The Pentagon denies it deliberately tried to hide the fact that U.S. troops were exposed to chemical agents, including mustard and sarin, during the Iraq War.
The Army on Friday apologized for its failure to properly care for Americans exposed to the chemical agents, promised to provide medical support to those affected and indicated some troops would be eligible for the Purple Heart.
But the Army on Monday said there was never any “conspiracy” to play down or conceal the chemical exposures, including from those who experienced them.
An Army sergeant who suffered mustard agent burns in 2007 told the paper he was denied hospital treatment and medical evacuation to the U.S. even after his commander requested it for him.
A lieutenant said a “gag order” was imposed on him and his unit after two of his soldiers were exposed to sarin, and they were ordered to tell family members they were exposed to “industrial chemicals.”
Shortly after the Times story last October, the Defense Department ordered a review of standardized health surveys filled out by service members following deployment. Those surveys turned up 629 instances of troops reporting they may have been exposed to chemical agents, the paper reported in November.
DoD also established a hotline at its Army Public Health Command site that soldiers may call if they believe they were exposed, Chang said.
The Veterans Affairs Department added a new webpage to its site specific to Iraq and Afghan war chemical weapons exposure, and included the DoD’s hotline number.