Rehberg Receives Assurances SHAD Veterans Will Be Taken Care of In Must-Pass Legislation
Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, last night spoke on the House floor and successfully urged the Chairman of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee to find a way to pass a provision which would allow Project 112 and SHAD veterans to receive care at VA facilities. Chairman Chet Edwards (D-TX) responded to Rehberg's request by assuring him he would help include the provision in must-pass legislation as soon as possible.
"The federal government has failed to provide SHAD veterans with basic healthcare for more than 40 years," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "Even worse, these veterans are suffering from illnesses the Department of Defense caused in the first place. We've got to ensure these brave men and women, who were subject to secret chemical testing, have access to VA care and it's a big step that the Chairman is willing to help get this passed."
Project 112, which included Project SHAD, was conducted between 1963 and 1973 by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. During these projects, a number of weapons containing chemical and biological agents such as VX nerve gas, Sarin Nerve Gas, and E. Coli were tested on unknowing military personnel.
The existence of these tests was denied by the Department of Defense (DoD), despite reports from participating veterans that they were being stricken with unusual diseases. Though the DoD now acknowledges the tests took place, the Veterans Administration (VA) will not provide these veterans with health benefits and compensation for their diseases.
The provision, which was included by Rehberg and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) in last year's Veterans' Healthcare Improvement Act but was never passed by the Senate, would require the VA to provide care to Project 112 and SHAD veterans without proof of service connection.
"My constituent John Olson, a veteran of Project SHAD, spent all day Tuesday undergoing tests for a possible aneurysm," said Rehberg on the House floor. "This is the latest in a long line of his medical problems since leaving the service. Yet, as my friend from California will state, the VA is approving claims at an embarrassingly low rate. We can, and should, do all we can to take care of these veterans."
Rehberg and Thompson have also led legislation which would require the VA to assume the toxins used in the weapons tests caused injury to the veterans, making them eligible for medical benefits and/or compensation for their conditions and instructs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, within 180 days of enactment, to notify all veterans of potential exposure to the biological or chemical weapons used in Project 112 and Project SHAD.