Wednesday, November 14, 2018


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

November 16, 2018
Libby, Montana
Contact: Willa Burgess

Burn Pits – the Agent Orange of the Iraqi War

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 deplo​yment 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 policies.
​​​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 t​o 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.”
“B​urn 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, w​hile 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.”

Vietnam War veterans' kids say Agent Orange impact 'a nightmare'

Angelica Caye Kuhn was on the road to becoming a nurse.
The mother 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.
Her father years later would later be diagnosed with several heart conditions and diabetes all related to Agent Orange exposure.
Kuhn eventually 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 disabled.
"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 children!!!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Friday, November 9, 2018

Public release and briefing - National Academies Veterans and Agent Orange report

We are writing to inform you of the public release of the National Academies report "Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018)". The release will take place at 11am EST on Thursday, November 15, 2018.
Concurrently, 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 All are welcome; interested persons who are outside the Washington, DC area are encouraged to participate via the web.
Thank you for your interest in our work.

Dioxin contamination in Da Nang more serious than expected

The dioxin contamination of soil in Da Nang was worse than expected, experts said at a conference reviewing the cleanup on Tuesday.

The event, 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.
Pham Quang Vu, head of the Air Force and Air Defense’s Military Science Division, said earlier calculations had underestimated the actual contamination at the airport.
He said the actual amount of contaminated soil is 162,500 cubic meters and not 72,900 cubic meters as earlier estimated.
Anthony 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.
The dioxin had percolated three meters deeper than expected, he said at the conference in Da Nang.
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.
The finding 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.

Burn Pit Vet's Widower: Memos Show that Illness Didn't Need to Happen

It was in 2009 when Brian Muller first met his wife, Amie.
"We 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 music."
He remembers how they discussed her service with the Minnesota Air National Guard.
"We 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."
"She 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."
Brian has never served in the military but was impressed by Amie's service -- including her two tours in Iraq.
"She wanted to fly, and she joined the Air Force. And she got deployed and had her life kind of uprooted there for a while."
Amie was 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.
"She 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."
A decade after returning from Iraq, Amie's physical health also suffered. She was diagnosed with Stage III Pancreatic Cancer.
"I 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.
"We 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.
The smoke generated from these pits hung above Amie's barracks daily.
"She 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 hour."

Supreme Court grants certiorari

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.”

Monday, November 5, 2018

Vets Exposed to Agent Orange May Get Help From SCOTUS

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review a case that could eventually make it easier for veterans exposed to Agent Orange to obtain benefits.
The court 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.

Okinawa and Review of the Historical Records on Agent Orange

This paper by Dr. Alvin Young flies in the face of several documented instances where it has been proven that herbicides were, in fact, on Okinawa.

The Brown Water Navy

courtesy Brian DuMont via Paul Sutton
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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Big tax refunds coming for 130,000 veterans

More than 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 per veteran.
While exact 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.
The eligible 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.
The mailings 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.
These 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 if:
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.