WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) cosponsored a bipartisan bill, led by Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), to direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to work with the Department of Health and Human Services to assess possible health conditions linked to service members' exposure to toxic substances at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan.
Between 2001 and 2005, approximately 7,000 U.S. military service members served at K2 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A 2015 study conducted by the U.S. Army found that service members who had deployed to K2 were more than five times as likely to develop cancer as their counterparts 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, with many service members having died potentially due to toxic exposure at K2.
"Men and women in uniform put their lives on the line to keep us safe, secure, and free -- no matter the danger. As we see evidence of cancer and other diseases following their service, the VA has a responsibility to research and address health conditions that may be connected to toxic exposure," said Senator Hassan. "I will continue to work across the aisle in Congress to help ensure that veterans receive the health care that they need and have earned through their service."
The VA and Department of Defense have collaborated for years on research to understand the effects of military service and deployments to certain installations on veterans’ health, but additional research is necessary to determine causation or correlation between service at K2 and cancer or other illnesses and diseases.
The K2 Veterans Advocacy Act of 2020 that Senator Hassan cosponsored directs the VA to enter into an agreement with the administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, to assess possible linkages between K2 toxic exposure and cancers and other diseases.
This bipartisan bill is part of Senator Hassan's ongoing efforts to support veterans' health care and address their exposure to toxins. The President previously signed into law legislation that Senator Hassan cosponsored that will create a permanent legislative fix to help ensure that “Blue Water” Navy veterans get the disability and health care benefits that they deserve as a result of exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.