In 2015, the Army published an in-depth look at illnesses reported at Karshi-Khanabad, known by soldiers as K2, an old Soviet base leased to the United States from the Uzbek government after September 11, 2001. As mentioned in my first blog regard K2, the study found that at least 61 service members deployed at K2 had cancer diagnosis, including four with brain cancer. However, the VA has rejected the validity of this study. The pentagon said that between 2001 and 2005, the soil was tested for hazardous material and that, while long-term exposure could lead to lung and heart conditions, there was “[no] evidence that there were hazards capable of increasing the cancer risks faced by our service members.” Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathon Hoffman. However, even today, many Veterans are discovering that their cancer diagnosis may be related to their time serving at K2. With an ever growing group of Veteran’s claiming exposures at K2 caused their cancer, Congress has finally started to take notice.
Recently, a group of senators have introduced legislation to help Veterans with these claims obtain the health screenings and services they need. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) have introduced the bipartisan K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act (“The Act”). If passed, the Act would require the Department of Defense to conduct an epidemiological study, create eligibility for K2 vets to be included in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ Burn Pits Registry and depleted uranium medical follow-up programs at DoD & VA, and give access to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to studies conducted by VA and DoD.
“This bipartisan legislation lays the ground work for ensuring that servicemembers who were deployed to K2 in Uzbekistan are covered and compensated for exposure to toxic substances at the base. The VA should avoid repeating past mistakes like it did with Agent Orange exposure for Vietnam veterans, and quickly move forward with recognition and coverage for any diseases associated with exposure to toxic substances such as depleted Uranium or particulate matter from military burn pits.” Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).