The exposure of our vets to chemical weapons in Iraq during the invasion of 2003 was first brought to light by the New York Times back in October. The Department of Defense (DoD) kept the information secret, issuing gag orders and denying treatment to the affected soldiers.
Once the information came out, the DoD appointed a working group to investigate the allegations and identify the service members who, according to the Times, “had been exposed to chemical weapons and to offer them medical screening and other support.”
Under Secretary Brad R. Carson, the head of the working group, confirmed the accusations made by the Times and has said the DoD would improve its policies. “To me, the scandal is that we had protocols in place and the medical community knew what they were, and yet we failed in some cases to implement this across the theater,” Carson said. “That was a mistake, and I apologize for that. I apologize for past actions and am going to fix it going forward.”
The new and improved policies are designed to help those who were exposed to chlorine gas during the Iraq War and it is expected that over 1,500 service members or veterans will be screened for exposure. 830 veterans had said they were concerned about chlorine gas exposure in post-deployment health forms, 540 had called the exposure hotline and almost 300 were identified by the Times reporting.
“My ambition, and what I am committed to, is to make sure that any person who was exposed to a weaponized chemical or a chemical weapon is addressed through this process,” Carson told the Times. “We are committed to finding every chlorine incident.”
In addition to treating the possibility of chlorine gas exposure seriously, Carson also said that the Army had reversed its decision and approved a Purple Heart for a soldier who was affected by sulfur mustard agent in Iraq. He expects more medals to be approved for veterans who were exposed during the war.
I am glad to see that my concerns turned out wrong. The matter is being investigated, service members and vets are being helped and, once the truth was brought out, the Department of Defense is doing the right thing. The bravery that these service members showed and the problems they suffered while the DoD turned a blind eye to them can finally be corrected.
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