Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Efforts Intensify to Deliver VA Benefits to Blue Water Veterans
Washington, DC: It remains a dark chapter in the proud history of the US military: the deployment of 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in order to defeat jungle foliage during the Vietnam War. The fallout from that particular strategy involves long-term health effects for countless soldiers exposed to the toxicity of Agent Orange, together with an ongoing fight over VA benefits ever since.
Efforts Intensify to Deliver VA Benefits to Blue Water VeteransIt’s been 15 years since the US Department of Veterans Affairs (The VA) clawed back a basket of benefits originally intended by the US Congress in 1991 to provide presumptive VA disability benefits to veterans who presented with illnesses stemming from exposure to Agent Orange. In its wisdom, the VA decreed in 2002 that it would only provide benefits for those soldiers and personnel who were “Boots on the Ground” during the conflict.
The clawback excluded potentially thousands of veterans who may not have technically been “Boots on the Ground” - such as Navy personnel known as “Blue Water” vets - but who were nonetheless exposed to Agent Orange and who have been suffering from the aftereffects of what has turned out to be a definitive scourge for those affected. However, there continues to be a series of efforts to try to right that wrong and bring VA disability benefits to those disenfranchised vets excluded from the benefits pool. Since March 15 of this year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) has been spearheading legislation to extend veteran benefits to those veterans who have fallen through the Agent Orange cracks. Just this month, Senator Gillibrand has joined with Representative Richard Hanna to put a renewed push toward benefits for personnel having served the “territorial seas” and/or within 12 miles offshore of Vietnam.
“Thousands of our veterans are being denied benefits they need and deserve because of a technicality in the law,” said Senator Gillibrand, in a statement.
“We owe it to the veterans who bravely served our country and have fallen victim to Agent Orange-related disease to enact this legislation that will provide the disability compensation and healthcare benefits they have earned. Agent Orange is a very difficult chapter in our nation’s history and is past due that we correct the errors of the past.”
Representative Hanna echoed those comments. “All of our veterans who were exposed to the powerful toxin Agent Orange deserve treatment and care for the debilitating effects that are linked to it,” Rep. Hanna said. “We cannot deny our sailors treatment due to a technicality in the law. That’s why together with Senator Gillibrand I am working to see this change takes effect as soon as possible so we can give our Vietnam veterans the compensation and care they not only deserve but have earned through fighting for this nation during times of war.”

Agent Orange May Raise Risk Of Several Skin Conditions and Cancers Interview with:
Andrew T. Patterson, MD
The Ohio State University College of Medicine
The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Columbus, Ohio

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Patterson: The utilization of Agent Orange (AO) and other herbicides by the United States during the Vietnam War was controversial at the time and remains a prominent topic of scrutiny even today due to the potential long-term health effects facing exposed military and civilian personnel. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) in accordance with the National Academy of Sciences publishes a semi-annual review of the scientific and medical data regarding the resultant medical effects of Agent Orange and other organochlorine chemical exposures, however, skin diseases are no longer comprehensively assessed.
This represents an important practice gap, as in our experience, we had encountered a significant number of patients inquiring whether their cutaneous ailment could be the result of Agent Orange exposure. Our goal was to perform a systematic review of the literature and produce a practical summary of the current evidence regarding cutaneous manifestations of organochlorine exposures that could be utilized by military and non-military dermatologists alike when responding to questions related to prior Agent Orange contact.
After examining the literature, there appears to be an increased risk for chloracne, porphyria cutanea tarda, cutaneous lymphoma, and soft-tissue sarcomas including dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans and leiomyosarcomas in organochlorine-exposed patients. Some evidence exists for a possible increased incidence of melanomas, non-melanoma skin cancers, milia, eczema, dyschromias, dysesthesias, and rashes not otherwise specified, but the data is not conclusive. Even less support exists for an association with psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, neurodermatitis, and hypertrichosis

Remains of 8,000 war martyrs need DNA tests
HA NOI (VNS) — Over 8,000 cases of unidentified war martyrs have been referred to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs for DNA testing to establish a link to their alleged families.
Speaking on the occasion of commemorating the 68th war invalid and patriotic martyr day (27 July, 1947 – 27 July, 2015), Minister Pham Thi Hai Chuyen said the ministry had co-operated with three genetic analysis centres, the Institute of Biotechnology, the Institute of Biochemical and Professional Documents, and the National Institute of Forensic Medicine, to take samples of these cases to analyse their genes.

The ministry has managed to take 2,000 samples of the relatives of martyrs, which were delivered by the Viet Nam Martyrs' Families Support Association. These samples have been analysed and showed initial results.
The Government's approval of upgrading the three genetic analysis centres would facilitate the process, so more martyrs can be identified and returned to their families, Chuyen said.
With regard to former military personnel who died during the resistance war against the US, Chuyen said the Party and State had always accepted their responsibility and created supportive policies for these people. The Government has assigned the Ministry of Defence to make lists of beneficiaries.
In terms of the next generation of war martyrs, the Party's preferential treatment for the children of war martyrs during their study time has been implemented and includes financial assistance to buy books annually or a school fee exemption.
Chuyen also said that the war had been over for a long time, but its heavy influence still remained, as proven by victims of Agent Orange (dioxin victims). The Government has specific policies in place for those directly involved in the war who were affected by Agent Orange and for their children.
People directly involved in areas affected by Agent Orange suffered from any of up to 17 kinds of diseases. After being assessed, they receive support accordingly. Their children, who suffered from physical abnormalities, were also eligible under the policy.
Currently, the third generation of war martyrs who suffered from dioxin is not on the list for receiving assistance. The ministry will propose that the Government take comments from related agencies to produce specific studies on the impact of the hazardous substance on the third generation. — VNS

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Agent Orange Plus PTSD Equals Extra Dementia Risk

For Vietnam vets, defoliant exposure 'may exacerbate effects of other risk factors.'

WASHINGTON -- Exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War doesn't seem to increase the risk of dementia on its own, but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors like PTSD, researchers reported here.
In an analysis of Veterans Affairs data, having been exposed to Agent Orange and having PTSD together was associated with a significantly increased risk of dementia (hazard ratio 1.67, 95% CI 1.27 to 2.18), according to Deborah Barnes, PhD, MPH, of the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
They reported their findings at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference here.
Some 8% of veterans were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, where it was used as an herbicide to clear dense areas of forest.
It comprised two major ingredients: 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T); dioxin was an unintended contaminant, as it's highly toxic and a known human carcinogen.

Many other studies have looked at the health effects of Agent Orange exposure, and there have been mixed results regarding its neurological effects. Some studies found no adverse neurologic effects, while several recent studies have found worse cognitive function with greater exposure. Other studies have shown that verbal memory is the most affected neurocognitive region among Vietnam veterans.
Yet there haven't been any studies specifically looking at the relationship between Agent Orange and the risk of dementia among these veterans, Barnes said.
Consequently, she and colleagues accessed VA electronic medical record data on 46,737 Vietnam veterans over age 55 who had at least one baseline visit and one follow-up visit, and who did not have dementia at baseline.
They looked at Agent Orange exposure alone and in combination with PTSD. They used Fine-Grey proportional hazards models to account for competing risk of death.
Barnes noted that there was a significant difference between the exposed and unexposed populations at baseline. Veterans exposed to Agent Orange were younger and had more comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, depression, and PTSD (P<0 .001="" span="">
In an unadjusted analysis, the researchers found that having been exposed to Agent Orange was associated with an increased risk of dementia (HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.15 to 1.51).
However, that risk disappeared in unadjusted models, Barnes said.
When they looked at PTSD and dementia risk, however, they did find a significant association (HR 1.33, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.62) -- and having both Agent Orange exposure and PTSD together was associated with a larger increase in risk of dementia (HR 1.67, 95% CI 1.27 to 2.18).
"Agent Orange alone doesn't appear to increase the risk of dementia," Barnes said, "but it may exacerbate the effects of other risk factors such as PTSD."
She cautioned that the findings were limited because the researchers weren't able to measure the actual exposure to Agent Orange; they had to rely on patients' own reports of exposure. Future studies should aim for verification of exposure, she said.
Barnes disclosed no financial relationships with industry.

Agent Orange Act Was Supposed to Help Vietnam Veterans — But Many Still Don’t Qualify
Five decades after the Vietnam War began—and four decades after it ended— veterans exposed to the chemical brew dubbed Agent Orange are still fighting for compensation and benefits for themselves and their children.
And it turns out, not all veterans exposed to Agent Orange are being treated the same.
The fight is playing out in the halls of Congress, in courtrooms and at veterans meetings across the country.
Agent Orange is the name given to a mixture of toxins used during the Vietnam War to remove leaves from trees and bushes, leaving the enemy more exposed. (It got its name from the orange stripes on barrels containing it.)
All told, about 9 million military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam era, but most were not stationed in the country. Of those, some 2.6 million were potentially exposed to Agent Orange, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates.
The VA began receiving claims related to Agent Orange exposure in 1977, according to a November 2014 report from the Congressional Research Service. In 1991, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act, which said that certain diseases tied to chemical exposure would be presumed to be related to a vet's military service and would make the vet eligible for benefits. The list has grown over time and now includes various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson's Disease, peripheral neuropathy and heart disease, among others.
To get these benefits, though, veterans "must have actually set foot on Vietnamese soil or served on a craft in its rivers (also known as 'brown water veterans')," the Congressional Research Service wrote. Those who instead spent time on deep-water Navy ships (called "Blue Water Navy" veterans) do not qualify unless they can show that they spent time on Vietnam land or rivers, the report said.
Below are various groups who receive Agent Orange benefits or are seeking them.
Those Who Served in Vietnam
Since 2002, more than 650,000 veterans have been granted benefits because of their Agent Orange exposure, the VA estimates. (The department did not keep data prior to then.)
According to the VA's annual benefits report, it spent nearly $1.3 billion on compensation for Vietnam era veterans in fiscal year 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. That is about one-third of the $3.7 billion in compensation provided that year for all veterans. That figure includes monthly cash compensation payments, but not health care services.
The VA's website says that: "For the purposes of VA compensation benefits, Veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975 are presumed to have been exposed to herbicides, as specified in the Agent Orange Act of 1991. These Veterans do not need to show that they were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides in order to get disability compensation for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure."
Veterans can obtain information on the VA's website, where they can also file claims for benefits.

NB Power's herbicide 'essentially non-toxic' to humans, wildlife
Dozens of rural New Brunswickers are upset about NB Power spraying herbicides on and near their properties and communities.
But NB Power says the products it uses are approved by a branch of Health Canada and are "essentially non-toxic to humans and wildlife."
Areas underneath high electrical lines have been scorched brown by the use of plant-killing chemicals and it has many people in Wirral, Tracy, Hoyt and Fredericton Junction on edge. 
"I'm just watching a community being poisoned," said Shane Kelly, whose family lives near the sprayed areas.
"It makes me sick and it makes me scared." 
'So when we talk again spraying again it takes a lot of convincing that it's safe. Some will never be convinced.' - PC MLA Jeff Carr
Dead plants, grasses and foliage can be found beneath a high-line in Wirral that residents say was sprayed last fall. The trunks of alders can be snapped in half simply by brushing up against them.  
"It's disgusting," said Peter Hogan who lives next to the areas sprayed with defoliant. 
"I see no difference between this and Agent Orange." 
On Monday afternoon, nearly two dozen upset residents gathered at the office of Progressive Conservative MLA Jeff Carr in Fredericton Junction to discuss methods of how to get NB Power to stop using herbicides in their areas.
The gathering was emotional. Some of the people in the meeting broke down crying, stating they were terrified of what was being sprayed in their water, air and soil. 
"They have every right to be concerned," said Carr.
"It's scary, especially given our history with sprays." 
Vision Max, an herbicide developed by giant Monsanto, is one of the herbicides NB Power says it uses in the area.  
According to the products safety data sheet, Vision Max is considered harmful if inhaled and if it comes into contact with your skin. The product's safety data sheet says to take off contaminated clothing, rinse skin immediately and call a poison control centre or doctor for treatment advice.


Veterans Exposed To Toxic Chemicals Accuse VA Of Foot-Dragging
Retired Senior Master Sgt. Leslie Howe has battled two cancers -- non-Hodgkin lymphoma and prostate cancer, both of which have been linked with exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide used by the U.S. military to destroy enemy cover and crops during the Vietnam War. Howe, 71, was never actually in Vietnam during the conflict, but in the 1980s he served aboard Air Force planes that contained trace amounts of the defoliant. Still, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs twice denied Howe's benefits claim, telling him in a letter that it "could not find a link" between his medical conditions and his military service.
"I flew in good conscience on that aircraft, not knowing the danger," said Howe, who recalled a distinct "aroma" at times while he worked in the aircraft as an air medical evacuation technician. "I did it because I wanted to serve my country."
Similarly, retired Master Sgt. Casimir Cerniauskas, a World War II refugee from Lithuania, never hesitated in his decision to serve his adoptive country. He spent 37 years in the U.S. Air Force, including years loading and unloading cargo from contaminated C-123 airplanes -- the craft used to deploy Agent Orange in Vietnam -- in the U.S. after the Vietnam War had ended. Today, he's undergoing chemotherapy for myelodysplasia, a type of blood cancer, after already fighting non-Hodgkin lymphoma and being told that he couldn't qualify for the same Agent Orange-related benefits granted to veterans who served in Vietnam, where they were assumed to have encountered the herbicide.
"I don't regret serving," said Cerniauskas, whose three sons have all graduated from West Point and been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. "But how they make veterans wait, it makes me sick. They are dying. It's not right."
Howe and Cerniauskas both said they will be refiling their claims, now with renewed hope after what they say was a long-overdue policy change announced by the VA in June.
The limits and lags in medical care and disability benefits for veterans are well established. Look no further than a federal lawsuit filed in April by combat-injured veterans forced to wait up to two years or more for required records from the VA before they could apply for benefits. Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," has repeatedly called out the agency for its red tape and backlogs of claims. As The Huffington Post recently reported, nearly one-third of the 847,000 veterans with pending applications for health care through the VA have already died.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Friday, July 17, 2015

Camp Lejeune Family Member Program
Camp Lejeune Family Member Program
The Camp Lejeune Family Member Program is for family members of Veterans who were stationed at Camp Lejeune. If you are a Veteran, apply here or call 1-877-222-8387 for help.
From August 1, 1953, through December 31, 1987, people living at the U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, were potentially exposed to drinking water contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals. On August 6, 2012, the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 was signed into law. This law (H.R. 1627, now Public Law 112-154) requires the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to provide health care to Veterans who served on active duty at Camp Lejeune and to reimburse eligible Camp Lejeune Family Members (CLFM) for eligible health care costs related to one or more of 15 specified illnesses or conditions illustrated in the list below.
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Female infertility
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Miscarriage
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelodysplastic syndromes
  • Neurobehavioral effects
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Renal toxicity
  • Scleroderma
This website will assist CLFMs who want to apply for reimbursement of health care expenses related to one or more of the 15 conditions below. Please review the information on this page to assist you with applying for the Camp Lejeune Family Member Program (CLFMP). When you are ready, scroll to the bottom of this page and select "Start New Application for Family Member". If you’ve already started the application process, select “Retrieve Saved Application."

Can The Agent Orange Act Help Veterans Exposed To Mustard Gas?
To understand the predicament of World War II veterans exposed to mustard gas, take a look at what happened to another set of American veterans who were exposed to a different toxic chemical.
Last month, NPR reported that some of those World War II vets are still fighting for disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs because the agency says they don't have enough proof to substantiate their claims.
Alan Oates says that's the same response Vietnam War veterans started receiving from the VA in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
As a young Army private during the war, Oates was providing security for an engineering outfit in the jungle when he first noticed three planes flying overhead spraying something.
"I asked the engineers: What are they doing?" Oates says. "And [one] said: They're spraying herbicides to kill the vegetation, so that the enemy couldn't hide in it."
The herbicide was Agent Orange, and Oates says he assumed it was harmless to humans. But years after coming home, he noticed a tremor in his left hand.
"I had one finger that just one morning started moving back and forth," he says.
Oates made an appointment with his doctor and was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He's one of thousands of Vietnam veterans who came down with similar diseases — such as type II diabetes, skin disorders and rare cancers — after returning from the war.
But when veterans first began reporting their illnesses, the VA said they didn't have enough evidence to qualify them for service-related compensation.

Australian War Memorial to revise official record of impacts of Agent Orange use in Vietnam War
After a drawn-out campaign longer than the war in which they served, Australia's Vietnam veterans have finally won an important battle in their fight for proper recognition of their service and sacrifice.
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) has decided the official history of the conflict should be rewritten to provide a more accurate account of the use of Agent Orange, the chemical herbicide blamed for a range of cancers and other health problems.
The AWM commissioned independent historian Professor Peter Yule from the University of Melbourne to write a new volume for its official history Medical Aspects of Australia's Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts, 1950-72.
Professor Yule has been tasked to give account of 25 years of new information and accounts from veterans themselves.
"As with any history itself, new information can be uncovered and new histories are actually able to be rewritten," the assistant director of public programs at the Australian War Memorial, Anne Bennie, said.
"The memorial's council has certainly considered this for some time [and] was certainly aware of the veterans' concerns that the official history does not contain the full extent of medical issues related to their service in the Vietnam War."
Between 1961 and 1971 the United States Air Force sprayed tonnes of Agent Orange over large areas of Vietnam.

"The American air force was very frustrated because during the Vietnam War they were unable to be used to their full potential because they couldn't see the ground," Graham Walker, who served as an Australian infantry commander in Vietnam, said.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Agent Orange Chemical Sprayed on GMO Farms Poisoned Troops, US Government Admits
One in six federal disability checks covers Agent Orange-related health damage among veterans

Thousands of military veterans will soon divvy up a ten-year installment of about $47.5 million in disability benefits recently awarded by the federal government as compensation for harm caused by exposure to Monsanto’s Agent Orange herbicide.
As many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces who sprayed the toxic herbicide during the Vietnam War will have access to the benefits, which are meant to cover health damage caused by exposure to Agent Orange residue on Fairchild C-123 aircraft flown over Southeast Asia between 1969 and 1986.
The award is long overdue, especially as the federal government has insisted for many years that residues of Agent Orange couldn’t possibly be responsible for the various cancers, diabetes and leukemia suffered by thousands of former military men and women who handled the chemical at the bidding of the U.S. government.
Since June 19, eligible servicemen have been able to file for Agent Orange-related disability benefits, including survivor benefits and ongoing medical care. Any veteran who can prove that he or she worked on a contaminated plane and developed one or more of 14 qualifying medical conditions as a result, including prostate cancer, diabetes, and leukemia, is eligible for payment.
“Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do,” announced Bob McDonald, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in a recent statement.

Although they are reluctant to admit that Agent Orange was in any way responsible for harming American military servicemen during the Vietnam War, the federal government has been quietly paying out benefits to thousands of them for years. The White House Office of Management and Budget, which approved the new disability benefits, admits that one in six disability checks issued by the VA is for Agent Orange-related health damage.
This is striking in light of the fact that this same federal government, through its Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) arm, recently approved Dow Chemical’s “Enlist Duo” herbicide, which contains an Agent Orange component known as 2,4-D. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently announced that 2,4-D is a “possible human carcinogen,” along with Monsanto’s glyphosate (Roundup) herbicide.