If you or someone you know served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2005, this news may be of interest to you.
The Stronghold Freedom Foundation (SFF) and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) have recently (April 3rd, 2023) filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DoD) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lawsuit aims to reveal records that document toxic conditions at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan.
The DoD has repeatedly obstructed the public’s right to information that is directly impacting the health and lives of Veterans who served their country.
K2 was a crucial staging ground for the war in Afghanistan, with more than 15,000 U.S. servicemembers deploying through there.
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School is representing the plaintiffs in the case.
Keep reading to learn more about the potential dangers our service members may have been exposed to and why this lawsuit is so important.
Karshi-Khanabad Air Base (K2) in Uzbekistan: A Brief Overview
Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, commonly referred to as K2, is a former Soviet air base located in southeastern Uzbekistan.
The base shares a border with northern Afghanistan and was used by the U.S. military as a major staging ground for the war in Afghanistan.
Over 15,000 U.S. service members were deployed to K2, where they established Camp Stronghold Freedom to support combat missions between 2001 and 2005.
Despite its strategic importance, K2 was found to be contaminated with a range of toxic chemicals, including chemical weapons, enriched uranium, and soil saturated with fuels and solvents that formed a substance known as “black goo.”
Air samples taken at the base revealed elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene and other chemicals, including cyanide in the showers.
Health assessments also found that K2 had elevated levels of volatile organic compounds and total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) throughout the camp.
Although a DOD health risk assessment in 2002 recommended against digging into soil contaminated with jet fuel, these areas were populated with tents where soldiers slept and aircraft hangars.
Another DOD health risk assessment conducted that same year found that between 50% to 75% of personnel at Stronghold Freedom would be exposed to elevated levels of TPH.
Moreover, a U.S. Army study conducted in 2015 found that veterans exposed to the chemicals at K2 were 500% more likely to develop cancer, including malignant melanoma and neoplasms of the lymphatic and hematopoietic tissues.
Due to these alarming findings, the Stronghold Freedom Foundation (SFF) and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) have filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DoD) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The lawsuit seeks disclosure of records documenting toxic conditions at K2, which could help veterans receive the medical care and benefits they deserve.
The K2 Veterans Care Act in 2021
The K2 Veterans Care Act was introduced in Congress in February 2021 by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.).
The bill seeks to provide healthcare coverage to U.S. service members and civilians who were stationed at K2 between 2001 and 2005 and have developed illnesses related to their service.
The act would also require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide disability benefits to affected veterans and establish a national registry to track health conditions related to service at K2.
The introduction of the K2 Veterans Care Act marked a significant step towards addressing the health concerns of veterans who served at K2.
Why is this lawsuit so important for Veterans?
The Department of Defense knew that the harmful chemicals at K2 were putting service members’ health at risk.
Many veterans who were stationed at K2 have reported serious health issues like neurological problems, autoimmune diseases, respiratory issues, and urological conditions.
However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) doesn’t acknowledge most of the toxic exposures at K2.
Even though the PACT Act was recently passed, which is the most comprehensive veterans bill for toxic exposures, it still doesn’t provide enough support for K2 veterans.
While K2 veterans are included in the burn pit presumptives under the PACT Act, the VA hasn’t recognized other toxic exposures unique to K2, making it difficult for veterans to access the necessary health care and benefits.
The lawsuit filed by the Stronghold Freedom Foundation and Connecticut Veterans Legal Center is crucial to help K2 veterans receive the care and treatment they deserve.
The Department of Defense has repeatedly obstructed the public’s right to information that is directly impacting the health and lives of veterans who served their country.
The failure to produce responsive records has left veterans abandoned, and lives are at stake.
The lawsuit is an important step in rectifying this and providing K2 veterans the justice they deserve.
If you are interested in learning more about filing for disability benefits, check out our FREE ebook The Road to VA Compensation Benefits .
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