Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin is making another push to help veterans who were exposed to toxic substances at the Karshi-Khanabad Air Base in Uzbekistan, known as K2.
She was among a group of Senate and House members Thursday to introduce legislation to get benefits and care to those vets who suffer from exposure to toxic substances at K2, an old Soviet airbase used by the U.S. military between 2001 and 2005.
According to a news release, the legislation establishes a “presumption of service connection” for those who served at K2 and “who have since been diagnosed with toxic exposure-related illnesses and diseases.”
The bill requires the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide health care and benefits to the affected veterans.
Baldwin introduced similar legislation last year.
“The Pentagon has known for years that our U.S. troops were exposed to cancer-causing toxins while serving in Uzbekistan and it’s simply wrong for the VA to deny them health care and disability benefits,” Baldwin said in a statement.
“The VA has taken a similar approach in the past, delaying recognition and compensation for American veterans exposed to toxic substances like Agent Orange in Vietnam, and with military burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, while veterans became sick and died. We can’t let that happen again.”
More than 15,000 U.S. troops passed through the base, a key staging area for military operations into northern Afghanistan. Among the toxins on the base were “hazardous petrochemicals, volatile organic compounds, depleted uranium, burn pits, and elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene,” a news release said.
One veteran who is keenly interested in the legislation is Leroy Miller, a heavy equipment operator from New Berlin.
A retired Army Ranger, Miller was sent to K2 in October 2001 to train for the invasion of Afghanistan after the attacks on September 11th.
He returned to the base in 2003. In the years since, Miller said he has dealt with skin rashes and blistering, an endocrine disorder and gastrointestinal issues.
“Other soldiers need to hear it’s OK to talk about it,” Miller said in an interview.
He praised the new legislation.