Justice Delayed, But Not Denied

9th Circuit Victory for Vets Subjected to Chemical Testing

For over five decades, more than 60,000 active duty military personnel “volunteered” in secret research experiments as human test subjects for toxic chemical and biological substances—many of which left the subjects with permanent disabilities. Recent NPR stories highlight that certain races were targeted during the horrific chemical testing. The Army document revealing the testing on U.S. service members is now unclassified and can be accessed here.

In 2009, lawyers at Morrison & Foerster took on the case pro bono, with Swords to Plowshares as one of the organizational plaintiffs. The veteran plaintiffs are not seeking monetary damages for the injustices that occurred, only information and medical care for the diseases caused by the hazardous testing.

The defendants (including the Army, CIA, Department of Defense, among others) have fought every step of the way to deny their duty to provide notice and care to the veterans affected by the testing. As a result, the legal battle has dragged on in court as veterans wait without redress for the decades of testing and subsequent disregard.

On June 30th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the veteran plaintiffs, affirming the 2013 injunction issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In its order, the Ninth Circuit affirmed that the Army has a duty to “provide former test subjects with current information about their health, and to provide medical care for diseases caused by the experiments.”

“This is a significant legal victory, and long overdue for these veterans. After years of inhumane testing followed by decades of neglect, they deserve justice,” said Kate Richardson, Legal Director at Swords to Plowshares.

Now, the affected veterans, Swords to Plowshares, and the dedicated attorneys from Morrison & Foerster will again wait to see if the Army seeks a rehearing or review of the June 30th order. “After years of litigation, in light of the Court’s ruling, we hope that the government will stop litigating and finally provide these test subject veterans with the medical treatment and notice they need,” said Ben Patterson, an associate in the Litigation Department of Morrison & Foerster who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit and a member of Swords to Plowshares’ Pro Bono Advisory Board. Click here to read more about the case and the recent victory.

“This is about winning acknowledgement and medical treatment for the veterans affected, not about winning money,” said Michael Blecker, Executive Director at Swords to Plowshares.

If you believe you are a veteran who was subject to this chemical testing or for additional information please visit: http://edgewoodtestvets.org/

*Photo caption: Three test subjects enter a mustard gas chamber as part of the military’s secret chemical warfare testing in March 1945. Courtesy of Edgewood Arsenal.