(Wash., D.C.)–“Seven years ago, in an unprecedented legal action, Vietnam Veterans of America, along with San Francisco-based veterans organization Swords to Plowshares, joined with half a dozen veterans who ‘volunteered’ to participate in experiments that tested chemical and biological agents,” said John Rowan. “We wanted to establish the ongoing responsibility of government to care for veterans whose health had been impacted because of their participation in the testing of more than 400 chemical and biological substances, including hazardous agents such as sarin and mustard gas and mind-altering drugs, including LSD.”
“Our concerns have now been validated,” said Rowan, in response to the news that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed with the trial judge, affirming an injunction ordering the U.S. Army to provide all former test subjects with any newly acquired information about the substances to which they were exposed and which might impact their health. The three-member appeals panel also concluded that the military still has an obligation to provide the test subjects with medical care.
“Under its own regulations,” said Rowan, “the Department of the Army has an ‘ongoing duty . . . to provide former test subjects with newly available information relating to their health’ and an ongoing duty to provide medical care to the test subjects ‘for injury or disease that is a proximate result of their participation in research.’ And, importantly, the full court denied the government’s petition for rehearing the appeal.’ ”
“This decision is a clear victory for veterans,” noted Rowan. “It reaffirms our position that caring for veterans is part of the continuing cost of war. It is a testament to the convictions of the late Gordy Erspamer, who took on this case pro bono for his law firm, Morrison & Foerster, that the government cannot ride roughshod over its own regulations and the rights of veterans. And this case has succeeded in exposing the breadth and scope of some of the top-secret experimentation that the military first denied and then acknowledged had been conducted to the potential detriment of the health of thousands of test subjects.
“VVA owes a debt of gratitude to Morrison & Foerster for their unwavering support of veterans in this case,” Rowan said. “And we can hope that the military takes to heart the essential message of this decision, that they have a ‘duty to warn’ future human subjects of any potential health effects associated with any testing in which they may participate.”