IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release

October 30, 2002

No. 02-21

(301) 585-4000
Contact:
Mokie Porter


VVA JOINS UNPRECEDENTED LAWSUIT ON BEHALF OF VETERANS AFFECTED BY SECRET BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL TESTS
 

(Washington, D.C.) - As part of its ongoing efforts to protect the health and welfare of veterans and their families, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) has joined an unprecedented class action lawsuit in Federal court that seeks redress for the government's actions concerning the consequences of unknowing exposure to hazardous agents during the government’s secret weapons testing programs.  Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), part of a much larger weapons testing program called “Project 112”, involved the intentional exposure of military personnel to biological and chemical (and possibly radioactive) agents to determine the vulnerability of naval vessels to such attacks.  Similar tests were also conducted on land.  These tests, which took place during the 1960’s and 1970’s, have resulted in illness and disability for which the government is only beginning to meaningfully respond. 

The class action is based upon government officials’ alleged attempts to conceal and ignore relevant records, many of which are the veterans’ personal medical records that would allow them to seek health care and compensation for the adverse health effects of being test subjects.  Specifically, the complaint seeks monetary damages for the violation of the affected veterans’ constitutional rights and court-ordered disclosure of information that will assist them in obtaining VA healthcare and benefits for the consequences of exposure to hazardous agents during their participation in the SHAD and Project 112 testing programs. While the class action is not designed to seek individual VA compensation benefits, the proceedings should help to facilitate access to records that would allow these veterans and their service representatives to do so. 

“America’s veterans deserve proper health care for illnesses that may be due to exposure to harmful agents as a result of their military service,” said VVA National President Thomas Corey.  “Veterans deserve to be told the truth about their military service, as well as accountability from senior bureaucrats and other government officials.  Justice for our nation’s veterans is at the heart of VVA’s mission.  This class action will help veterans obtain the justice to which they have long been entitled,” Corey added. 

The class of veterans that are eligible to join the lawsuit might potentially number in the thousands.  The named defendants include former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara, who first ordered the testing program in the early 1960’s, as well as current and former employees of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.  VVA hopes that by holding these officials accountable for their allegedly wrongful actions, the situation will not repeat itself as our troops currently prepare for possible biological and chemical exposure on the battlefield. 

Corey noted, “The problem has been that certain individuals have been acting in their own interests, rather than serving the military personnel and veterans to whom this country owes so much.  VVA will continue to work with appointed officials, leaders in Congress and through the courts until justice is accorded these veterans.”  

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Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families.  VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

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