Mustard gas test subjects denied veteran benefits
The military has acknowledged for decades it performed secret mustard gas tests on troops at the end of World War II but a Senate investigation released Tuesday found 90 percent of related benefit claims have been rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said she discovered shortfalls in the benefits process that took her breath away during a yearlong investigation into treatment of the test victims. The release of her findings is accompanied by a new bill – named after an 89-year-old former soldier from Missouri – that fast-tracks VA benefits for possibly hundreds of survivors.

About 60,000 servicemembers were exposed to mustard gas and another chemical agent called Lewisite as part of a clandestine defense research program in the 1940s. Of those servicemembers, about 4,000 had their entire bodies exposed to the chemical weapons. Mustard gas and Lewisite burn the skin and lungs, are linked to a variety of serious health problems and have been banned by the international community.

McCaskill said she believes about 400 of the veterans could still be alive and eligible for benefits.