Chairman Lynch And Rep. Green Fight For Karshi-Khanabad (K2) Veterans With NDAA Floor Amendment

Jul 16, 2020 Issues: Committee on Oversight and Reform, National Security

Washington, D.C. — This week, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Chairman of the House Oversight National Security Subcommittee, and U.S. Representative Mark Green (R-TN), , introduced their bipartisan K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act of 2020 as a floor amendment to the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The bill directs the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to study the hazards that American servicemembers were exposed to while deployed to K2, a former Soviet Air Base in Uzbekistan, and address the health conditions that may have been caused by these exposures.

Chairman Lynch and Rep. Green first introduced the K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act in February 2020.  Since then, the bill has gained 35 cosponsors, and the House NDAA includes the bill’s requirement that DOD conduct an epidemiological study of toxic exposure at K2.  The Lynch-Green Floor amendment submitted this week would require the VA to determine whether K2 veterans diagnosed with certain health conditions should be eligible for disability benefits.  The amendment would also make K2 veterans eligible for the VA burn pits registry and depleted uranium follow-up program.

“The growing body of evidence collected by our National Security Subcommittee indicates that the U.S. airfield at Karshi-Khanabad (K2) just north of Afghanistan was littered with toxic hazards leftover by its former Soviet occupants,” said Chairman Lynch. “Almost twenty years after they deployed many of the 11,000 K2 veterans are battling rare and debilitating health disorders, including advanced-stage cancers. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to deny that these disorders are service-related and refuses to provide K2 veterans the healthcare and benefits they have earned. Together with Congressman Mark Green (R-TN) we have offered a legislative solution. These K2 veterans and their families need our help. Congress must act now.”

“We must include this full bill in this year’s NDAA to do justice to our veterans,” said Rep. Green.  “Only last week, newly declassified documents revealed how servicemembers at K2 Air Base in Uzbekistan were exposed to multiple toxic hazards.  K2 veterans’ cancer rates are 5 TIMES higher than those of counterparts who served elsewhere. Yet despite clear evidence they were exposed to toxic chemicals and radioactive materials, these K2 heroes and their families are being denied health benefits for their service-connected illnesses, which include cancer and other devastating health conditions. Congress cannot afford to wait. It is far past time to hold the DOD and VA accountable and ensure these courageous veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country receive the care they deserve.”

BACKGROUND:

In January, the House Oversight Committee first requested information from DOD and the VA about press reports that U.S. servicemembers and special operations forces who deployed to K2 after September 11, 2001 were exposed to cancer-causing hazards. On February 27, following a National Security Subcommittee hearing with K2 veterans, Chairman Lynch and Rep. Green introduced the K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act. Reps. Lynch and Green then joined colleagues in sending letters to DOD and the VA pressing both agencies for information. 

On April 22, the VA confirmed it will study health trends among K2 veterans.

On June 29, after months of withholding documents from Congress it had already declassified, DOD shared its 2001, 2002, and 2004 K2 environmental hazard surveys and health risk assessments in response to requests from Chairman Lynch and Rep. Green. These documents revealed that:

  • K2 servicemembers were exposed to multiple toxic hazards, from hazardous petrochemicals such as jet fuel and kerosene to particulate matter and burn pits.
  • Up to 100% of the units assigned to K2 were potentially exposed to radiation.
  • Military leaders were supposed to communicate with K2 servicemembers about potential health risks.
  • K2 members were told repeatedly that no significant risk from hazards existed.
  • Multiple “false-positive” readings detecting nerve, mustard, and blood agents were attributed to faulty test equipment.

Read the facts HERE.

Read the declassified K2 documents HERE: