The same deadly chemicals
found in the herbicide Agent Orange that was sprayed on the jungles of Vietnam
during the Vietnam War are being released in burn pits on U.S. military bases
across Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Otherwise healthy U.S.
service members are returning from deployment with cancer, leukemia,
respiratory illnesses and other chronic conditions,” said Chelsey Poisson, a
RIC nursing student with prior military service in the R.I. Army National
Guard. Poisson has made it her mission to advocate for service members who have
been exposed to burn pits and to push for legislation to change military
Burn pits are massive
holes backhoed in the ground to dispose of waste/garbage on U.S. military
bases. One of the largest burn pits–
at Joint-Base Balad in Iraq – spanned 10 acres. Smaller metal barrels are used
at smaller platoons. The danger, Poisson said, is what is being burnt in them.
“Everything is burned,”
she said. “Because you’re in a war zone, you can’t call up the local waste
management or recycling company to come by and pick up your trash. So the
military thought the best way to get rid of their waste is to dig a large hole,
pour in diesel fuel and set the trash on fire.”
“Burn pits smolder for
weeks or months at a time, often around the clock,” she said.
“When diesel fuel
burns it releases benzene, a known carcinogen.” Benzene, she added, is also
contained in many of the items being burned – paints, solvents, paint thinners,
rubber, pesticides, chemically-treated uniforms, Styrofoam and plastics.
And plastics proliferate
on base, she said. Plastic water bottles have replaced canteens, and
plastic utensils have replaced their metal counterparts. When plastic burns it
releases the same dioxins found in Agent Orange, another known carcinogen.
Exposure to benzene, dioxins and other toxic chemicals
occurs through inhaling or passively ingesting the fumes, gases or ashes. If
toxic ash settles in water bottles, eating utensils or
on cigarettes, it can be passively ingested orally, while airborne
ash that settles on the very fine Iraqi sand can enter the lungs during
strenous work or outdoor exercises.
Joint-Base Balad, an air base, had one of the largest burn
pits in Iraq, said Poisson. “On average, 147 tons of garbage were burned per
day,” she said. “Burning operations ran 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, to keep up with the trash accumulating on the base.”
READ THE STORY Angelica
Caye Kuhn was on the road to becoming a nurse.
of two was working as a patient care technician nearly two decades ago when one
day she heard a pop in her back.
She was in
pain for days and, after several tests, she was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a
spinal cord defect common in children of male Vietnam veterans who were exposed
to Agent Orange. The daughter of a combat Vietnam veteran who served in 1969
until 1970 in areas that were the most heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, Kuhn
said most of her life she struggled with neurogenic stomach and bowel issues
that were often misdiagnosed.
years later would later be diagnosed with several heart conditions and diabetes
all related to Agent Orange exposure.
received her nursing license and went back to work, but her career was
short-lived. Since then, she has had 28 different surgeries and is now legally
"I am a
hostage and a prisoner," she wrote in an email to ABC News.
"Imprisoned by my handicap. All because of a KNOWN toxic chemical that was
dumped on my unsuspecting father and millions of other unsuspecting members of
our military, who have/are paying with their lives and the lives of their
we will conduct a briefing on the report’s content presented by committee
members Dr. Karl Kelsey, Dr. Mary Fox, and Dr. Wendy Bernstein. The briefing will
be November 15 from 11:00 am to noon EST at the Keck Center of the National
Academies (500 Fifth Street, NW; Washington DC 20001), Room 101. This briefing
will also be broadcast over the web—remote participants will be able to view
slides, hear the presentation, and participate in the question and answer
session that follows.
If you would
like to be a part of the briefing, please register by responding to this email
with the name[s] and email address[s] of the participants and indicating
whether they will attend in person or via the web. Questions may be directed to
email@example.com. All are welcome; interested persons who are outside the
Washington, DC area are encouraged to participate via the web.
The dioxin contamination of soil in Da Nang
was worse than expected, experts said at a conference reviewing the cleanup on
organized by the National Steering Committee for Post-war Clearance of Ordnance
and Toxic chemicals and USAID, shared some details on dioxin cleanup at the Da
Nang International Airport, a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War.
Vu, head of the Air Force and Air Defense’s Military Science Division, said
earlier calculations had underestimated the actual contamination at the
He said the
actual amount of contaminated soil is 162,500 cubic meters and not 72,900 cubic
meters as earlier estimated.
Kolb, chief of USAID’s environmental remediation unit, explained that experts
only took soil samples from the surface and from that determined the depth to
which the dioxin could have penetrated.
had percolated three meters deeper than expected, he said at the conference in
Vu said the
miscalculation could be attributed to the fact this was the first time this
particular technology was used to remove dioxin from the soil on such a large
scale. It involves heating the contaminated soil while covering it in concrete.
could help make future dioxin assessments more accurate, especially at another
ongoing cleanup project at the Bien Hoa Air Base in the southern province of
Dong Nai. Bien Hoa is considered one of the worst dioxin-contaminated spots,
with some 850,000 tons of soil feared contaminated.
It was in
2009 when Brian Muller first met his wife, Amie.
actually met at a music venue. And at the time I was playing music in a band
and she had some friends there that were at the event," Muller, 45, from
Woodbury, Minn., recalls in a recent interview with Fox News. "Her friends
forced her to go out. I forced myself to go out and just to see some
how they discussed her service with the Minnesota Air National Guard.
ended up talking about what she does with the military," he says,
"and at that time, she was doing a project to make video memorials for
gold star families. Families that lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan or any
type of war."
asked me to write a song for those videos. And that's how we kind of started
our relationship, as-- friends, and then it developed from there."
never served in the military but was impressed by Amie's service -- including
her two tours in Iraq.
wanted to fly, and she joined the Air Force. And she got deployed and had her
life kind of uprooted there for a while."
stationed at the Iraqi air base in Balad during both of her tours in 2005 and
2007. While her active service was already behind her, the effects from her
time on that base still lingered.
didn't really want to talk about her time over there," Brian says.
"Anytime a door would slam or a loud noise, she'd get startled very
easily. She had a lot of PTSD [episodes] from just little things."
after returning from Iraq, Amie's physical health also suffered. She was
diagnosed with Stage III Pancreatic Cancer.
still remember Amie getting the call, and she looked at me," Muller says
about the day they found out about her diagnosis back in April 2016.
walked around the corner just to make sure the kids didn't see. I could tell by
the look in her face how scared she was. And I just kind of listening in to the
call. And we just started shaking.
Both she and
Brian believed it was related to her exposure to open-air burn pits used to
destroy trash generated on the base. Nearly every U.S. military installation in
Iraq during the war used the crude method of burn pit disposal, but Balad was
known for having one of the largest operations, burning nearly 150 tons of
waste a day.
generated from these pits hung above Amie's barracks daily.
talked about the burn pits even before she got cancer," Muller recalls,
"and how the fact that they would change the filters on these ventilation
systems quite frequently. And every time they'd change it would just be this
black soot, so thick that you would think you'd have to change it every
In Gray v. Wilke the court will answer the
question of “whether the Federal Circuit has jurisdiction under 38 USC § 502 to
review an interpretive rule reflecting VA’s definitive interpretation of its
own regulation, even if VA chooses to promulgate that rule through its
adjudication manual.” The question arises out of the VA’s interpretation of the
Agent Orange Act, an act that made it easier for veterans “to obtain disability
compensation.” The Agent Orange Act “creates an automatic presumption of
service connection” for any veteran who served in the Republic of Vietnam and
developed “one of several diseases medically linked to Agent Orange.” However,
“[o]ver the past 20 years, VA has repeatedly narrowed its understanding of
which Vietnam War veterans ‘served in the Republic of Vietnam’ and thus qualify
for the Agent Orange Act’s automatic presumption.”
Supreme Court agreed today to review a case that could eventually make it
easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange to obtain benefits.
said it would take a look at a 2017 ruling finding that the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Federal Circuit didn’t have the authority to review 2016
changes by the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
This 1996 History Channel video is 46+ minutes
long but well worth watching and really explains the history of and development
of the Brown Water Navy in Vietnam. Many of the Brown Water Navy innovations
came about once then-Vice Admiral (later CNO) Elmo R. Zumwalt became commander
of all naval forces in Vietnam.
130,000 veterans are receiving letters on how to apply for refunds of taxes
they paid on disability severance pay dating back to 1991 — a minimum of $1,750
estimates were not available, because each veteran’s payout varies, the government
could be paying out a minimum of $228 million in tax refunds, if all those
eligible file claims.
veterans will have a year after the date of their letter from the Defense
Department to file a claim for the refund, or three years after filing their
tax return that reported the disability severance pay, whichever is later.
Survivors of those who paid the taxes are also eligible for the refund, which
would be paid to the estate of the veteran.
to 130,062 veterans started on July 9, and are scheduled to be completed by
July 20. The letters are being sent by the Internal Revenue Service on behalf
of the Defense Department, because the IRS maintains the last known addresses
of taxpayers, said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed
Forces Tax Council.
refunds are the result of a law passed in 2016 — the Combat Injured Veterans
Tax Fairness Act of 2016 — which applies to veterans who received this pay
dating back to Jan. 17, 1991, with taxes withheld. By law, DSP is not taxable
The DSP is
paid for combat-related injuries determined by the military service at the time
of separation, or, the veteran is eligible for disability compensation from the
Veterans Affairs department.