June 17, 2008 -- Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) are calling for an investigation after an ABC News/Washington Times report revealed that veterans are being recruited for government tests on suicide-linked drugs.
"It is outrageous and unacceptable that our government would irresponsibly endanger veterans who have already sacrificed so much for our country," said Sen. Obama Tuesday morning.
Republican Senator Cornyn, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also calling for an investigation this afternoon and has sent a letter to the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, James B. Peake.
"I've requested that VA Secretary Peake look into the allegations and, if needed, take the immediate steps necessary to identify the responsible parties, provide appropriate care to any veterans who have undergone this testing, and ensure that any unethical practices are immediately brought to a halt," said Sen. Cornyn.
Meanwhile the White House slammed the report. In a briefing today Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto called the story "irresponsible reporting" that took "the experience of this one veteran and trying to leave the impression that this was a situation for all veterans."
"And to try to imply that and, in fact, not even imply, see the words scrolled on a television screen this morning, that the VA is using our veterans as guinea pigs, I thought, was one of the most awful things I've ever had to watch on television," said Fratto.
ABC News' report on Good Morning America focused on the story of James Elliott, who was given the anti-smoking drug Chantix as part of a government test, without being warned that there are suicide-linked and other violent side effects associated with taking the drug. Veterans Administration doctors waited more than three months before warning veterans about the possible serious side effects, including suicide and neuropsychiatric behavior. Chantix is one of the drugs being used in an estimated 25 clinical studies using veterans by the VA. (click here to watch the Good Morning America report)
"Our veterans - particularly those suffering from mental health injuries - should have the very best health care and support in the world, they should never be needlessly exposed to drugs without proper notification of the dangers involved or effective monitoring of the side effects. I will immediately be asking for a full and thorough investigation of how our government could yet again let down our veterans and their families who have given so much to their country, and who have paid so much for the failures of civilian leadership in Washington," said Sen. Obama.
"It is time to demand accountability and to ensure that this kind of breach of trust never takes place again," said Sen. Obama.