EXCLUSIVE: DOD Stonewalls Freedom Of Information Act Request from Ailing Vet

Army lieutenants listen during chemical training at the Chemical Decontamination Training Facility at Fort McClellan near Anniston, Ala. on Tuesday, May 20, 1997. The CDTF is the only U.S. military facility where live chemical training occurs.
AP/Dave Martin

A veteran has sought information about Fort McClellan’s chemical contamination from the Department of Defense since last year, but his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has gone unanswered.

Raymond Pulliam – a 53-year-old veteran – was forced to retire in 2012 due to health issues he believes were caused by toxic contamination at Fort McClellan, where he was stationed in 1979 for basic training.

A previous report from Breitbart News and The Washington Times exposed a high-ranking official’s email putting budget concerns over veteran health issues tied to Fort McClellan.

The Washington Times reported “a top Obama administration appointee declared to Congress that the Pentagon doesn’t want to spend the money to alert hundreds of thousands of soldiers who served at a once-contaminated Army base that they may have been exposed to toxins.”

“The cost of attempting to identify all these individuals, including the cost of media advertising, would be a significant burden on the Army’s budget and at a time when the Army is furloughing personnel due to a shortage of funds,” Elizabeth King, the Pentagon’s top liaison to Congress, wrote in an internal email to a House staffer in 2013,” as reported in the Times.

The story documents the long-term concerns over chemical contamination at Fort McClellan, located near Anniston, Alabama – one of the most toxic cities in America, according to earlier news reports.

The Army Chemical school was located at Fort McClellan and was the site where live chemical weapon training occurred. Nerve agents and sulfur mustard were tested there. The Environmental Protection Agency closed the base in 1999, declaring it a high-priority Superfund clean up site because the activities “generated solid and liquid wastes that contaminated soil and ground water,” according to EPA records.

Veterans who served at Fort McClellan have complained for decades about illnesses they believe were caused by the chemical exposure.

“But the Pentagon has not undertaken an effort to track down and alert veterans to their possible exposure,” the Washington Times report noted. “The U.S. government did not join a legal settlement a decade ago with chemical giant Monsanto Co., whose operations were accused of polluting Anniston-area soil and water.”

Following his career as a Military Police Officer, Pulliam became a civilian law enforcement officer.

In 2011, he was awarded the police officer of the year award, but by 2012 his health became such an issue he had to retire.

He suffers from dizzy spells, migraines, stomach issues, sharp pains in legs, chest and mouth, and degenerative disc disease.

“Although a lot of veterans have health issues that are worse than mine, these have greatly affected my quality of life,” Pulliam exclusively told Breitbart News.

In 2012, when he was forced to take medical leave due to his deteriorating health, Pulliam contacted the VA for compensation and medical based on his conditions and his “belief they were caused by toxic exposure at Ft McClellan.”

“I was unable to return to work based on my health, so I retired in 2012. I then began researching Ft McClellan full time as my health permitted,” he explained.

After discovering the email correspondence from a high-ranking Pentagon official reported in the Times story, Pulliam filed a Freedom of Information Request in December of 2014 requesting all emails, mail and documents related to the Fort McClellan Health Registry Act, which Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) had introduced and was the subject of the controversial email.

The legislation would create a health registry for veterans who suspect illness caused from chemical exposure from Fort McClellan.

Under the Freedom of Information Act passed in 1996, the American public can access government records and the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments extended the access to electronic records. The intent is to make government information widely available to the public.

Roughly one month later the DOD responded, but requested he narrowed the scope of his request.

Pulliam did so, stating he was seeking emails to and from Elizabeth King regarding Fort McClellan contaminants.

The DOD said it wouldn’t be able to comply in a 20-day period, but that it would monitor the progress of his FOIA.

Pulliam told Breitbart News’ Alex Swoyer:

On January 11,2015, your story appeared in the paper.

On 01/23/2015, I submitted a second FOIA request (15-F-0652) to the DOD requesting, “I am specifically looking for All correspondence to, from or carbon copied (CC) to Elizabeth King (Elizabeth.king@osd.mil) whether in electronic or handwritten format, including but not limited to electronic mail (email), memorandums, or other documents related to:

1) Any mention or discussion about OSD/JS FOIA 15-F-0450
2) Any mention or discussion about OSD Appeal 15-A-0450-A1
3) Any mention or discussion about Washington Times news article dated Sunday, January 11, 2015, titled: Pentagon puts budget concerns ahead of Fort McClellan troops’ welfare.
4) Any mention or discussion about Breitbart News article dated January 12, 2015, titled: Report: Poisoned Fort McClellan veterans ignored due to Obama budget.”

In March of 2015, Pulliam followed up with the DOD requesting an update on his FOIA request.

Pulliam said “in this letter I threatened to file a lawsuit if the documents requested are not located and turned over.”

Mid-April, Pulliam did get a call from an official from the Department of Justice stating that he has started working on the request and that there is a big backlog and it could be several more weeks before he gets a response.

Tired of the delay, earlier this month Pulliam contacted Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) requesting assistance in getting the Department of Defense to comply with his FOIA request.

“So, yes you could say that I am very frustrated with the lack of response to my FOIA,” Pulliam told Breitbart News.

An official from Sen. Boxer’s office did contact Ms. King – the high-ranking official whose email was reported in the Times story – requesting information and compliance on the FOIA request.

Breitbart News reached out to the Department of Defenses’ spokesperson, Lt. Commander Nathan Christensen, on this matter, but has not received comment.

“My goal is to use the information received from these FOIA requests, information I have from other FOIA requests and documents found on the internet to prove to the Veteran Law Judge that Ft McClellan was a toxic site and that my medical conditions were caused by being stationed at Ft McClellan,” Pulliam said.

“I am also going to share this information with any/all veterans that wish to use the information for their own claim.”


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