our country have been left to suffer. These veterans deserve quality health care and recognition by their government that it understands what they've had to go through."

Of note, in February the U.S. General Accountability Office released a report saying the military has not done enough to find and contact people who were likely exposed during the old tests.


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