August 16, 2017
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) released the following statement after President Trump signed the Arla Harrell Act, which Blunt cosponsored, into law.
“The VA has inexcusably denied benefits to Arla Harrell and countless other WWII veterans who suffered lifelong illness due to the unconscionable experiments they were forced to endure," Blunt said. "These veterans put their lives on the line for our country, only to face a broken bureaucracy that refuses to acknowledge the wrong that was done to them and provide the care they need as a result. I’m pleased this measure is now law, and heroes like Arla will finally receive the acknowledgement, assistance, and care they deserve.”
According to an NPR report, mustard gas experiments were conducted on an estimated 60,000 World War II veterans by the Army and Navy at more than a dozen locations. Due to the decades of secrecy surrounding the experiments, the vast majority of these veterans have had their claims denied by the VA. The Arla Harrell Act requires the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to revise their policies for processing claims for mustard gas exposure, and to reconsider all previously denied claims. The bill requires the VA to presume that a veteran experienced full-body exposure to mustard gas or lewisite unless proven otherwise.