VA Accused of Foot Dragging!

VA ACCUSED OF FOOT-DRAGGING IN NOTIFYING "TEST VETS" -- VETERANS
EXPOSED TO CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL AGENTS ARE STILL WAITING FOR
NOTIFICATION FROM THE VA -- WHY IS THIS? -- ONE VET SAYS: "THEY
REALLY DON'T WANT TO DO IT...IF YOU WAIT LONG ENOUGH,
WE'LL ALL BE DEAD."

It's time for the VA to get off the dime and resolve this issue.
There is no reason for "Test Vets" to die while waiting.
Unless...that reason is money!

Story here... http://www.presstelegram.com/news/ci_3666200
Story below:
VA: Foot-dragging seen
By Lisa Friedman, From our Washington bureauWASHINGTON —

Thousands of former servicemen who volunteered for chemical and
biological tests in the 1960s and 70s might have been exposed to
highly toxic substances that could jeopardize their health, and the
U.S. government is scrambling to locate them.The new list of nearly
7,000 names provided last year to the Department of Veterans Affairs
servicemen who allowed themselves to be exposed to a range of
agents, from nerve gases to Tularemia significantly increases the
number of veterans who could become eligible for disability benefits.

VA officials say they are working as quickly as possible to verify
the identities of the servicemen and the agents to which they were
exposed, and to send out notifications. But veterans' advocates and
some members of Congress note the government took more than a decade
to notify World War II personnel they'd been exposed to chemical
tests, and they're already skeptical of the pace this time around.

"You want to believe that they're serious, but there is, from my
perspective, a lack of trust," said Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, the
leading Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Oversight and
Investigations Subcommittee. "I don't want to be cynical here, but
quite often the strategy of the department may be to let time
pass."Years of testsThe United States has conducted chemical and
biological tests since before the Civil War.

During World War II which has been called the "unfought chemical
war" both sides produced, yet never used, millions of tons of
chemical weapons.In the meantime, thousands of servicemen were used
as subjects in the chemical defense research. Many tests continued
through the 1970s.Army historian Jeffrey Smart has spent the past 22
years at Aberdeen Proving Ground, formerly the Edgewood Arsenal,
where many of the chemical tests particularly on protective
equipment were conducted.He said documents show the men knew they
were participating in potentially dangerous tests, but not the
specific agents being used.

Ken Jones of Riverside said he knew exactly what he was doing when
he volunteered in 1954 to be among 2,300 subjects in a germ-warfare
project known as Operation White Coat.The studies, which ran from
1954 to 1973, used mostly Seventh-day Adventist draftees like Jones
whose religious beliefs discouraged combat and who were instead
given the option of serving as human test volunteers.While many
veterans later said they felt pressured to sign the consent forms,
Jones said he never felt coerced.'Eight Ball'He can still recall the
day he and two other men exchanged their fatigues for scrubs and
entered the fabled "Eight Ball" at Fort Detrick, Md. a 1-million-
liter test sphere used to study static microbial aerosols and
strapped on gas masks before breathing in Q-fever for about five
minutes.

"I'm not going to be out on the streets protesting, because I feel
like what I did was a benefit to humanity," Jones said, noting that
the tests helped the government develop hazmat suits, gas masks and
vaccines.Jones went into quarantine for 17 days and says he never
developed health problems from the experience.

Many others did, though, and Jones thinks the government should help
those veterans.House Veterans Affairs Committee aide Len Sistek said
that's the goal of notifying veterans. The new list his staff
provided to the government includes the names of military personnel
who underwent testing at Fort Detrick; Edgewood Arsenal, now known
as Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland; and Dougway Proving Ground
in Utah."There's been a sea change in how America perceives this
stuff," he said. "Whoever allowed the bad guy to get ahead of them
with chemical or biological weaponry was at a huge disadvantage on
the battlefield. It was part of the war effort."Still, he and others
argued, the government has a responsibility to provide benefits to
those who did experience health problems.

"When you sign on the dotted line, you sign up for a broad spectrum
of risks. But just because you were a volunteer does not mean
America doesn't have a duty to you

."VA concernedLeaders at the Department of Veterans Affairs said
they agree."Obviously we're concerned, and we want to provide
outreach to anyone who may have been harmed by toxic chemical
tests," said Thomas Pamperin, VA assistant director for policy.He
and Kim Tibbitts, the agency's assistant director for procedures for
compensation and pension services, said they first have to determine
who the servicemen are and what agents they were exposed to. Many
names on the list, Tibbitts said, include only a name but no Social
Security number, and identify chemicals by codes that must be
tracked down with the Department of Defense.

From there, he said, the agency plans to use personnel records and
address locating services to determine if the serviceman is still
living, or has surviving relatives.In the notification letters,
Pamperin said, veterans will be told the chemical they were exposed
to and the dosage, and be encouraged to seek hospital tests to
determine if they suffered related injuries."If and, hopefully, none
of them have been harmed they will receive the kind of compensation
they're entitled to," Pamperin said.Rick Weidman of the Vietnam
Veterans of America accused the VA of dragging its feet."The VA is
incredibly slow," he said. "They don't really want to do it. They
will screw around with that list for a year or longer, and then
they'll say they cannot find a lot of the veterans. If you wait long
enough, we'll all be dead."Notices comingPamperin strongly disputed
the criticisms."I understand that some frustrated veterans believe
that to be true," he said. "Our responsibility is to implement
(veterans' benefits) to the full extent Congress has authorized it,
without regard to how much is spent," he said.Noting that over the
past five years about 200,000 veterans have successfully sought
compensation, he said, "I am unaware of anyone who has been formally
or informally been telling us to slow down our ratings to save
money."Pamperin and Tibbitts said even if all 7,000 people on the
new list apply for and obtain benefits, that's still a drop in the
bucket compared with the 825,000 disability determinations it
handles.The agency is expected to start notifying the first 1,000
veterans on the list by July, according to the committee."It's just
incumbent upon the department to find out and put this thing behind
us," Strickland said. "It is going to take resources and effort, but
it's something that needs to be done."The Veterans Administration
help line is (800) 749-8387.Lisa Friedman can be reached at (202)
662-8731.