The federal government is taking its first steps toward formally acknowledging U.S. troops were stationed at a secret base in Uzbekistan where veterans say they were exposed to toxic hazards that have caused deadly diseases and illnesses.
President Donald Trump signed legislation Jan. 5 requires VA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to conduct a 10-year study of cancers and other diseases among Karshi-Khanabad (K2) veterans. The Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020 also opens VA’s burn pit registry to servicemembers who served at the former Soviet base in southern Uzbekistan.
Trump also is considering an executive order allowing former servicemembers who served at K2 to apply for the same VA care and benefits as veterans who were exposed to burn pits or depleted uranium in Afghanistan. In addition, a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act directs DoD to conduct an epidemiological study of toxic exposure among K2 veterans.
None of these measures provide presumptive service connection that would require VA to cover health-care costs for K2 veterans who are dealing with rare cancers and other illnesses they believe were caused by toxic exposures at the base. However, the executive order and NDAA directive are steps toward the federal government’s acknowledgement of the base’s hazardous legacy, K2 veterans say.