Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, joined House colleagues Thursday (September 11) in passing a comprehensive veterans package that includes a provision which would allow Project SHAD veterans to receive medical care at VA facilities for conditions which may have arisen from their service without needing to prove service connection. In August, Rehberg requested the provision be included in a must-pass bill in order to ensure prompt Congressional action.
"There's a sense of urgency on this issue that the Senate didn't seem to get last year. SHAD veterans have already waited 40 years," said Rehberg, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. "It doesn't seem right to ask them to wait any longer. It's important that VA facilities open their doors to SHAD vets across the nation. While nothing is certain this year, putting the provision in this bill is the best chance we have of getting the problem fixed quickly."
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 even considered by the Senate, would require the VA to provide care to Project 112 and SHAD veterans without proof of service connection.
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.