Tester Calls For Immediate Investigation of Cancer Reports among Air Force Missileers
Senator urges Defense and Veterans Affairs Departments to immediately provide health assessments to potentially impacted individuals; requests all relevant information regarding potential toxic exposure(s)
Following recent reporting on the high incidence of cancer among Missileers who served at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Cascade County, Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is demanding answers and urging senior leaders at the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to take immediate action to ensure every potentially impacted veteran or servicemember is identified and receives an appropriate health assessment.
“Given the reported timeframe of potentially cancer-causing exposures, the unknown number and current status …of potentially affected individuals, and the seriousness of the reported health outcomes, I urge the DOD and VA to work urgently together to ensure every potentially impacted individual is made aware of this situation, receives the appropriate health assessment and is offered the appropriate care he or she needs,” Tester wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “I would also appreciate any relevant information from DOD about this situation, including steps that are being taken or have been taken to identify an exposure or exposures, establish a timeframe for exposure, recognize potentially affected individuals and address health concerns of those individuals.”
Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that nine out of 400 airmen who worked as Missileers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, which is home to 150 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile silos, have been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Tester highlighted his concern with the incidence of this rare cancer, emphasizing how the diagnosis rate for the Missileers appears to be much higher than the national average for new cases, which affects an estimated 19 out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. annually, and that these servicemembers are well below the median diagnosis age of 67 for this cancer.
Tester pressed DOD to provide all relevant information regarding this potential toxic exposure or exposures, including:
- Is this increased rate of cancer unique to those who served at Malmstrom Air Force Base, or are Missileers who served or are serving at other bases also suffering from a similarly increased risk of cancer or other diseases or conditions?
- Have the reported incidents been narrowed to a particular timeframe – if so, how was that determined?
- Are there other locations – training locations or living quarters – unique to Missileers that should also be investigated for exposures?
- Have active duty servicemembers of other branches who once served as Missileers at Malmstrom Air Force Base reported diagnoses of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma?
- In addition to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, have any other cancers, diseases or conditions been identified as suspect among former Missileers of Malmstrom Air Force Base?
- Has DOD, or VA, previously been alerted to or reviewed the health outcomes, particularly cancer, of Missileers?
He continued, “Most importantly, comprehensive health assessments must be made available to all servicemembers and veterans who served as a Missileer at any location to identify any potential adverse health outcomes … DOD must also ensure VA has the information it needs to ensure prompt decision-making if and when claims for service-connection are made as a result of potential exposures.”
A long-time advocate of addressing military toxic exposures, Tester championed the bipartisan Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (PACT) Act last year to expand VA’s list of conditions presumed to be service-connected, as well as to create a framework for the establishment of future presumptions of service connection related to toxic exposure.
Read the Senator’s full letter HERE.