SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. military must continue to alert veterans exposed to chemical and biological weapons experiments of any new information that may affect their health and provide them ongoing medical care, a federal appeals court said Tuesday.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Defense on behalf of thousands of veterans. The veterans accuse the government of failing to properly treat health problems caused by the experiments.
A lower court judge also said the veterans were entitled to ongoing medical care, but the judge declined to force the U.S. Army to provide it on the grounds that care was available through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The 9th Circuit rejected that argument, saying there was no evidence presented that the care available at the VA would be "equal in scope and quality" to what the veterans say they are owed. The lawsuit argued that the VA system was too overburdened to properly treat veterans suffering health problems because of their participation in the experiments.
Wayne Hall, a spokesman for the Army, said the Army was reviewing the court's findings.
The veterans' 2009 lawsuit said the government exposed them to chemical agents, germs and drugs in researching how to defend against nontraditional weapons attacks. The lawsuit said the government failed to provide proper notice to many of the veterans about health hazards they faced by participating in the experiments.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken two years ago rejected most of the veterans' claims, saying the government has attempted to reach out and offer help to them over the years.