[GAO report GAO/NSIAD-93-89 February 1993, Results and Background]

There were at least three secret chemical experiments conducted between
1942 and 1975: the Navy's and the Army's World War II mustard agent
experiments and the Army's incapacitating agent tests of the Cold War era.
All of these tests have been declassified by the services since at least 1975.

Because of a lack of data, making decisions on the validity of veterans'
disability claims associated with mustard agent experiments has proven to
be difficult for VA. This has not been a problem with claims associated with
incapacitating agent tests because the Army has the necessary
information. Before July 1992, the VA required that veterans prove that
their medical problems resulted from their participation in the mustard
agent tests. Few veterans, however, could prove this relationship. Thus,
until 1992, only 13 of 145 claims for benefits were approved by VA. VA has
recently recognized that the veterans' problems may be attributable to the
fact that the experiments were conducted secretly, with no provision for
medical follow-up testing.

In July 1992 VA revised its adjudicating procedures for these types of
claims. To receive compensation, veterans with specific health problems
known to be associated with exposure to mustard gas now need only to
show that they participated in mustard agent tests. However, because
there is only limited information available on test participants, VA will
continue to have difficulty deciding whether veterans' claims are valid. VA,
for example, has not been able to validate veterans' claims of participation
in mustard agent tests because the services do not have complete
information on the test sites, the dates of the tests, and the units involved.
Moreover, what information is available is widely dispersed in records
held at numerous military locations. No effort has been made to aggregate
the existing data.

VA has made other efforts to serve veterans who may not be receiving
deserved compensation for their participation in the tests. For example,
the agency had the National Academy of Science study the long-term
effects of exposure to mustard gas to ensure VA'S list of chronic conditions
resulting from mustard agent exposure is complete.

VA'S only outreach effort to identify veterans involved in these tests was
hampered by the limited amount of information available on the testing
programs. In this 1991 outreach effort, only 128 veterans out of the
thousands that participated could be identified from existing information.
Future outreach efforts could be enhanced if the Army and Navy provided
VA with all available information on the location of the test sites, the dates
of the mustard agent tests, and the units involved.
Since at least World War I, the military has conducted medical, chemical,
and biological research using military personnel who have volunteered.
This research is done to maintain and protect the health of military
personnel who may be exposed to a variety of diseases and combat
conditions. Military procedures have long required that the volunteers be
fully informed of the nature of the studies in which they participate and
the foreseeable risks. However, prior to 1975, these procedures were not
always followed.