A bill introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, would have the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs investigate the health of soldiers who trained at Fort McClellan in Alabama to see if they were made ill by toxic substances at and around the former Army base.
Tonko introduced the Fort McClellan Health Registry Act to the House of Representatives just before Memorial Day following meetings with local veterans of the base who are suffering serious health problems.
The proposed law would require the VA to create a database of tens of thousands of veterans who served at Fort McClellan between 1935 and 1999 and their health disorders to establish if exposure to toxic chemicals compromised their health. Under the bill's provisions, the VA also would provide health exams to veterans of Fort McClellan, and educate them on options for care, new research and the consequences of toxic poisoning.
"The veterans who served at Fort McClellan deserve answers — we must investigate the link between the toxic exposure at the base and significant health problems those veterans are experiencing," Tonko said. "My bill will start the process of tracking health issues with those veterans so we can finally establish a link and get our veterans the care they deserve."
The Army's Chemical Corps trained on Fort McClellan, and the military used live chemical agents and experimented with Agent Orange on the base, Tonko said, citing widespread reports.
A nearby Monsanto Corp. chemical manufacturing plant discharged tons of PCBs into Anniston's air, soil and water for decades, leading to increased rates of illnesses among its residents, according to the EPA. Monsanto and its spinoff company Solutia have paid more than $1 billion in damages and clean-up costs to residents of Anniston.