In a testament to how the US government views its military service men and women, for decades, troops were used as experimental test subjects and doused with chemicals, injected with drugs, and otherwise treated like human guinea pigs—leading to a slew of negative health effects. When these troops simply tried to get care for the onslaught of medical problems brought on by these experiments the government told them to kick rocks.
For decades, the military flat out denied medical care to those it injured through these unethical experiments. After being poked, prodded, and force-fed with everything from lethal nerve gases like VX and sarin to incapacitating agents like BZ, and given drugs like barbiturates, tranquilizers, narcotics and hallucinogens like LSD, soldiers were told that is what they signed up for and were offered no care after their end of active service.
After being told they were crazy for years, the Army finally declassified the details of these experiments. However, veterans were still denied care. In 2009, thousands of veterans—Vietnam Veterans of America and other plaintiffs who wanted to know which chemical agents they had been exposed to—filed a class action lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency, et al., for the experiments. It took seven years for a court to finally rule in the plaintiffs’ favor.
In early 2016, the Army began responding to the lawsuit and said it will pay for the medical care of those injured by its inhumane and disturbing experiments. However, their response is simply more of the same.
According to the group’s attorneys, the military is failing to meet its obligations and is withholding details veterans are seeking about what agents they were exposed to.
“They’re hoping we die off, so you apply [for benefits], you get turned down,” former soldier Tim Josephs said of the Army’s disgusting treatment of veterans. “And it just goes on for years and years, and they just want to wear us down. They want to use young men as guinea pigs and throw them away.”
In a disturbing interview with CNN, Josephs explained how he volunteered to test new military equipment but he was tricked into becoming a lab rat.
“The idea was they would test new Army field jackets, clothing, weapons and things of that nature, but no mention of drugs or chemicals.”
However, when Josephs got to the base at Edgewood, Maryland, it looked more like a hospital than a military establishment. When he questioned the men in white lab coats who wanted to test various deadly substances on him, he was told play along or go to jail.
“He said, ‘You volunteered for this. You’re going to do it. If you don’t, you’re going to jail. You’re going to Vietnam either way — before or after,'” Josephs said to CNN.
Josephs is one of the thousands of veterans who have similar stories. And, Edgewood is one of many places where these thousands of veterans were used as human subjects to test anything the military could think up.
To get any help at all has been a difficult uphill battle.
“The Army still has not provided notice to test subject veterans regarding the specific chemical and biological tests to which they were subjected — and their possible health effects,” says attorney Ben Patterson of the law firm Morrison and Foerster, which represents veterans in the case. Patterson says a court ordered the Army to disclose detailed information to the former soldiers four years ago, in an injunction from November 2013, according to a recent report from NPR.
Patterson said the Army is imposing unnecessary hurdles in the process, “in an apparent attempt to discourage and prevent veterans from applying to the program and receiving the medical care to which they are entitled under the Army’s own regulation.”
Like Josephs, another veteran, Frank Rochelle, was injected in 1968 with a drug that made him hallucinate for nearly two days. As NPR reported, he knows its identity only by its code name — CAR 302668.
“We were assured that everything that went on inside the clinic, we were going to be under 100 percent observation; they were going to do nothing to harm us,” Rochelle told NPR in 2015. “And also we were sure that we would be taken care of afterwards if anything happened. Instead we were left to hang out to dry.”
According to NPR, as part of the class action lawsuit’s resolution, the Army is required to use a variety of means to contact former test subjects, from notification letters and a “publicly accessible website” to public notifications and social media accounts. The service has posted its plan to uphold its obligation on the Army Medicine military website. But there’s no mention of the plan on several social media accounts, including the official Army Medicine Twitter feed.
As for who’s eligible for coverage, the Army lists these requirements, however, they are denying people left and right:
- A DD Form 214 or War Department (WD) discharge/separation form(s) or functional equivalent.
- Served as a research subject in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program, including the receipt of medications or vaccines under the U.S. Army investigational drug review.
- Have a diagnosed medical condition that you believe to be a direct result of your participation in U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing.
In its FAQ about the treatment program, the Army explains that only those who were injured by the specific U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program may be eligible. If you were injured in more recent experiments, however, you’ll apparently need to file another class action lawsuit and wait decades before being railroaded once more.
To the following question:
“I believe I have a disease or medical condition as a result of Army chemical or biological substance testing at FT McClellan (or other Army installations) during the 1980s (or 1990s), can I apply for medical care benefits under this medical care injunction?”
The military replies:
“No. This program is only available to former members of the Armed Forces who have an injury or disease resulting from their participation in a U.S. Army chemical or biological substance testing program.”