- Posted October 1, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Dirty Little Secret: Toxic Vets
There seems to be a dirty little secret that no one in the government wants to tell hundreds of thousands of veterans.
Someone should be responsible enough to notify Ft. McClellan, AL veterans that they were stationed in “America’s Most Toxic Town”, according to a 2009 60 Minutes episode.
These veterans have the right to know that they were exposed from 1935-1999 to chemicals used to manufacture herbicides and Agent Orange, PCB’s, and ionizing radiation.
Not only should these veterans be made aware, but they should be afforded medical care when they develop conditions associated with this exposure.
So, how did the area become so polluted with dioxins? A mammoth agricultural and chemical manufacturer called Monsanto dumped their waste into nearby creeks and landfills.
Through the years this toxic muck seeped into water sources, wildlife have been infected, the air quality was deteriorated, and the soil was toxic.
Incredibly, Monsanto knew this information for four decades before it was made public, yet the company continued to feed toxins into the community and surrounding areas.
In the years since the toxic damage done to Ft. McClellan, the surrounding town of Anniston, and the people who lived or trained there has been exposed, little national attention has been given to the issue.
Despite the fact that Monsanto paid $700 million to Anniston residents in 2003, the veterans who had been stationed at Ft. McClellan were not included in this settlement as it was widely understood that the VA was responsible for the care of these vets. However, the veterans stationed there have never even been notified of their exposure.
According to the VA’s own website, common health problems resulting from exposure to herbicide and Agent Orange exposure include various cancers, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy diseases, and more. Looking through the locations that DoD and the VA have identified as potential toxic exposure sites, Ft. McClellan does not make the list.
This leads to an important question: Why has the VA continued to deny the fact that veterans were exposed to toxic chemicals when the side effects in the Anniston, AL population have clearly been identified?
As veterans slowly are slowly being made aware of the exposure through social media and word of mouth, it has answered questions about plaguing health issues. Oftentimes, these health conditions have persisted over decades and presented many years earlier than is typical in normal circumstances.
Most appalling is that while the VA has readily admitted that sites throughout the US are toxic due to the storage and manufacture of materials such as Agent Orange, and thus veterans are entitled to VA compensation, they continue to deny that the exposure has occurred at Ft. McClellan; therefore, refusing to compensate but a handful of the thousands of veterans who have been affected and being crushed under medical bills to treat these conditions.
The one ray of hope for veterans who have been exposed and are now suffering is Congressman Paul Tanko (D). In May 2011, Tonko supported and presented H.R.2052: Fort McClellan Health Registry Act which will create a registry of all veterans stationed at the installation during the years of exposure, provides outreach to the veterans and compensation for those suffering.
However, that ray of hope is not very bright. The bill has been stuck at the House and Senate for months, and the petition to get it passed has failed to get the required amount of signatures; therefore, it has been restarted.
The current petition needs 25,000 signatures by October 24, 2012 and is falling substantially short.
Frankly, the fact that this petition cannot generate the signatures needed speaks volumes about the tight lid that has been kept on this situation. There were hundreds of thousands of veterans affected by the negligence at Ft. McClellan.
If all of those vets had been notified or word was spread more quickly it is certain that this petition would be pushed through, and perhaps the bill would then get kicked into gear.
The veterans who are now dealing with the side effects of exposure by individuals who demonstrated a clear lack of concern for human life do not deserve to bear the burden that the VA should be shouldering. These veterans willingly gave their country the best that they had, and now their country is turning their backs on them.
If you would like to sign the petition and help provide relief for these veterans please visit https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/support-hr-2052-ft-mcclellan-health-registry-act-help-veterans/zLbSTh0g . Please share this petition through your social media outlets so we can work together to make a difference.