Washington, D.C. – This week, a bipartisan group of over 70 lawmakers led by Representative Mark Green (R-TN), Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA), and Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) wrote to the conferees for the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) urging them to retain a key provision supporting America’s Karshi-Khanabad (K2) veterans in the final NDAA agreement.
The provision, included in the House-passed version of the NDAA, requires the Secretary of Defense to conduct a study on toxic exposure experienced by the American service members stationed at K2 Air Base—a former Soviet air base in Uzbekistan—between 2001 and 2005.
American service members deployed to K2 provided critical support to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. According to Department of Defense reports, up to 100% of these troops were potentially exposed to cancer-causing toxins.
The lawmakers wrote, “We have received mounting evidence of toxic exposure as America’s K2 veterans continue to report that they have been diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer and other deteriorating health conditions. According to one public 2015 study by the U.S. Army, K2 veterans are up to five times more likely to develop a certain type of cancer – malignant neoplasms of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue – than counterparts that deployed to South Korea. The same study found that more than 60 veterans who deployed to the base between 2001 and 2005 ‘had been diagnosed with cancer or died from the disease.’ Over 400 servicemembers have self-reported cancer and other illnesses through a Facebook group organized by K2 veterans to discuss base contamination and health issues.”
“Regrettably,” the lawmakers continued, “K2 veterans are still encountering significant challenges in receiving treatment and benefits for their service-connected disabilities given that the Department of Veterans Affairs has not yet acknowledged a causal relationship between K2 deployment and a subsequent cancer diagnosis. Completion of the Department of Defense study mandated by Section 742 of the House-passed authorization bill would mark a significant step towards ensuring that America’s K2 veterans receive medical care and benefits that are reflective of their service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation.”
Read the letter HERE.
This key provision was first introduced in the K2 Veterans Toxic Exposure Accountability Act of 2020, led by Representatives Green and Lynch and cosponsored by over 60 Members of Congress. On July 9th, 2020, the Subcommittee on National Security released previously classified documents produced by the U.S. military in 2001, 2002, and 2004 about toxic exposures at K2. Read the facts about the declassified K2 documents and more on the bipartisan fight for America’s K2 veterans here.