“We need total transparency and absolute candor,” Mr. Rieckhoff said, and noted the military’s poor record in releasing information about its use in Vietnam of Agent Orange, a chemical defoliant linked to an array of health problems, and in sharing data about troops’ presumed chemical exposures and other medical and environmental risks during and soon after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Veterans said this unit list was incomplete and would inevitably grow as the military accounted for other high-risk troops, including those on route-clearance duties in areas where chemical roadside bombs were repeatedly found, or chemical warfare troops who served in so-called technical escort units, which were assigned to collect and analyze the old chemical weapons.
Nonetheless, the new data has prompted the Public Health Command to take further steps, Colonel Buller said.
These will include identifying all veterans who reported a possible chemical exposure, gathering their medical records, contacting them for a structured interview and perhaps inviting them for a medical exam.
He said the Department of Defense had also revived a telephone line, 1-800-497-6261, for veterans to notify the Pentagon that they may have been exposed. The phone line, he said, had previously been used for veterans reporting Gulf War-related illnesses.
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