Saturday, June 27, 2015

NPR Located More Veterans Exposed To Mustard Gas

Senators Call For VA To Explain Why It Couldn't Find Mustard-Gassed Veterans
How NPR Located More Veterans Exposed To Mustard Gas Than The VA
Caitlin Dickerson
JUNE 26, 2015

Working through the alphabetical list, Van Woerkom discovered that about 95 percent of the test subjects had died.

This week, NPR reported that the Department of Veterans Affairs failed to live up to a promise to contact 4,000 veterans who were exposed to mustard gas in secret military experiments. In 1993, the VA promised it would reach out to each of those veterans to let them know that they were eligible for disability benefits. Instead, over the past 20 years, the VA reached out to only 610.

Brad Flohr, a VA senior adviser for benefits, told NPR the agency couldn't find the rest of the test subjects, because military records of the experiments were incomplete. "There was no identifying information," Flohr said. "No Social Security numbers, no addresses, no ... any way of identifying them. Although we tried."

That response from the VA surprised NPR Investigations Research Librarian Barbara Van Woerkom, who spends a lot of time tracking down sources for NPR stories.

"It just struck me as such a low number, knowing all the ways that I look for information to try and locate an individual," she says.
Family members of veterans are sometimes eligible for benefits as well. In February 1993, VA Secretary Jesse Brown told the Richmond Times-Dispatch his agency would reach out to living veterans and their surviving spouses.
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