health problems reported to the committee by the veterans became extremely valuable in highlighting those gaps that were important to consider.
Input to the public hearing process was solicited in a number of ways, beginning in late January 1992. The Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the American Legion generously provided space for hearing announcements in their respective official publications (see Appendix G). The committee was also provided with a list of affected veterans who had contacted the offices of U.S. Congressman Porter Goss (Florida), and letters of invitation were sent to each person on that list. At the committee's request, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also sent hearing announcements to each individual who had a claim pending for injuries from exposure to mustard agents or Lewisite. Finally, some input was received as a result of discussions among veterans and scattered stories in the press.
In order to allow the greatest flexibility, veterans who were unable to come to the public hearing were offered two alternative methods of giving statements: oral statements taken by the study staff over the telephone, and written statements in letter form. Each letter received from a veteran was acknowledged with a letter from the study director. In some cases, additional information was needed and requested, such as current health problems or more detail regarding the veteran's exposure. There were a number of cases in which the study staff imparted useful information to the veterans, both over the telephone and in letters. For example, of all the testing program locations, only the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) had maintained records of individuals who had been human subjects during WWII. In a number of cases, the study staff was able to inform veterans about how to obtain their records from the NRL.1 In other cases, the study staff informed veterans about how to arrange for a local DAV representative to assist them in gathering information and filing claims with the VA.
Prior to the hearing, summaries of each telephone call and copies of each letter received were sent to the committee members. Twenty veterans appeared in person to present statements at the hearing, held in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 1992 (Appendix G). Each veteran had five minutes to make his presentation, and ample time for committee questions was allowed. In addition, speakers were also given the
These NRL records included copies of actual data sheets for the experiment in which the individual was involved. Data sheets contained information about the gas concentration, the number of trials, any blood counts and temperature measurements, as well as the location and severity of erythema for each person. In some cases, such records provided the only documentation that an individual had been in the tests.