WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced the K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act yesterday to help veterans who served at Karshi Khanabad (“K2”) Airbase in Uzbekistan to obtain the health screenings and services they need.
“Veterans of the Fort Campbell-based 5th Special Forces Group and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment groups were deployed to K2 from 2001-2005,” said Senator Blackburn. “Since then, they’ve faced unique health challenges that have been overlooked for far too long. This bill is a necessary first step in recognizing the long-term health effects from these dangerous exposures that will give K2 Veterans access to much-needed care.”
“This bipartisan legislation lays the ground work for ensuring that servicemembers who were deployed to K2 in Uzbekistan are covered and compensated for exposure to toxic substances at the base,” said Senator Baldwin. “The VA should avoid repeating past mistakes like it did with Agent Orange exposure for Vietnam veterans, and quickly move forward with recognition and coverage for any diseases associated with exposure to toxic substances such as depleted Uranium or particulate matter from military burn pits.”
“Elevated levels of cancer and other diseases have been discovered among veterans who served at Karshi Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan,” said Senator Feinstein. “Any potential exposure our service members had to hazardous material must be investigated and related health issues should be covered. I’m proud to support Senator Blackburn’s bill that will study the source of these health issues and get veterans the care they deserve.”
“The Stronghold Freedom Foundation is grateful for the introduction of this legislation. Our organization includes nearly half of those who deployed to K2, but it is on behalf of all K2 veterans, their families, and their survivors, for whom we speak. This legislation begins the process of recognition for K2 veterans and will allow them the preventative care they have earned and answers to questions that have gone unrequited until now. We stand behind the bold leaders who have introduced this legislation and will not rest until it is law,” said the Stronghold Freedom Foundation.
The K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act of 2020 would:
- Require the Department of Defense to conduct an epidemiological study;
- Create eligibility for K2 vets to be included in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs’ Burn Pits Registry and depleted uranium medical follow-up programs at DoD & VA; and,
- Give access to National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to studies conducted by VA and DoD.
The U.S. Army conducted a study in 2015 that found servicemembers who deployed to K2 are more than five times as likely to develop cancer than those who deployed to South Korea. Since the study, it is estimated that the number of veterans suffering from cancer and other serious medical conditions has increased dramatically. Servicemembers who were stationed at K2 were exposed to a number of chemical and radiological hazards, including depleted uranium, chemical weapons, fuels and solvents. Due to a lack of recognition, there are no dedicated resources available to K2 veterans, which prevents them from receiving the care and benefits they deserve for their sacrifice to our nation.
Rep. Mark Green (TN-7) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.