Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx) announced today that he is introducing legislation to assist veterans who may have been exposed to depleted uranium (DU) during their military service. The legislation aims to ensure that military personnel and veterans get the best screening and treatment for exposure to hazardous materials, particularly DU.
Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process. It was widely used for the first time during the Gulf War to make munitions and build armor for tanks. While many soldiers were in close proximity to equipment or munitions, the greatest of concern has been with soldiers who have been on or in vehicles struck by depleted uranium projectiles, particularly when shrapnel remains in their bodies. The effects of depleted uranium are devastating. Symptoms ranges from joint pains, muscle aches and fatigue to birth defects and chronic illnesses resulting in death.
The bill would direct the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs to aid any soldier or veteran in obtaining federal treatment services, including the best medical practices used to screen for depleted uranium. Those who believe they were exposed or who have been identified by the military as high risk would be eligible for treatment services. Not only would screening result in earlier diagnoses but it would also help prevent misdiagnoses. When soldiers are given the wrong medication the side-effects could exacerbate an existing illness.
A task force would be established to study the health effects of the exposure to depleted uranium. The task force would also set up a health registry for veterans who may have been exposed since the Gulf War; develop a plan to outreach to and follow-up of military personnel; and prepare a report for service members on the effects of depleted uranium and on precautions recommended under non-combat and combat conditions.
Assemblyman Dinowitz stated, “The young men and women who serve our country are being exposed to materials that may be deadly. We have a moral obligation to identify the affected veterans and provide them with the best available medical care. I believe this is the least we can do to show our appreciation to the men and women who fight for our freedom.”
Ulster County Legislator Susan Zimet stated, “I applaud Assemblyman Dinowitz for his compassion, foresight and courage to introduce this legislation on behalf of our returning veterans. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the war. Whether you are for or against it is irrelevant. We have a lot of soldiers who are coming home incredibly sick. They are asking us to help them in their fight to get the federal government to follow their own protocols for treatment of our returning veterans. What’s happening is not fair—it goes against everything we believe in.”
The following were in attendance at the press conference: Connecticut Representative Roger Michele, author of first law in United States on DU; Melissa Sterry, Gulf War veteran; New Paltz County Legislator Susan Zimet, author of Ulster County resolution on DU; Joan Walker & Angela Morano, members of NO DU Coalition of Hudson Valley; Raymond Ramos, Iraq War veteran and NY’s 442nd National Guard; Herbert Reed, Iraq war veteran and NY’s 442nd National Guard; Gerard Matthew, Iraq War veteran.