Washington, D.C. — Last week, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Chairman of the National Security Subcommittee, Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), National Security Subcommittee Ranking Member Jody B. Hice (R-GA), U.S. Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) and U.S. Representative Mark Green (R-TN) sent letters to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to press both agencies for information as part of an investigation into the potential adverse health effects associated with toxic hazards and exposures at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Air Base in Uzbekistan.
On January 13, 2020, Chairwoman Maloney and Chairman Lynch sent letters to DOD and VA requesting information related to reports that U.S. servicemembers and special operations forces who deployed to K2 after September 11, 2001, were reportedly exposed to cancer-causing hazards. On January 29, 2020, DOD informed the Committee that it was “diligently” researching the matter, but would be unable to produce documents until more than three months after the Committee’s requested response date.
“Any relevant documents in DOD’s possession will be critical to our investigation and informing whether certain health outcomes should be associated with deployment to K2,” the Members wrote. “Time is of the essence, as many of these veterans are battling advanced-stage cancers and are seeking answers from their government.”
In response to the Committee’s initial request, the VA acknowledged this matter “needs further review,” but did not provide any specific information about how or whether it would begin such a review, or conduct outreach to veterans who served at K2 to ensure their healthcare providers can make informed decisions about their treatment and care.
“Veterans who deployed to K2 in Operation Enduring Freedom served bravely in defense of the United States, yet many of them have not received answers to their legitimate questions about the potential hazards they may have been exposed to while deployed there,” the Members wrote. “Despite the growing body of evidence of potential adverse health effects U.S. servicemembers and veterans are experiencing following their service at K2, the VA does not appear to be treating this matter with the urgency and sensitivity it deserves.”
On February 27, 2020, the Subcommittee on National Security held a hearing with two veterans who were previously deployed to K2 and have each suffered from cancer. The Subcommittee also heard testimony from Ms. Kim Brooks, the wife of U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Timothy Brooks, who believes the contaminants her husband was exposed to at K2 contributed to his cancer diagnosis and death in 2004.
That same day, Subcommittee Chairman Lynch and Rep. Green introduced H.R. 5957, the K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act of 2020, which directs the Secretary of Defense to assess the toxic exposure of American military servicemembers deployed to K2 from 2001 to 2005 and address the health conditions caused by this exposure.
Click here to read the letter to DOD
Click here to read the letter to the VA.