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Congressman Ryan Costello

Representing the 6th District of Pennsylvania


September 21, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – House Veterans’ Affairs Committee members Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06), Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-02), and Rep. Kathleen Rice (NY-04) today introduced H.R. 6096, the Arla Harrell Act.

During World War II, the U.S. military exposed thousands of servicemembers to mustard gas as a form of conducting chemical weapons’ tests – and servicemembers were sworn to secrecy. This unacceptable practice was followed by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) denying these brave veterans, including many in Pennsylvania, the benefits they needed.

The bipartisan Arla Harrell Act would require the VA to reconsider these veterans’ cases, which were previously denied, and would ensure future cases of veterans with mustard gas exposure are given fair and proper attention so veterans can receive the benefits they worked so hard to earn. Under the bill, the VA and Department of Defense would also be required to submit reports to Congress with important information on servicemembers who were exposed and those who were again denied their benefits.

“Pennsylvania’s World War II veterans proudly and courageously served their country,” said Rep. Ryan Costello (PA-06). “This legislation would assist our veterans who were purposely exposed to mustard gas during their time of service by ensuring and accelerating their access to benefits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I’m proud to cosponsor this long overdue solution for our nation’s heroes in uniform.”

“It’s bad enough that American servicemembers were exposed to mustard gas by our own military – but the fact that the VA continues to deny them the care and benefits they deserve is unacceptable,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “We have a responsibility to all those who served our nation in uniform, and it’s time we right this wrong and begin to repay the tremendous sacrifice these veterans made.”

“This is about correcting an injustice for hundreds of veterans, including several in New York, who were exposed to chemical weapons by our own government and have been denied the benefits and care they deserve for decades since,” said Representative Kathleen Rice. “I’m proud to join Congresswoman Walorski and Congressman Costello in this bipartisan effort, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get this legislation passed.”

Rep. Costello has a record of standing up for veterans who need access to their benefits. Click here to read about his work on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act to help Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.