VA Fights Bill to Help WWII Vets Exposed to Mustard Gas
Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that they do not support proposed legislation by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) which would make it easier for World War II veterans intentionally exposed to mustard gas in U.S. military experiments to get medical benefits.
These veterans have been blocked for decades from receiving VA benefits because of an oath of secrecy they were forced to take at the time. The VA argues that the plan could unintentionally expand coverage to all WWII veterans, but that they “fully support delivering benefits to veterans and survivors as quickly as possible,” according to David McLenachen, deputy undersecretary for disability assistance.
Senator McCaskill's legislation mandates a review of previously denied claims, lowers the bar to get the benefits, revamps the VA’s application and adjudication process and mandates an investigation by the VA and Pentagon to determine what went wrong with the process. The bill would mandate that during the review of previous claims, the VA must presume a veteran was exposed to mustard gas until proven otherwise.
Only 40 WWII veterans are receiving benefits for mustard gas exposure, and up to 90 percent of the disability claims filed from 2005 to 2015 with the Department of Veterans Affairs have been denied, according to McCaskill. Further, her office says the burden of proof would only be flipped for those who have already filed a claim, and there are only 400 of them left alive.
It is unclear why VA believes all WWII veterans would be covered by the presumption of mustard gas exposure, but if they make their position clear we will let you know.