Tester’s Bill to Declassify Military Records of Billings Veteran John Olsen Nears Final Passage
Montana Veteran Now Able to Access Military Records Related to Toxic Exposure for VA Benefits
(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that his legislation to declassify the military records of U.S. Navy veteran and Project SHAD participant John Olsen was included in the final bipartisan annual defense bill.
Tester’s bipartisan Gary Deloney and John Olsen Toxic Exposure Declassification Act declassifies the records of Project SHAD (Shipboard Hazard and Defense), allowing Olsen to use his records to apply for VA disability benefits and care.
Olsen participated in Project SHAD in the mid-1960s. The classified project included a series of tests to gauge the vulnerability of naval vessels and personnel to chemical and biological attacks. During these tests Olsen was regularly exposed to highly toxic carcinogens, and has since battled cancer four times.
Because the records of Project SHAD have been classified, the VA has denied Olsen his benefits and refused to administer care related to his exposure.
“Mr. Olsen served our nation with distinction and honor and we have worked for years to get the records of his service declassified,” said Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “I’m thrilled that Mr. Olsen will soon be able to use his military records to apply for the VA benefits that he has earned.”
“Without the records from Project SHAD, I’ll never know how many toxins I was exposed to,” said Olsen. “After 50 years, I’m still fighting for the health care I earned during Project SHAD. Thanks to Jon Tester, I’ll soon be able to get the health care I’ve been fighting for.”
Tester secured language in the Senate-passed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, but the language was not in the House of Representatives-passed version. Tester urged a bipartisan group of House and Senate members negotiating a final version of the compromise bill to include his Project SHAD language.
The final 2018 National Defense Authorization Act is expected to pass Congress in the coming weeks.