A federal agency investigating the link between veterans cancer and a leaking nuclear reactor found years of key records documenting exposure have been lost.
An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation reveals the federal government was aware of possible radiation exposure and failed to act.
The new information was contained within a 2004 disability claim filed with Department of Veterans Affairs' that describes possible radiation exposure from a leaking nuclear power plant that supplied power to a U.S. Navy base in Antarctica.
The new revelation comes on the heels of a request by Sen. Sherrod Brown to Defense Secretary Robert Gates for a full investigation into the extent of radiation exposure for an estimated 15,000 Navy personnel who served at McMurdo Station, Antarctica during the 1960s and 70s.
"The more I see of what Channel Five has done and the more we explore what's happened at McMurdo and talked to the Defense Department and the Veterans Administration, the more troubled I am," Brown said.
Brown asked for a Defense Department investigation following a March 2 report by the investigative unit at NewsChannel5.
Navy veterans, who suspect the nuclear plant caused their cancer, described repeated, failed efforts over the last 15 years to obtain disability benefits from the Veterans Administration.
Yet while the VA had knowledge of possible radiation exposure, it not only failed to launch its own investigation, it repeatedly denied claims of veterans who served at McMurdo and who had cancer.
"That's why I wrote to Secretary Gates, that's why I worked with NewsChannel5 on this and why we have been talking to General Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, to make sure that number one--this doesn't happen again, number two--we get to the bottom of it and number three--we make whole people that we can in any way possible," Brown said.
Meanwhile, the Veterans Administration issued this statement:
"This is an important issue for Veterans who served at McMurdo Station. The Department of Veterans Affairs' is working to provide the information you requested. VA shares your concern for all McMurdo veterans and we are committed to ensuring that all Veterans receive the maximum amount of care and benefits they are entitled to under the law. We will provide you with the information you requested soon."
Our excluisve report aired Tuesday on NewsChannel5 at 11.
Federal hearings prompted by an exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation into radiation exposure among McMurdo Navy veterans are scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
A Navy veteran who helped trigger a federal probe into a leaking nuclear plant at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, has died of cancer just weeks before a government report on radiation exposure is due to be released.
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