Wednesday, December 23, 2009

LIES!

Lies, Lies, and More Lies!
Now is the Time for TRUTH!


An article published in the December 19 issue of TIME Magazine titled, Agent Orange Poisons New Generations in Vietnam by Martha Ann Overland states: “The U.S. government still spends billions every year on disability payments to those who served in Vietnam — including their children, many of whom are suffering from dioxin-associated cancers and birth defects.”

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children know this is a lie.


The article closes with this quote: “Thao Griffiths, country director of Vietnam Veterans of America, which works on lingering war issues, points out that the legacy of each is equally painful. "The issue of MIAs for Americans holds the same importance that Agent Orange does for the Vietnamese," she says.

Thao Griffiths is not a representative of Vietnam Veterans of America and she does not speak for Vietnam Veterans of America.

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children know this is a lie.

Don’t Wait For An Army To Die, an article published in the September/October issue of The VVA Veteran described a plan announced on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 by the Ford Foundation that it is funding and launching a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam.

In his written testimony to The House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment, Charles R. Bailey, Director, Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin, The Ford Foundation said, “Over the years the Ford Foundation in Vietnam has supported institutions and individuals with grants totaling $100 million over the past 12 years.”

What has the Charles R. Bailey and The Ford Foundation done for American Vietnam Veterans and their families affected by Agent Orange? Nothing. Not one thin dime.


Conducted by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," the 17 page report states that it is “not too late to correct the lapses in the nation's treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War."

It goes on to state that "One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations."

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children know this is the TRUTH.

In June it was unknown the extent of the Ford Foundation media campaign or when it would begin. It was expected that it would roll out in summer with a six figure budget, and use every resource the foundation has developed over the years, including Hollywood, the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, and celebrities.

The TIME Magazine article is part of this campaign and confuses the public and blurs the facts.

All victims of Agent Orange exposure and poisoning, both American Vietnam Veterans and their children and Vietnamese are entitled to the truth.

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children know this is the TRUTH.

The article also makes an effort to pit veteran’s issue groups against each other, comparing the budget for locating the remains of Americans who remain unaccounted for in Southeast Asia and compensation for the tragic health effects of Agent Orange exposure.

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children and those who are equally passionate about the fullest possible accounting of American servicemen know this is a lie.

If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign is allowed to focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange and exclude the American victims of Agent Orange, Vietnam Veterans and their families must use every resource at our disposal and educate Congress, American business, and the American people about the horrors of Agent Orange and its aftermath.

Those of you who suffer from Agent Orange related illnesses and your affected children know this is the TRUTH.

This is not about animosity toward Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but it is a response to the telling of only one side of the story by the Ford Foundation media campaign.

The pain and suffering of American Vietnam Veterans and their families cannot be allowed to continue without a full-throated response to a well-funded, one-sided disinformation campaign.

It is long past time for the lies to be confronted and for the truth to be placed on the table for all to see.

All Vietnam Veterans, whether you are affected by Agent Orange or not must write and e-mail TIME Magazine immediately to challenge the lies in the article.
Write Letters to The Editor of your local newspapers and contact your local television and radio stations and report the truth to them. Mobilize your local communities to stand for the truth.

(see full article below.)

TIME Magazine, December 19, 2009
Agent Orange Poisons New Generations in Vietnam

By Martha Ann Overland / Danang Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009
This lonely section of the abandoned Danang air base was once crawling with U.S. airmen and machines. It was here where giant orange drums were stored and the herbicides they contained were mixed and loaded onto waiting planes. Whatever sloshed out soaked into the soil and eventually seeped into the water supply. Thirty years later, the rare visitor to the former U.S. air base is provided with rubber boots and protective clothing. Residue from Agent Orange, which was sprayed to deny enemy troops jungle cover, remains so toxic that this patch of land is considered one of the most contaminated pieces of real estate in the country. A recent study indicates that even three decades after the war ended, the cancer-causing dioxins are at levels 300 to 400 times higher than what is deemed to be safe.
After years of meetings, signings and photo ops, the U.S. held another ceremony in Vietnam on Dec. 16 to sign yet another memorandum of understanding as part of the continuing effort to manage Agent Orange's dark legacy. Yet there are grumblings that little — if anything — has been done to clean up the most contaminated sites. Since 2007, Congress has allocated a total of $6 million to help address Agent Orange issues in Vietnam. Not only does the amount not begin to scratch the surface of the problem or get rid of the tons of toxic soil around the nation, but there are questions about how the money is being spent. And several parties have noted with growing frustration that the money is primarily going to study the issue and hire consultants rather than implementing measures to prevent new generations from being exposed.
"There is still risk to people living in those areas," says Thomas Boivin, president of the Vancouver-based Hatfield Consultants, an environmental firm that has been identifying and measuring Agent Orange contamination in Vietnam since 1994. The good news is that Hatfield's studies indicate that even though 10% of southern Vietnam was sprayed with dioxins, only a handful of hot spots — all former U.S. military installations where the herbicide was mixed and stored — pose a danger to humans. The bad news? "If those were in Canada or in the U.S., they would require immediate cleanup," Boivin says.
Responding to complaints that America is dragging its feet, U.S. ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak said the $1.7 million most recently allocated to conduct an environmental assessment of the Danang air base is being done to comply with both U.S. and Vietnamese law and is a necessary step toward cleanup. "We're investigating many promising techniques," Michalak said following the signing ceremony in Hanoi. Careful study is required if the job is to be done right, he added. "We know there is dioxin in the soil," he said. "But what method do we use to remove it? Where do we tell the diggers to dig? It's just another step on the road."
But critics believe the U.S. is playing a grim waiting game: waiting for people to die in order to avoid potentially costly lawsuits. For a country currently engaged in two wars, accepting comprehensive responsibility for wartime damages could set an expensive precedent. "They know what the problem is and where it is," says Chuck Searcy, country representative of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. "Why do they now need an environmental impact assessment? They are studying this to death."
Scientists have been raising the alarm about dioxins since the 1960s. After TCDD, the dioxin in Agent Orange, was found to cause cancer and birth defects, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) slapped an emergency ban on the herbicide in 1979. Dow and Monsanto, the chemical's largest manufacturers, eventually shelled out millions in damages to U.S. troops who were exposed to it while it was being used as a wartime defoliant from 1961 to 1971. The U.S. government still spends billions every year on disability payments to those who served in Vietnam — including their children, many of whom are suffering from dioxin-associated cancers and birth defects. In October, the Department of Veterans Affairs added leukemia, Parkinson's and a rare heart disease to the list of health problems associated with Agent Orange. Yet U.S. official policy maintains that there is no conclusive evidence that the defoliant caused any health problems among the millions of exposed Vietnamese or their children.
Meanwhile, private foundations and individuals have taken the lead. Early efforts to identify and measure dioxin levels at Agent Orange hot spots were undertaken by the U.S.-based Ford Foundation in the 1990s. Later, with technical assistance from the EPA, Ford "capped" the most contaminated section of what is now the Da Nang International Airport, installing a filtration system to stop dioxins from flowing into the city's water supply and building a wall to keep people from entering the area. At another abandoned U.S. air base in the Aluoi Valley, a Vietnamese botanist raised $25,000 in donations to plant cactus-like bushes and thorn trees around contaminated areas to prevent villagers from entering to fish there. (Dioxins quickly accumulate in animal fat.) Though these are not long-term solutions, Hatfield found that after the simple barriers went up, dioxin levels in the blood and breast milk of nearby residents dropped dramatically.
Charities in Danang have voiced concerns about how U.S. money is being spent when it comes to providing care to the disabled in the region. A portion of the $6 million allocated by Congress was awarded to humanitarian groups working with disabled residents around Danang. But it is difficult to find evidence of the money at work. Save the Children was given $400,000 to help people with disabilities find employment. But the sole case the organization cited for a reporter was their work finding a job for a college graduate with a hair lip. Another chunk went to equip and refurbish a wing at Binh Dan Hospital in Danang, which sits largely empty. Because the American Rehabilitation Center has virtually no medical equipment, it has a difficult time attracting patients. Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy in Hanoi is spending $500,000 for a health and remediation adviser.
Groups caring for children born with horrific deformities from Agent Orange — such as malformed limbs and no eyes — are wondering why they haven't seen any of that money. Bedridden and unable to feed themselves, many patients need round-the-clock care. As they age, and parents die, who is going to look after them? asks Nguyen Thi Hien, director of the Danang Association of Victims of Agent Orange. She says donations to her group, which cares for 300 children, are down 50% because there is a belief that local charities are flush with cash thanks to the U.S.'s latest allocation. "The $1 million [being spent by the Americans] is not for care but mainly for conferences and training," said Hien. "This money should go to caring for the victims."
But determining who should benefit is a nightmare. Tests to establish dioxin levels in individuals run as high as $1,000 per person — a price tag Vietnam says it can't afford. U.S. negotiators and scientists are frustrated that Vietnam seems to blame all the population's birth defects on the defoliants. Diplomats broke off talks several years ago complaining that Vietnam was unwilling to use accepted scientific methods because they might not support claims of widespread exposure and health damages. They have also complained that Vietnam could do more to help its own. No one is stopping the Vietnamese from erecting fences around contaminated spots, points out a U.S. diplomat, suggesting that the Vietnamese are exploiting the issue for more aid and sympathy.
Still, the Vietnamese people (and the government, though more quietly) contend it's the U.S. that should be doing more — much more. Some point out that the U.S. spends only a fraction on Agent Orange cleanup compared to the $50 million it spends every year on searching for the remains of American soldiers missing in action. Thao Griffiths, country director of Vietnam Veterans of America, which works on lingering war issues, points out that the legacy of each is equally painful. "The issue of MIAs for Americans holds the same importance that Agent Orange does for the Vietnamese," she says. And until the issue is resolved, the legacy of the war will continue to haunt both sides.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Agent Orange's lethal legacy

Tran Huynh Thuong Sinh, who was born without eyes, is checked by a nurse in Peace Village, an international charity organization located at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. The hospital is home to children born with deformities that Vietnam blames on exposure to toxic herbicides used during the Vietnam War. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / July 8, 2009)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=d2e9e3d6-b94e-483b-ab8c-633d07aa8779

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange4dec09,0,7839395.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange3-dec08,0,2946008.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange-actionplandec08,0,7945266.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange3-study-sidebar-dec08,0,7411594.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange2-dec06,0,2356181.story


http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange2-sidebar-dec06,0,3886506.story



Agent Orange's lethal legacy: At former U.S. bases in Vietnam, a potent poison is clear and present danger
By Jason Grotto ,Tribune reporter

...Their findings offered a way to recast the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam as a solvable -- and urgent -- issue...address this issue." An invisible threatThe impact of Agent Orange isn't felt only by soldiers and civilians who were...
TAGS: Medical Services, U.S. Military, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Liver, Vietnam War


December 8, 2009
Agent Orange: Birth defects plague Vietnam; U.S. slow to help
By Jason Grotto ,Tribune reporter

...that came in the mornings to spray Agent Orange and other defoliants while she...produce an ingredient found in Agents Orange, Purple, Green and Pink -- compounds...Conflicting views The controversy over Agent Orange's impact in Vietnam stands at...

December 8, 2009
Public-private group has plan in the works to resolve issue
By Jason Grotto ,Tribune staff reporter
Public-private group has plan in the works to resolve issue

...S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin, the group is supported...effort to resolve the legacy of agent orange. It is expected to recommend...director of the Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin for the Ford Foundation...

December 8, 2009
Bickering blocks search for causes of congenital deformities
By Jason Grotto ,Tribune reporter
Bickering blocks search for causes of congenital deformities

...S. and Vietnamese governments agreed in 2002 to carry out joint research on the health and environmental impact of Agent Orange and other toxic defoliants, on the assumption that aid would follow the scientific results. The Bush administration...


December 6, 2009
Agent Orange's lethal legacy: For Vietnam War veterans, injustice follows injury
By Tim Jones ,Tribune reporter
Agent Orange's lethal legacy: For Vietnam War veterans, injustice follows injury

...compensated for health problems linked to Agent Orange amounts to a new and unexpected...government was personal and direct: Agent Orange is killing me, and you need to...conditions officially linked to Agent Orange, veterans can wait years for their...


December 6, 2009
Agent Orange's lethal legacy: The next generation
By Tim Jones ,Tribune reporter
Agent Orange's lethal legacy: The next generation

... Hutches, who was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1965, was...knew more than most soldiers about Agent Orange. But he had no idea what it could...sprayers -- the same ones used for Agent Orange. "Everyone tried to be first...


December 4, 2009
Agent Orange's lethal legacy: For U.S., a record of neglect
By Jason Grotto and Tim Jones ,Tribune reporters

...linked by the stubborn legacy of Agent Orange and other defoliants sprayed by... Yet in the 30 years since Agent Orange was recognized publicly as a potential...never has gotten to the bottom of Agent Orange's full impact, failing to follow...






A Vietnamese soldier guards a contaminated site in Da Nang, Vietnam. During the war, the U.S. military stored millions of gallons of herbicides at an air base there. More than 30 years later, the soil still contains dioxin at unsafe levels. The pollution also has seeped into a nearby lake and moved through the food chain into human blood and breast milk. (Tribune photo by Kuni Takahashi / July 1, 2009)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For U.S., a record of neglect

www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/

George Claxton: Made dioxin his life's work


chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=d2e9e3d6-b94e-483b-ab8c-633d07aa8779

Jungles another casualty of spraying missions

www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=09435d98-7554-404f-a33f-3bdb00ca84f4

Agent Orange: Birth defects plague Vietnam; U.S. slow to help

U.S., Vietnam split over whether defoliants used in war are to blame

Dao Thi Kieu, 57, works her rice field outside of Bien Hoa, Vietnam. Her fields were sprayed with herbicides by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Of her eight children, seven were born with birth defects and five have died. Kieu also lost her husband, who fought for South Vietnam's army, to cancers associated with exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants. (Tribune photo by Chris Walker / September 19, 2009)

chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange3-dec08,0,2946008.story

DONG NAI PROVINCE, Vietnam - Part 3 of a Tribune investigation finds that the role of defoliants in Vietnam's high rate of birth defects remains a contentious question decades after U.S. spraying missions ended. Complete coverage >>

The sun beats down on Dao Thi Kieu's straw hat as she hunches over thin strands of bright green rice plants, pulling them from beds submerged in muddy water and replanting them elsewhere.

These are the same paddies Kieu tended as a teenager during the Vietnam War, and she still remembers the planes that came in the mornings to spray Agent Orange and other defoliants while she worked.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

In Vietnam, family grieves 12 lost children

http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=a9c58162-cd1c-41e8-adae-80eb8d99718c

Vet's daughters cope with toxic inheritance

http://www.chicagotribune.com/videobeta/?watchId=9fa27737-b729-4a32-aa78-b4e09b0170ec

Agent Orange's lethal legacy: For Vietnam War veterans, injustice follows injury


A U.S. Army soldier presents a folded U.S. flag to Christina Cooley at the memorial service in Evanston's Sheil Chapel for her father, Jack Cooley. Exposed to Agent Orange during his service in Vietnam, he died in July of multiple myeloma. At right is Christina's brother, John. (Tribune photo by Chris Walker / September 12, 2009)


Vietnam vets wait years and fight skeptical agency to get disability

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange2-dec06,0,2356181.story

Part 2 of a Tribune investigation finds that for many U.S. veterans, the bureaucratic fight to be compensated for health problems linked to Agent Orange amounts to a new and unexpected war, long after the shooting ended overseas.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/

Jack Cooley delivered his final argument in a long, distinguished legal career from a hospital bed.

Four months before succumbing to multiple myeloma, the Chicago-area Vietnam veteran and federal magistrate judge wrote a 140-page claim for justice and filed it with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Cooley's message to the government was personal and direct: Agent Orange is killing me, and you need to take responsibility.

Cooley didn't know it last spring, but when the former Army artillery captain filed his disability claim, he was just entering a maddening bureaucratic maze many veterans know well. The VA would kick back Cooley's claim after a month, saying he lacked the required proof he'd served in Vietnam.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tribune Watchdog report Agent Orange A Lethal Legacy

Part 1 of series by The Chicago Tribune on Agent Orange
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/

"Memories of the Vietnam War are dimming, but veterans and Vietnamese nationals who were exposed to Agent Orange and other dioxin-laced defoliants are still experiencing devastating health effects, and birth defects have brought the impact into a second generation. Yet the U.S. government has yet to make full amends, either in the U.S. or overseas.
To report this series, the Tribune interviewed nearly two dozen civilians and former soldiers in Vietnam as well as researching thousands of pages of documents and traveling to the homes of veterans in the U.S. "

VA sends another Christmas Present /Birth Defects Reporting

See story at VA Watchdog…
http://www.vawatchdog.org/09/nf09/nfdec09/nf120309-1.htm

As most of you can figure by now I am bowing out of this fight as it makes no sense to me anymore with the past and current politicians and lack of simple logic and common sense… but will comment from time to time. I am writing a series of articles (with the help of Richard) to be posted and then sent to the Texas Tech Vietnam Archives for future researchers and generations to see just how American Veterans are really treated by a despicable government and its leadership. Yet, the same folks are reelected time after time after time. Just mindboggling!

Now as you know there is a flurry of Veterans Issues and activity in Congress for what I call nothing but a reelection fa├žade. In many cases, as most of you already know, those that sponsor the bills do not even vote for them but then take election campaign credit. So be careful of what these prostitutes tell you and what they say they are doing. I have not seen or heard anything on Congressman Kagen’s Bill to add the gastro cancers as well as the pancreatic cancers I get e-mail on almost daily from dying Veterans or their widow. If someone knows please let me know.

I suspected long ago it was going no where and will only surface about reelection time. Meanwhile the state VA reps are honestly trying to get these claims approved. Unlike our paid for VSO’s who will not ‘demand something be done’ as they do not want to alienate the so-called congressional friends they have made. At least that is what I am told.

For 40 plus years we have had no friends in congress or if they were they were tuned back at every turn by DOD/VA/White House and other congressional elected officials who would rather not admit and pay for the mistakes made by Johnson and McNamara. What we get is AO Awareness Month or some such crap as that.

We should have realized this right off but unfortunately (NO INTERNET AT THE TIME) we did not know about all the other transgressions made by our government against other era Veterans going way back to mustard gas and the cover-ups that went on with those issues. Trusting those in government was the largest mistake we made.

As I pointed out previously when VA wins a battle against Veterans a fast letter is used in how to deny these claims. No waiting around to update some registry… just start denying based on a letter.

Yet, as you can see by the article even though everyone has admitted these associated issues to “at least as likely as not” nothing will be done until the VA and the other Washington Bureaucratic Offices take their time in doing what should have been done 20 years ago. And there are other issues many issues that should be addressed and will not until there are just a few left. Such as all SEER site cancers especially any adenocarcinoma.

I still would like an explanation from someone on how we have these cancers of the immune system and cancers of the blood associated and yet in no case can it only create any autoimmune disorders or disorders considered originating from a th1 and th2 immune system confusion response, which is where the cancer starts to begin with. How is this scientifically, medically, or biologically possible? Since the dioxin dose rate long ago for autoimmune was considered much less than that of a developed cancer…reference EPA analysis.

Terry explains the stay at the BVA level:

As required by 38 U.S.C. 1116, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will issue regulations through notice and comment rule-making procedures to establish the new presumptions of service connection for those diseases. Those regulations will take effect on that date that a final rule is published in the Federal Register. Until that time, VA does not have authority to establish service connection and award benefits based upon the planned new presumptions.

Ironically Mr. Terry as the higher headquarters for VARO which he is taking the stand on this issue will not take the other side and say something such as: TO: VARO’s

BVA has already found the following xx amount of cases associated by testimony and medical evidence and adjudicated as found as “at least as likely as not” associated to exposures in service to the nation. Therefore, it is recommended that all such cases that have a diagnosis of the issue in question be approved at VARO level; and if not then BVA will begin immediately to automatically approve these "redundant claims" as approved based on previous adjudicated legal procedures.

You see, no one including our congress wants to get rid of the backlog of claims, certainly not Mr. Terry or Mr. Mayes of the VA. It is not that hard to do this and certainly guarantee that no Veteran or Widow would get anything they did not earn or warrant. (Unlike our welfare system.)

Over 50% of VARO claims either remanded or overturned by BVA… then something is rotten in Denmark and in this so-called Veterans’ legal system. No… let’s just try and retry the same case over and over and over with the only difference is the docket number.

Maybe your congressperson or your senators can explain it to you as to the why trying the same case over and over for Veterans and Widows alike makes sense…it makes no sense to me other than budget control.

I would continue filing claims (Veterans and Widows) as the article suggests and then wait for the announcement of approval date whenever that might come. I would suggest at least five to eight months which is what I think it took for the primary amyloidosis issues.

My first article will be on the Korean DMZ Veterans and how they are being denied showing up days after the DOD said they quit spraying with no concern to dioxin half life. At my reunion, one example was given of a two day missed date and the Veteran was denied. Of course my main example will be Veteran David Hill now deceased and how he was denied by Nashville Regional and the overwhelming evidence he had but he was outside the so-called window. Had he been a civilian working along the DMZ he would have been’ inside the widow’ by two years even with no half life issues. Just makes no sense what-so-ever except budget control.

One of our stalwart supporters Ms. Betty Mekdeci of the AO Birth Defects Registry sent the following E-mail.

“The Chicago Tribune is running a four-part series on Agent Orange-related birth defects and disabilities. The reporter said that the first story should be in the printed and on-line version of the Chicago Tribune starting tomorrow.”
www.chicagotribune.com

Subject: Agent Orange report

Birth Defect Research for Children







Here is the link to the online version of the Agent Orange report in the Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/


With best regards,

Betty Mekdeci

Executive Director

Birth Defect Research for Children

http://www.birthdefects.org

800 Celebration Ave., Suite 225

Celebration FL 34747

407-566-8304 Fax 407-566-8341

Poisonous defoliants still exact a toll in U.S., Vietnam

By Jason Grotto and Tim Jones
Tribune reporters

December 4 2009

Part 1 of a Tribune investigation finds that U.S. officials have neglected a lasting problem even as the health fallout has spread.

The complete article can be viewed at:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/agentorange/chi-agent-orange1-dec04,0,1766354.story

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

US health agency to take 'fresh look' at Vieques

The Associated Press; November 14, 2009
BYLINE: David McFadden
http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/external/search.hosted.ap.org/wireCoreTool/Search?SITE=WSAW&query=Agent%20Orange
A U.S. agency has overturned its 2003 research that said no health hazards were caused by decades of military exercises on Vieques, a bombing range-turned-tourist destination off Puerto Rico 's east coast.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry said Friday it intends to "modify" some of its earlier research on Vieques, where the U.S. and its allies trained for conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq .

The agency, a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, used its own studies to conclude in 2003 that there was essentially no health risk from the bombing range a conclusion widely criticized by academics and residents on the 18-mile-long island of less than 10,000 people.

"We have identified gaps in environmental data that could be important in determining health effects," director Howard Frumkin said in a statement posted Friday on the agency's Web site. "The gaps we found indicate that we cannot state categorically that no health hazards exist in Vieques. We have found reason to pose further questions."

Frumkin, who did not specifically identify the research gaps, said the agency will take a fresh look at the issue. He also said the agency will work with Puerto Rican health officials to conduct more in-depth health evaluations and will recommend monitoring to determine if Vieques residents were exposed to harmful chemicals.

For decades, warships and planes hammered the Naval Training Range on Vieques with live rounds before it was closed in April 2003 after years of protests over environmental risks and the 1999 death of a Puerto Rican civilian guard killed by an errant bomb.

Robert Rabin, who moved to Vieques from Boston in 1980 and helped lead the protests against the bombing range, said he and other islanders had an "attitude of cautious celebration" about the agency's announcement.

"We hope this will lead to the best possible cleanup and allow people here to receive the best health care," Rabin said Saturday from his Vieques home. "They are using hopeful language, and this island really needs help."

The U.S. agency reevaluated its earlier finding after being asked in April by U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Democrat who said independent studies and reports had documented a health crisis on Vieques.

The military fired and dropped millions of pounds of bombs, rockets and artillery shells, including napalm, depleted uranium and Agent Orange, on Vieques. A cleanup began in 2005 to clear thousands of unexploded munitions from the former range, which is now a Fish and Wildlife Service refuge, and the island has placed new emphasis on tourism.

Some 7,000 past and current Vieques residents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking billions of dollars in compensation for illnesses they have linked to the bombing range.

Agent Orange & The Ongoing Tragedy

http://www.agentorangequiltoftears.com/Balloon-Release.html


Many have paid the ultimate price
The 2nd Annual Veterans Day Agent Orange Balloon Release
Orange balloons were released today in honor of all the lives that have been drastically altered by the use of Agent Orange

Many have paid the ultimate price, but their loyalty has never waivered.
Many more need moments to regain their strength but they are survivors,
Their courage is unsurpassed.
As they strive to preserve the memories of the past, they are also striving to improve the future.
May we always be inspired by their strength, their commitment, & their undying love.
May we be strong enough to let them cry but not so strong that we cannot cry with them.
Most importantly May our arms always be folded firmly around them & our love always be a part of their bridge.....

Past, Present & Future

Sunday, November 15, 2009

STUDY ON ASSOCIATION BETWEEN DISEASES IN CHILDREN AND EXPOSURE OF PARENTS TO HERBICIDE AGENTS

A BILL

To require the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a study on the effects on children of exposure of their parents to herbicides used in support of the United States and allied military operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam era, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. STUDY ON ASSOCIATION BETWEEN DISEASES IN CHILDREN AND EXPOSURE OF PARENTS TO HERBICIDE AGENTS USED IN SUPPORT OF MILITARY OPERATIONS IN VIETNAM .

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.1940:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Local Veteran Wins Fight For Medical Benefits


http://www.newschannel5.com/global/story.asp?s=11488032
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Cheatham County veteran James Cripps is celebrating Veterans Day after winning an appeal that could pave the way for other veterans to get medical care.

He served his country, but felt betrayed when he sought care for exposure to Agent Orange.

"It says granted, granted, granted and it can never be appealed," exclaimed Cripps as he read the order from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

He can not believe his 5-year fight with the VA is finally over.

"That order gives hope to other veterans. They will know there is a possibility," said Cripps.

He fought for himself and he fought for other veterans to prove he was poisoned by Agent Orange in the United States.

Agent Orange is a toxic herbicide used by the military to thin out the jungles of Vietnam. Soldiers sprayed millions of gallons unaware how poisonous it was.

"When I was spraying it, I was told it was a weed killer," said Cripps.

He never set foot in Vietnam, but Cripps sprayed what he now knows was Agent Orange while working as a game warden at Fort Gordon Georgia in 1967.

He said when he left military he had already been exposed. He and his wife point to his body as proof.

Doctors diagnosed Cripps with a skin rash associated with Agent Orange called Chloracne. Despite the diagnosis, the VA denied his disability claim 3 times.

"The VA denying him was the same as telling him he was lying about it," said wife Sandra Cripps.

"I felt that all my friends even down to my son and daughter doubted that dad was telling the truth," said James Cripps.

His medical bills mounted, the VA started garnishing his social security checks. When NewsChannel 5 interviewed him last year, he had hit rock bottom.

"We have discussed as late as even yesterday the thought of suicide," said Cripps last year.

"I was at the low point of my life, and I had considered that maybe I was worth more dead than alive,” said Cripps this year.

Cripps kept fighting. The VA presumes all veterans who set foot in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange, but it has rarely given medical benefits for Agent Orange poisoning to soldiers stationed in the U.S.

Cripps found Declassified documents that showed the military sprayed Agent Orange at Fort Gordon at the time he served there.

"This stuff was used here in the United States?" asked Investigative reporter Ben Hall

"Oh yes. I can prove 21 bases,” responded Cripps.

The documents showed the military used Agent Orange in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and other locations in the U.S. Cripps believed the documents will open the door for other vets.

"I was not alone," said Cripps. "There are many others."

His wife Sandra agreed.

"He's knocked a hole in their damn, and it's going to let the flood gates open. Veterans will finally get what they deserve,” said Sandra.

Cripps expects all his medical bills going back years will be paid for. He plans to help other veterans navigate the VA to get the benefits they deserve.

Just this month, the VA added more illnesses to those associated with Agent Orange exposure. They include Parkinson's disease and certain Leukemias.

Any veteran who stepped foot in Vietnam during the war and has one of the conditions is eligible for benefits.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deputy PM ends three-day US visit

http://english.vietnamnet.vn/politics/200911/Deputy-PM-ends-threeday-US-visit-878421/

12/11/2009 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan paid a three-day visit to the US beginning Saturday to boost bilateral co-operation in education and training and in tackling climate change.

Nhan, who is also Minister of Education and Training, met Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and leaders of the departments of state and the interior, as well as representatives from 30 US companies.

Nhan and the US officials discussed bilateral as well as regional and international issues.

Both sides expressed optimism about attempts by the two nations to tackle climate change and rising sea levels, as well as tertiary education, investment and trade in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

The deputy PM asked the state department to continue supporting the Mekong sub-region co-operation initiative and development of education and training in the country.

Nhan urged the Department of the Interior and other relevant agencies to back research on climate change.

He also requested that the US side do more to deal with the consequences of the war, such as assistance to Agent Orange/dioxin victims and detoxicating the environment in Viet Nam.

Kerry and leaders of the Department of State said the US wished to develop stable and durable relationship with Viet Nam and emphasised their desire to beef-up bilateral collaboration.

The US officials thanked Viet Nam for its support with finding US missing-in-action personnel, and affirmed that the US would provide more humanitarian aid to the country with mine clearance. They also said assistance would be given in dealing with the consequences of AO/dioxin and in providing information about Vietnamese persons who were reported missing during the war.

While meeting business representatives, Nhan called on US firms to consider making long-term investments in Viet Nam, particularly in the areas of IT and education and training.

While in the US, Nhan also met World Bank managing director Juan Jose Daboub. He spoke of Viet Nam's socio-economic development and educational reforms.

He asked the bank to continue giving financial support to Viet Nam and assistance for the establishment of international-standard universities.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

British friendship society stands by AO victims

http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2631528/

Nov 05, 2009 (Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX)

The British-Vietnamese Friendship Society (BVFS) will continue to work with Vietnamese Agent Orange /dioxin victims in their lawsuit against US chemical companies, said a BVFS official on November 5.

Speaking at a meeting with the Vietnamese Association of Victims of AO/dioxin (VAVA), the BVFSs President Len Aldis said that the BVFS has recently launched a campaign in the UK to boycott products made by the Monsanto Company, one of the US chemical companies
who produced the Agent Orange herbicide that contained highly toxic dioxins, which the US Army sprayed during the war in Vietnam.

Aldis also called for more efforts to organise more regular activities to appeal to people around the world to support the struggle for justice.

The VAVA should produce new documentary films on the chemical related issues, with updated information on the lawsuit to inform the world community, which will enhance their understanding of the issue, he added.

The VAVAs Deputy Chairman Nguyen Trong Nhan confirmed his organisations determination to pursue the lawsuit until they get justice.

VAVA lawyer Luu Van Dat said that the VAVA will boost the struggle both inside and outside of court. According to recommendations by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the VAVA is considering filing a lawsuit against US chemicals companies at another court in the US or in a western European country and it will continue to encourage people at home and abroad to support the lawsuit.

Aldis first visited Vietnam in 1989. Over the past 20 years, he has collected many documents relating to the AO/dioxin chemicals used in Vietnam and has sought out victims of the toxic chemical as evidence and witnesses during his struggle for justice. Millions of Vietnamese people know his name through his initiative to collect signatures from supporters of AO/dioxin victims on the BVFSs website.

He has sent letters to the UNs General Secretary, several US presidents, the US Congress, US chemicals companies and US courts to call on them to take responsibility for Vietnam s AO/dioxin victims. He also filed an online petition to US President Barack Obama and US senators objecting to the US courts recent decision.

Aldis and his friends have held many humanitarian activities to help the victims of the war in the localities of Quang Tri, Thanh Hoa, Ha Tay, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, Ha Tinh and other victims of AO/dioxin at Hoa Binh village in Ho Chi Minh city as well as many other provinces.-

World Peace Council supports AO victims

11/06/2009

http://english.vovnews.vn/Home/World-Peace-Council-supports-AO-victims/200911/109589.vov


The Executive Committee of the World Peace Council has adopted a declaration in support of the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin and chosen the 10th of August as “the Day for Vietnamese AO Victims”.

At its recent meeting in Syria’s Damascus, the committee also adopted resolutions stating its support for the ongoing struggles for peace, sovereignty and territorial integrity among peoples and within regions across the globe.

The committee members reviewed the results of the Council’s operations and how the international situation has impacted the peace movement since the Council’s General Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, in April 2007.

They also fleshed out the council’s operational programme for late 2009 and 2010

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Birth Defect Research for Children



November 5, 2009

Our organization is in the process of creating a new web site. Although the site is not completely finished, the information on our work on Agent Orange and birth defects is available on our Veterans’ Research page.

http://www.birthdefects.org/new/research/veterans.php

The article Agent Orange and Birth Defects that I wrote for the VVA Veteran was republished in the San Francisco Medical Journal, so this information reached the wider scientific and medical community.

The operation of our National Birth Defect Registry and a section on the analysis of our data on birth defects and disabilities in the children of Vietnam veterans is covered in this slide presentation: http://www.birthdefects.org/NIEHS/3510.html

Our National Birth Defect Registry was recenty cited in an article on Environmental Factors in Birth Defects that ran in the October issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, the prestigious journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). I am on the public interest committee of the NIEHS and participate in monthly conference calls and an annual meeting with other members and the NIEHS director. The new director, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, was formerly with the EPA and was involved with the draft report on dioxin which found similar reproductive disabilities to those we have found in the children of Vietnam veterans.

http://www.birthdefects.org/new/news/ I will be attending our annual meeting with Dr. Birnbaum in December.

Those of you who may want to know more about our organization and my personal history may want to watch our video “Why My Child?” There is a section on Agent Orange birth defects. Click here to watch: http://www.birthdefects.org/new/story/

With best regards,

Betty

Betty Mekdeci
Executive Director
Birth Defect Research for Children
http://www.birthdefects.org
800 Celebration Ave., Suite 225
Celebration FL 34747
407-566-8304 Fax 407-566-8341

The Great Green Auction for Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc.

Contact us at betty@birthdefects.org or 407-566-8304
Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc.
Our auction date is fast approaching!

The Great Green Auction opens for bidding on Monday November 9, 2009 at 9:00 AM EST Time.

Our goal this year is to raise $10,000 to support Birth Defect Research for Children. We need your support! This is an exciting and fun way to help us, and at the same time have a chance to win the bid for cool items!

We'll be adding new items to our catalog for you to preview as the auction date approaches. Check back often to see what's new. Feel free to place a Watch on your favorites, so that you'll know as soon as bidding begins!

View All Auction Items

Thanks to Our Green Family Market Companies

Our thanks to over 70 companies that have already participated in our auction by donating green products! If you haven't donated and want to be a part of this opportunity to showcase your company and products, while at the same time supporting a great cause, send a message to betty@birthdefects.org to learn more!

Other Ways to Help: If you have a Facebook Page or Blog, please help us spread the word about the Great Green Auction.

Refer a Friend.

Donate.

Be a Sponsor.
Contact us at betty@birthdefects.org or 407-566-8304 to take advantage of promotional opportunities for your business or to pledge your individual support.

Your Support Helps Families of Children with Birth Defects

Since 1982, Birth Defect Research for Children (BDRC) has been helping families with birth defect information, referrals to support services & resources and connections to other families who have children with similar problems. BDRC also sponsors the National Birth Defect Registry, a research project that collects information for studies of the causes of birth defects.
National Birth Defect Registry Cited in Government Journal

BDRC's National Birth Defect Registry was just cited in an article on "Environmental Factors in Birth Defects" in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

http://www.birthdefects.org/

Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc.

800 Celebration Ave. Suite 225 Celebration, FL 34747
Ph: 407-566-8304

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dow Chemical and dioxins

Cleanup deal's outcome could affect future initiatives: 'Areas of concern' include Waukegan Harbor, Grand Calumet River near Chicago


http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/2596556/

Oct 22, 2009 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) SAGINAW, Mich. -- Every spring, Dow Chemical sponsors a fishing tournament "celebrating all things walleye" on the wide, fast-moving river that flows past its sprawling world headquarters.

Signs warn anglers not to eat the fish, which are contaminated with high levels of cancer-causing dioxins the chemical giant dumped into the Tittabawassee River for most of the last century. Yet tournament organizers sell hats featuring the slogan "Dioxins My Ass."

Such conflicting messages are common in this picturesque and economically distressed region, where Dow is a major employer but also responsible for poisoning a river valley that stretches more than 50 miles into Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.

Now, after three decades of promises by federal and state officials to force Dow to clean up the mess, the Obama administration is stepping in with a new plan intended to scour away decades of contamination that turned this area into one of the nation's most polluted sites.

Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Dow announced a deal they contend will finally address dioxin contamination from the company's chemical complex in nearby Midland, a company town about 200 miles northeast of Chicago.

The success -- or failure -- of what happens here could affect dozens of other polluted sites along the Great Lakes. Saginaw Bay is one of 31 "areas of concern" on the U.S. side of the lakes that wash toxic chemicals into the world's largest source of fresh surface water. Sites in the Chicago area include Waukegan Harbor, the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal.

Under provisions in the federal Superfund law, Dow will be required to evaluate and clean up dioxin-contaminated parks and yards along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers starting this winter. Dow also agreed to work downstream from its plant to remove or cap dioxin-contaminated sediment, preventing toxic muck from repeatedly churning back into the water and from spreading farther into Saginaw Bay. The goal is to restore the entire watershed by 2018.

"We are on the right track now," said Robert Sussman, senior policy adviser to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "Once the work begins, we will have the momentum to get this done."

Given the sluggish pace of previous cleanup work, the EPA's inspector general recently concluded the sites would not be restored until 2086. The Obama administration has promised to set aside more money to speed up things and is pushing to restore a tax on polluters to help cover the tab, estimated to reach $4.5 billion.

Cleanup of the region surrounding Dow's plant has dragged through several administrations. Soon after taking office, Jackson dispatched Sussman to meet with company officials and citizen groups and renewed negotiations that had stalled during the waning months of the Bush administration.

"I agree with community members who believe that this contamination is a threat to public health in the communities in the area, to the vibrancy and diversity of the ecosystem, and to economic development in Northeastern Michigan," Jackson wrote in a May letter outlining the agency's agenda. "Addressing the contamination and protecting health and the environment is one of EPA's highest priorities."

Still, questions remain about whether the deal will falter as similar efforts have in the past. The Dow agreement will test President Barack Obama's pledge to follow the latest science in setting environmental policies. Upcoming public hearings will shed light on negotiations that until now have taken place in secret.

Some local residents fear the talks are part of a pattern. Despite years of promises, the rivers remain contaminated and questions linger about how the chemicals are affecting public health.

"It doesn't just affect people along the river like me. It affects the whole area," said Carol Chisholm, who lives a few miles downstream from Dow's plant and works as an electrician at one of the region's automotive factories. "Who would want to move to a place that's so polluted?"

Dioxins, a family of compounds that were manufacturing byproducts of the Vietnam-era herbicide Agent Orange and other chlorinated chemicals, are so toxic they are measured in trillionths of a gram. The most potent, known as 2,3,7,8-TCDD, was responsible for the evacuations of the Love Canal neighborhood in upstate New York and the town of Times Beach, Mo.

In the Saginaw area the contamination has remained a unresolved issue. Dow has fiercely resisted federal and state efforts and publicly insisted the pollution doesn't threaten people or wildlife.

"This cleanup can get done, and a company like Dow can afford it," said Tracey Easthope of the Ecology Center, a Michigan environmental group. "But we are under no illusions that this will be carried out without constant pressure from concerned citizens."

Company records show Dow has known since at least the mid-1960s that dioxins could make people sick or even kill them. Based on independent studies, the EPA says the chemicals can cause cancer and disrupt the immune and reproductive systems, even at very low levels. The agency says there is no safe level of exposure.

Since early 1980s, when the EPA first identified Dow as the major source of dioxins in the Saginaw area, the company has shifted its position several times, first denying responsibility, then claiming the contamination came from forest fires and fireplaces, and later challenging scientific studies about the health dangers.

Critics, including the EPA, have accused Dow of repeatedly delaying action and misleading the public about the dangers of dioxin. The company still insists the contamination does not pose health risks but hailed its deal with the EPA anyway.

"We are committed -- in both our words and our actions -- to moving forward ... to resolve the issue," Dow spokeswoman Mary Draves wrote in an e-mail response to questions.

One small sign of the company's commitment: Dow recently agreed to follow through on a 2004 legal agreement with Michigan officials to pay for more dioxin warnings along the contaminated rivers. The additional signs should be up by spring, in time for the annual walleye tournament on the Tittabawassee.

Dow's agreement with the EPA is a much bigger step. It comes a little over a year after Mary Gade, then the Bush administration's top environmental official in Chicago, was forced out of her job as regional EPA administrator. She told the Tribune it was because she was too tough on Dow.

Alarmed by data showing the region's dioxin problems were worse than thought, Gade had ordered emergency cleanups at three spots near the Dow plant, two public parks and a residential area farther downstream.

At one of those parks, in a low-income Saginaw neighborhood, dioxin levels were as high as 1.6 million parts per trillion, the highest amount ever found in the U.S. High levels also have been found more than four miles out in Saginaw Bay.

Gade's emergency orders prompted Dow to seek a more comprehensive deal with the EPA, but she dropped out of the negotiations shortly before she was ousted, saying the company refused to do enough to protect public health and wildlife.

Dow responded by lobbying the Bush administration behind closed doors to sidestep Gade, according to federal records obtained by the Tribune. The company also took Michigan officials to court seeking to block tests intended to find dioxin hot spots in Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. And Dow stretched out the debate with a company-financed study downplaying the human impact of dioxin pollution.

"There are many positive signs with this new agreement," Gade said this week. "But I still have trouble seeing how resetting the clock is going to benefit citizens or the environment, as opposed to Dow."

Even as Dow pledges to follow through on its deal with the Obama administration, the company and its supporters contend the dioxin study it funded, conducted by University of Michigan researchers, shows there is nothing to worry about.

The study, which concluded dioxin levels in local residents had more to do with their age than whether or not they lived near the contaminated rivers, is frequently cited by people who are reluctant to question one of the region's biggest employers and benefactors.

"Just because you are standing on this stuff, you aren't going to glow or get sick," said Bob Van Deveter, president of the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce. "But the stigma of dioxin has created a lot of roadblocks for economic development."

EPA scientists who evaluated the Dow-financed study, however, say it is of little value because few of the study participants lived in the most contaminated areas and none were children, who are more vulnerable to toxic chemicals than adults.

For some drawn to living in the thick woods that line the rivers, the agreement between the EPA and Dow is long overdue.

Alice Buchalter and her late husband, Herbert, built a house in 1967 on a river bluff four miles downstream from the Dow plant. They raised five children here and encouraged them to explore the outdoors. Herbert Buchalter, a Saginaw physician, often cut mud-splattered firewood from the flood plains and raced dune buggies and motorcycles with his children along the riverbanks.

When he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, at age 70, the family wondered if dioxin exposure might have played a role. Days before he died, tests found he had high levels of the chemicals in his blood. Levels on their property were as high as 17,000 parts per trillion, significantly higher than Michigan's standard of 90 parts per trillion.

"We thought it was a wonderland. Now the only people who go back there are testing for dioxins," Alice Buchalter said. "There is an awful lot of hostility directed toward anybody who brings up this issue, but instead of fighting, why don't we fix this once and for all?"

mhawthorne@tribune.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Agent Orange coverage may be expanded

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2009310260010

When Wayne Rademaker underwent prostate cancer surgery in 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs denied him coverage, even though he'd been exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1969.

The water that the 60-year-old Oakfield, Genesee County, resident drank and showered with aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany in the Tonkin Gulf contained traces of the toxic defoliant. But to save money, the V.A. years ago stopped covering Vietnam veterans who didn't serve on the ground.

"They changed the wording, saying if you didn't have feet on the ground, you weren't part of the war," Rademaker said.

Until that policy shift, Rademaker had received a free annual V.A. physical to check for service-related illnesses.

Some New York lawmakers want to reverse the V.A. policy.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced legislation in the Senate to cover Navy, Air Force and other personnel who came into contact with Agent Orange at sea or while loading aircraft used to deliver it.

Veterans who received the Vietnam Service Medal or the Vietnam Campaign Medal automatically would be covered.

An identical bill introduced in May in the House has 180 sponsors, including New York Reps. Eric Massa, D-Corning; Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport; Mike Arcuri, D-Utica; and Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

Gillibrand said she became aware of the issue from a veterans' advisory committee she set up while serving as a House member representing the Hudson Valley.

"These veterans are being treated very poorly," she said.

Passage of the legislation — which would increase the V.A.'s health care costs — may be difficult.

"It will be controversial, but I think we will be able to develop the support necessary for it," Gillibrand said.

Recent scientific findings, such as a study earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine, have added to the large body of evidence that exposure to Agent Orange increases the risk of health problems such as heart disease or Parkinson's.

New York's junior senator also has introduced another bill, the Agent Orange Children's Study, that would require the V.A. to examine the possibility that chronic illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and asthma in children can be traced to their parent's exposure to Agent Orange.

"I have high hopes," said Rademaker.

His cancer was covered by private insurance and is in remission, but he still worries about developing other service-related health problems.

Navy veteran Willard Hughes of Bath, Steuben County, said in a phone interview that he's also optimistic that Congress will eliminate the V.A.'s denial of Agent Orange coverage for service members who weren't on the ground.

Hughes served aboard a destroyer, the USS Newman K. Perry, while it was stationed for six months along Vietnam's Mekong River delta. .

The 69-year-old BOCES retiree suffered from Type 2 diabetes and has breathing problems that he says were caused by Agent Orange in the ship's drinking water.

"They were using Agent Orange quite heavily during that time as a defoliant," said Hughes.

He said Australia and New Zealand have recognized the connection and cover their seamen who served in Vietnam.

BTUMULTY@Gannett.com

Gillibrand To Help 800,000 Vietnam Vets Harmed By Agent Orange,

But Ignored By Feds Due To Technicality In The Law

Current Law Would Require VA to Provide Care for Service Members Exposed to Agent Orange On Dry Ground, But Ignores All Vets In the Water

October 23, 2009

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will introduce new legislation to ensure that more than 800,000 Vietnam veterans exposed to the powerful toxin Agent Orange would receive the health coverage they have earned. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 20 million gallons of Agent Orange in Vietnam to remove foliage. This toxic chemical had devastating effects for millions serving in Vietnam. In 1991, Congress passed a law requiring the Veterans Administration (VA) to cover all illnesses that were directly linked to Agent Orange exposure. However, in 2002 the VA determined that it would only cover Veterans with "boots on the ground," during Vietnam. This exclusion bars as many as 800,000 sailors and airmen - including at least 13,500 New York veterans - who may have still received significant Agent Orange exposure from receiving presumptive treatment.

"Because of technicality in the law, hundreds of thousands of American veterans are being denied the health care benefits they need and deserve," Senator Gillibrand said. "Our government must fulfill its commitment to the service members who have fallen victim to Agent Orange-related disease and enact new legislation that will provide our vets with the benefits they have earned. Agent Orange is a very difficult chapter in our nation's history. It is time that we correct the errors of the past."

During Vietnam, the U.S. military sprayed 20 million gallons of Agent Orange. Blue Water Navy Vets - veterans that were on duty in the air, land and sea around Vietnam, but did not have "boots on the ground" - were often exposed to Agent Orange on a daily basis. Agent Orange contaminated water sources on ships, infected veterans onboard ships or aircraft that transported barrels of Agent Orange, and ships and aircraft deployed in close proximity or even downwind from Agent Orange drop sites. Even veterans who served on Johnston Island, where Agent Orange was stored, shipped, and incinerated, are excluded from VA coverage.

This summer, a study by the Institute of Medicine cited exposure to Agent Orange resulted in an increased change of developing serious heart problems and Parkinson's disease. A 1990 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed Vietnam veterans had a rate of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma 50 percent higher than the general population. Agent Orange is behind a range of other diseases, including several blood and respiratory cancers, type II diabetes, prostate cancer and more.

In 2005, the VA's former Director of Environmental Agents Service Dr. Mark Brown publicly acknowledged that there was no scientific basis for the exclusion of Blue Water Vietnam veterans, but the VA has continued to refuse these veterans the presumptive benefits Congress initially intended. In his article in the Journal of Law and Policy, Dr. Brown wrote, "Science does not back up the VA's policy on the Navy."

This week, Senator Gillibrand introduced the Agent Orange Equity Act of 2009, which would clarify the existing law so that Blue Water veterans and every servicemember awarded the Vietnam Service medal, or who otherwise deployed to land, sea, or air in Vietnam would be fully covered by the VA. The bill would make it easier for the VA to process Vietnam War veterans' claims for service-connected conditions by extending the VA's presumptive coverage of Agent Orange benefits to all Vietnam veterans.

In addition, Senator Gillibrand also introduced legislation entitled the Agent Orange Children's Study (AOCS) that would require the VA to complete a study the effects Agent Orange has on the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. Vietnam veterans' children have long been thought to be vulnerable to the effects of Agent Orange, which is suspected of having an effect on human stem cells and thereby on future generations. While the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 ensured that spina bifida benefits were extended to children of Vietnam veterans, this is currently the only birth defect the VA recognizes as being associated with Agent Orange exposure. As part of the study, the Secretary of Veteran Affairs would review and evaluate the available scientific evidence regarding associations between diseases in children, including multiple sclerosis and asthma, and the exposure of their parents to dioxin and other chemical compounds associated with Agent Orange.


http://gillibrand.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=5B6A9085-6C91-4F0D-A762-F1CDBA8B7A11

Birth Defect News



Worldwide, at least 7.9 million people are born each year with a birth defect. Of the children affected by birth defects, at least 3.3 million die each year before age 5, and about 3.2 million of surviving children could be mentally or physically disabled for life. Currently the causes of only about 30% of birth defects are even somewhat well understood.
—Global Report on Birth Defects: The Hidden Toll of Dying and Disabled Children


Birth Defect Research for Children's Executive Director, Betty Mekdeci, was interviewed for an article on Environmental Factors in Birth Defects published in the October issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. According to the article, "Mekdeci and her colleagues have developed an alternative method of tracking birth defect incidence based on parent responses to a lengthy questionnaire. About 6,000 completed questionnaires have been collected since 1990. Mekdeci and her staff analyze the questionnaire responses for patterns, and she reports they have identified about half a dozen clusters so far. Although the group readily acknowledges these are self-reports from a self-selected population, some of the clusters have later been confirmed by various government agencies. For instance, in Dickson, Tennessee, they detected a cleft palate cluster that was confirmed by the CDC. The group sees its role as identifying birth defect cases and then encouraging health agencies to investigate."

http://www.ehponline.org/members/2009/117-10/focus.html

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

October is Agent Orange Awareness Month in Minnesota

An event to raise awareness about Agent Orange in memory of Steve Emery who served his country in Vietnam and lost his battle with Agent Orange related cancer on July 23, 2009.
Event:
Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 23, 2009 – At noon near the Vietnam Veteran Memorial, in front of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, Veterans, their families, the public and the media are invited to attend Steve Emery Agent Orange Day. Those affected by Agent Orange will be encouraged to share their stories. Orange balloons will be given out to the first 60 people in attendance, along with orange ribbon pins. The balloons are to be released and will include a message about Agent Orange. Those who attend are encouraged to come in uniform or wear orange.
Purpose:
To inform Vietnam Veterans who served our country about the related disease and health risks to Vietnam Veterans, their post-war children and families. To encourage all Veterans to obtain a health examination for Agent Orange related diseases and health risks. To promote public awareness and recognize the victims of Agent Orange and their families..
Organizer:
Jen Bakken, of Delano, lost her father, and best friend, to Agent Orange related cancer on July 23 at the young age of 60 years old. The experience of hospice care, and the traumatic painful death of her father lead her into a deep depression and a nearly successful suicide attempt on September 9, 2009. The battle with Agent Orange doesn't end with the Vietnam Veterans- it affects families, and friends.... there are many victims. She hopes this event will promote awareness about Agent Orange, offer support to others affected by it, in memory of her father. She hopes to share with others how Agent Orange broke her heart.
Agent Orange information:
Agent Orange was one of the weed-killing chemicals used by the U.S. military in the Vietnam War. It was sprayed to remove leaves from trees that enemy troops hid behind. Agent Orange and similar chemicals were known as “herbicides.” Agent Orange was applied by airplanes, helicopters, trucks and backpack sprayers. There is a large list of diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure.
For more information regarding Agent Orange visit www.va.gov

Contact Information:
Jen Bakken
1466 St. Peter Ave. #103 Delano, Mn. 55328
763-438-2592
jlynnb70@yahoo.com

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Free Caregiving for Veterans

Week of October 19, 2009

Homewatch CareGivers, the largest international franchise provider of home care, is offering up to 20 hours of free in-home care to disabled or injured U.S. military veterans of any conflict -- from World War II and Korea to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- through its"We Care for Veterans" program. Service members or a family member can sign up for the "We Care for Veterans" program on the Homewatch CareGivers website or by calling toll free 1-800-777-9770. The program is available to one veteran per location and is issued on a first come, first serve basis. Applicants must sign up for the program by Nov. 30, 2009. For more information, visit the Homewatch CareGivers website at www.homewatchcaregivers.com.


Please Join Us For The 2nd Annual Veterans Day Agent Orange Balloon Release!
Click Here For Info

Agent Orange Victims & Widows Support Network
Home Of The Agent Orange Quilt Of Tears
http://www.agentorangequiltoftears.com/

Sacrifice is meaningless without remembrance

Monday, October 19, 2009

VA Secretary Shinseki Testifies On Update On State of VA

The House Veterans' Affairs Committee issued the following testimony from a committee hearing:

Statement of The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Chairman Filner, Ranking Member Buyer, Distinguished Members of the Committee:

Thank you for this opportunity to report on the state of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). We appreciate the long-standing support of this committee and its unwavering commitment to veterans-demonstrated, yet again, through your support of advanced appropriations legislation for VA. Let me also express my thanks to the Committee and the President for a remarkable 2010 Budget that provides an extraordinary opportunity to begin transforming the Department. We deeply appreciate your confidence and the confidence of the President in building on the 2008 and 2009 Congressional enhancements to VA's budgets in those years. We are determined to provide a return on those investments.

I would also like to acknowledge the presence of representatives from a number of our Veterans' Service Organizations. They are our partners in assuring that we have met our obligation to the men and women who have safeguarded our way of life. We always welcome their advice on how we might do things better.

Mr. Chairman, this past February, you held a similar hearing on the state of the Department, which allowed me to benefit from the insights and advice of Members of this Committee early in my tenure as Secretary. In turn, I was also able to offer early assessments of VA's mission and some principles that I felt might help me quickly communicate my intent and direction for the Department. I have learned a lot in the last 8 and half months from some truly impressive people at VA; from veterans, individually and collectively; from the VSOs; from Members of this and other Committees, and from a host of other key stakeholders, who share both the Department's interests and my personal passion for making VA the provider of choice in the years ahead. My current vectors for this Department remain guided by those principles that I mentioned in testimony in February. As I continue working to craft a shared Vision for the Department, one that will be enduring, we remain guided by our determination to be People-Centric-veterans and the workforce count in this Department, Results-driven-we will not be graded on our promises, but by our accomplishments, and Forward-looking-we strive to be the model for governance in the 21st Century.
This testimony comprises a nine-month progress report on the state of our Department.

We have been busy putting into place the foundation for our pursuit of the President's two goals for this Department: transform VA into a 21st Century organization, and ensure that we provide timely access to benefits and high quality care to our veterans over their lifetimes, from the day they first take their oaths of allegiance until the day they are laid to rest.

Every day 298,000 people come to work to serve veterans. Some do it through direct contact with veteran clients; others do so indirectly. But, we all share one mission-to care for our Nation's veterans, wherever they live, by providing them the highest quality benefits and services possible. We work each and every day to do this faster, better, and more equitably for as many of our Nation's 23.4 million veterans who choose us as their provider of services and benefits. Today, that number is roughly 7.8 million veterans.

Veterans put themselves at risk to assure our safety as a people and the preservation of our way of life. Not all of them are combat veterans, but all of them were prepared to be. VA's mission is to care for those who need us because of the physical and mental hardships they endured on our behalf, the cruel misfortunes that often accompany difficult operational missions, and the reality of what risk taking really means to people in the operational environment.

The health care, services, and benefits we provide are in great demand-a demand which grows each year. More than four million new veterans have been added to our health care rolls since 2001. Some of our youngest veterans are dealing with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other polytrauma injuries. We will provide them the care they deserve, even as we continue to improve the quality of care we deliver to veterans of all previous generations-World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm, and a host of smaller operational deployments. The President's decision to relax income thresholds established in 2003, which froze Priority Group 8 enrollments, has enabled many more veterans to access the excellent health care available through our Veterans Health Administration (VHA). It has increased VA's workload, but we are prepared to accommodate up to 500,000 enrollees, who are being phased in over the next four years. While the Post 9-11 GI Bill offers serving military and our newest veterans expanded educational opportunities, it has challenged the Veterans Benefits Administration's (VBA's) paper-bound processes. We are moving aggressively to transform VBA from paper to electrons, even as the entire organization picks up the pace of producing more, better, and faster decisions both in disability claims and educational benefits. Finally, the honor of providing final resting places for our veterans remains a source of immense professional pride for the National Cemeteries Administration (NCA), and indeed the rest of VA. NCA consistently meets the demographic standards associated with veteran burials and exceeds expectations with regard to care and compassion for heroes' families. NCA interred approximately 107,000 veterans in the past year in our 130 national cemeteries. Five new national cemeteries have been opened, and sixteen cemetery projects have been funded for expansion in the past year to address our requirements in this area.

Our veterans have earned and deserve our respect and appreciation for their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families. We at VA are privileged to have the mission of demonstrating the thanks of a grateful Nation. We are obliged to fulfill these responsibilities quickly, fully, and fairly-especially given the current economic climate. All of us, at VA, accept these increases to an already demanding workload, and we will meet our responsibilities at a high standard. Doing so will offer VA as a genuine provider of choice for those veterans who, today, choose to go elsewhere for insurance, health care, education loans, home loans, and counseling. To achieve this kind of standing with veterans, we must make entitlements much easier to understand and then far more simple to access.

Each day, dedicated, compassionate professionals at VA do the extraordinary to meet the needs of veterans across a broad spectrum of programs and services.

Among them:

* VA is second only to the Department of Education in providing educational benefits of $9 billion annually.

* VA is the Nation's eighth largest life insurance enterprise with $1.1 trillion in coverage, 7.2 million clients, and a 96 percent customer satisfaction rating.

* VA guarantees nearly 1.3 million individual home loans with an unpaid balance of $175 billion. Our VA foreclosure rate is the lowest among all categories of mortgage loans.

* VA is the largest, integrated health care provider in the country, with 7.9 million veterans enrolled in our medical services system.

* VA developed and distributed enterprise-wide, VistA, the most comprehensive electronic health record (EHR) in the country, linking our 153 medical centers to their 774 Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), 232 veterans Centers, as well as outreach and mobile clinics.

* VA received an "Among the Best" ranking for its mail order pharmaceutical program, ranking with Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy and Prescriptions Solutions, in a J.D. Power and Associates survey of 12,000 pharmacy customers.

* A VA employee, Dr. Janet Kemp, received the "2009 Federal Employee of the Year" award from the Partnership for Public Service three weeks ago. Under Dr. Kemp's leadership, VA created the veterans National Suicide Prevention Hotline to help veterans in crisis. The Hotline has received over 185,000 calls-an average of 375 per day-and interrupted over 5,200 potential suicides.

* VA has staffed a Survivors' Assistance Office to advocate for veteran and service member families. As the "Voice of Survivors," its purpose is to create and modify programs and services to better serve survivors.

* VA's OIT (Office of Information Technology) office and VBA collaborated with the White House to create a program soliciting original ideas from VA employees and participating VSOs, ranging from improving process cycle times for benefits to increasing veteran-satisfaction with the claims process. Close to 4,000 process-improvement ideas have been received.

* VA operates the country's largest national cemetery system with 130 cemeteries.

* VA senior executives are accountable and responsible when these systems succeed and when they fall short. As of September 2009, VA maintained one of the lowest executive to employee ratios (approximately 312 career executives to approximately 298,400 employees). I have seen their dedication to serving veterans.

I am proud of our people and our accomplishments, but there have been challenges, missed opportunities, and gaps in providing the quality of care and services veterans expect and deserve. We will continue to look for and find our failures and disappointments; we will be open and candid with veterans, the Congress, and other stakeholders when we fall short; and we will correct those problems, take the right lessons from them, and improve the process to achieve the best outcomes. In recent months, we have discussed with the Committee lapses in quality control and safety regarding endoscopes and other reusable equipment, erroneous notifications of ALS diagnoses, and expensive IT initiatives that were not meeting program thresholds.

Near term challenges have been riveting. Since enactment, the new Post 9/11 GI Bill has been our top priority for successful implementation by August 3, 2009. These completely new benefits, requiring tools different from the ones available to us, resulted in massive Information Technology (IT) planning efforts on short timelines. Delays and setbacks required VA to exercise emergency procedures two weeks ago to issue checks to veterans to cover their expenses early in program execution. Uncertainty and great stress caused by these delays were addressed through these emergency procedures, which remain in effect. We will mature our information technology tools to assure timely delivery of checks in the future.

We must work short-term and long-term strategies to reduce the backlog of disability claims, even as they increase in number and complexity. In July, we closed out a VA-record 92,000 claims in a single month-and received another 91,200 new ones. We are consolidating and investing in those IT solutions integral to our ability to perform our mission while looking hard at those that have not met program expectations-behind schedule or over budget. In July, we paused 45 IT projects, which failed to meet these parameters. These projects are under review to determine whether they will be resumed or terminated. We know this is of intense concern and interest to Members of this Committee, and we appreciate your continued support and insights.

In working these near-term demands, we are simultaneously addressing, in 2010 and the years beyond, improvements to programs and new initiatives critical to veterans-reducing homelessness, enhancing rural health care, better serving our growing population of women veterans, and refreshing tired, and in a number of cases unsafe, infrastructure.

To embrace these priorities, we have put in place a strategic management process to focus our stated goals and sharpen accountability. We are close to releasing a Department of Veterans Affairs Strategic Plan, in which I look forward to outlining for you the strategic goals that will drive our decisions over the next five years, and potentially longer.

I've now engaged in eight months of study, collaboration, and review of as many aspects of VA's operations with as many of our clients, employees, and stakeholders, as the Deputy Secretary and I could manage. I've visited VA facilities-large and small, urban and rural, complex and simple-all across the country. I've spoken with leaders, staffs, and veterans. I also invited each of our 21 Veterans Integrated System Network (VISNs) directors to share with me, in dedicated 4-hour briefings, their requirements; their priorities; their measurements for performance, quality, and safety; and their need for resources-people, money, and time. I've also received multiple briefings from VBA leadership on the extent and complexity of the benefits we provide to veterans. This has been time well-invested-invaluable.

The veterans I've met in my travels have been uplifting. Many struggle with conditions inevitable with old age; others live with uncertain consequences from exposures to environmental threats and chemicals; still others have recently returned from Afghanistan and Iraq bearing the fresh wounds of war-visible and invisible.

Out of my discussions with veterans, three concerns keep coming through-access, the backlog, and homeless veterans.

Access: Of the 23.4 million veterans in this country, roughly eight million are enrolled in VA for health care. 5.5 million unique beneficiaries have used our medical facilities. We want to ensure that any veteran who can benefit from VA services knows the range of services available to them. VA will continue reaching out to all veterans to explain our benefits, services, and the quality of our health care system. A major initiative which will expand access is the President's decision to relax the income thresholds established in 2003, which prohibited new Priority Group 8 enrollments. We expect up to half-million new Priority Group 8 enrollees in the next four years.

Another initiative to expand and improve access is the evolution of our health care delivery system. About a decade ago, VA decided to move toward the system of care being provided in the private sector by turning its focus to outpatient care and prevention. As a result, VA's 153 medical centers are the flagships of our Nation-wide integrated health care enterprise, and the Department also provides care through a system of 774 Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), 232 Vet Centers, outreach and mobile clinics, and when necessary, contracted specialized health care locally. This fundamental change in delivery of care, means organizing our services to meet the needs of the veteran rather than the needs of the staff-veteran-centric care.

Our next major leap in health care delivery will be to connect flagship medical centers to distant community-based outpatient clinics and their even more distant mobile counterparts via an information technology backbone that places specialized health care professionals in direct contact with patients via telehealth and telemedicine connections. Today, we are even connecting medical centers to the homes of the chronically ill to provide better monitoring and the prevention of avoidable, acute, episodes. This means that veterans drive less to receive routine health care and actually have better day-to-day access. It also means higher quality and more convenient care, especially for veterans challenged by long distances; and, prevention will mean healthier lives.

While this new, evolving VA model of health care is less about facilities and more about the patient, it is also more economically efficient and a better use of available resources. Health Care Centers that provide outpatient care, including surgery and advanced diagnostic testing, have lower construction costs compared to traditional hospitals. They better serve communities, and are more cost effective, than small, traditional hospitals with low numbers of veterans receiving inpatient care. To provide emergency and inpatient care when needed, VA forms alliances and relationships with local civilian facilities for that care. Outreach clinics also allow us to provide health care services in communities with smaller numbers of veterans. These part time clinics are situated in leased space, and provide in-person care closer to the veterans' homes.

Critical to improving veterans' access to health care is our campaign to inform and educate them about how VA delivers care. Using social media web sites, including MyHealtheVet and Second Life, we are making contact with veterans, including our OEF/OIF veterans, who did not respond to traditional outreach-lectures, pamphlets, and telephone calls.

All of these initiatives to improve access are conducted with assessments of patient privacy issues. Privacy is important for all veterans, but we especially want women veterans to know that the VA will provide their care in a safe, secure and private environment that is designed to meet their needs. While approximately 8 percent of veterans are women, only about 5.5 percent of VA patients are women. My intent is to create an environment of care that will attract more of them to the VA as their first choice for care.

The disability claims backlog: Reduction of the time it takes for a veteran to have a claim fairly adjudicated is a central goal for VA. The total number of claims in our inventory today is around 400,000, and backlogged claims that have been in the system for longer than 125 days total roughly 149,000 cases. Regardless of how we parse the numbers, there is a backlog; it is too big, and veterans are waiting too long for decisions.

In April, President Obama charged Defense Secretary Gates and me with building a fully interoperable electronic records system that will provide each member of our armed forces a Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) that will track them from the day they put on the uniform, through their time as veterans, until the day they are laid to rest.

VA is a recognized leader in the development and use of electronic health records. So is the Department of Defense. Our work with DoD is already having an impact on the way we are able to provide quality health care to our veterans. To date, VA has received from DoD two and one-half million deployment-related health assessments on more than one million individuals, and we are able to share between Departments critical health information on more than three million patients. Although our work is far from finished, our achievements here will go beyond veterans and our Service Members to help the Nation as a whole, as have many of VA's historic medical innovations.

We are working with the President's Chief Performance Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and Chief Information Officer, to harness the powers of innovation and technology. In collaboration with our own IT leadership, we intend to revolutionize our claims process-faster processing, higher quality decisions, no lost records, fewer errors. I am personally committed to reducing the processing times of disability claims. We have work to do here. But we understand what must be done, and we are putting the right people to work on it.

Homelessness: Veterans lead the Nation in homelessness, depression, substance abuse, and suicides. We now estimate that 131,000 veterans live on the streets of this wealthiest and most powerful Nation in the world, down from 195,000 six years ago. Some of those homeless are here in Washington, D.C.-men and women, young and old, fully functioning and disabled, from every war generation, even the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan . We will invest $3.2 billion next year to prevent and reduce homelessness among veterans-$2.7 billion on medical services and $500 million on specific homeless housing programs. With 85 percent of homelessness funding going to health care, it means that homelessness is a significant health care issue, heavily burdened with depression and substance abuse. We think we have the right partners, the right plans, and the right programs in place on safe housing. We'll monitor and adjust the balance as required to continue increasing our gains in eliminating veteran homelessness. We are moving in the right direction to remove this blot on our consciences, but we have more work to do.

Effectively addressing homelessness requires breaking the downward spiral that leads veterans into homelessness. We must continue to improve treatment for substance abuse, depression, TBI and PTSD; better educational and vocational options, much better employment opportunities; and more opportunities for safe and hospitable housing. Early intervention and prevention of homelessness among veterans is critical. We have to do it all; we can't afford any missed opportunities.

The psychological consequences of combat affect every generation of veterans. VA now employs 18,000 mental health professionals to address their mental health needs. We know if we diagnose and treat, people usually get better. If we don't, they won't-and sometimes their problems become debilitating. We understand the stigma issue, but we are not going to be dissuaded. We are not giving up on any of our veterans with mental health challenges, and definitely not the homeless.

We have approximately 500 partners in nearly every major town and city across the country helping us get homeless veterans off the streets. With 20,000 HUD-VASH vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and our $500 million to invest in 2010 to cover safe housing and rehabilitation for veterans we have been able to coax off the streets, we are going to continue reducing the number of homeless veterans next year, and each year thereafter, for the next five years.

I know that this committee and the President are committed to helping VA end homelessness among veterans. We are going to do everything we can to end homelessness among veterans over the next five years. No one, who has served this Nation, as we have, should ever find themselves living without care-and without hope. I know that there are never any absolutes in life, but unless we set an ambitious target, we would not be giving this our very best efforts in education, jobs, mental health, substance abuse, and housing.

Education: The President kicked off our post 9/11 new GI Bill program on 3 August, 2009. Two hundred sixty-seven thousand veterans have applied and been found eligible to participate in this benefits program this year, and we project that as many as 150,000 more may apply next year. The first time we did this, in 1944 during World War II, our country ended up being richer by 450,000 trained engineers, 240,000 accountants, 238,000 teachers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists, and a million other college-educated veterans. They went on to provide the leadership that catapulted our economy to worlds largest and our Nation to leader of the free world and victor in the cold war.

Slow processing of enrollment certificates by VA and slower than anticipated submission of enrollment documents by some educational institutions delayed issuance of checks to schools and veterans. On 2 October, VA began an emergency disbursement of monies nationally, working with the Treasury Department to provide almost $70 million in advance payments to more than 25,000 Veterans in the first two days of the program. These payments continue as a way to bridge the gap until the veterans' routine, monthly payments begin. We will do whatever it takes to get checks into the hands of veterans for their education, and we will improve the delivery system to eliminate the barriers to effective distribution of benefits in future years.

Jobs: This summer, I addressed over 1,700 veteran small business owners at the 5th Annual Small Business Symposium on 21 July. I reminded them that Veterans hire Veterans because they know what they're getting. Customers and partners value their skills, knowledge, and attributes and are eager to work with them. Just last fall, in a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, over 90 percent of employers said they valued veterans' skills, in particular, their strong sense of responsibility and teamwork.

VA puts veterans first in our contracting awards because we recognize the on-time, on-budget, quality solutions they bring to our contracting needs. In fiscal year 2008, our unique "Veterans First"" buying program resulted in VA's spending more than $2 billion on veteran-owned small businesses. That represented 15 percent of our procurement dollars, up five percent from the previous year. $1.6 billion of that amount was invested in service-disabled, veteran-owned businesses.

At VA, our experience is that veteran-owned small businesses have a high likelihood for creating new jobs, developing new products and services, and building prosperity. Increasing opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses is an effective way to help address many needs during this economic downturn.

So, education, jobs, health care, and housing: We have work to do here; but we have momentum, and we know where we are headed. We are positively engaged with the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and the Small Business Administration to work our collaborative issues.

A transformed VA will be a high-performing 21st century department, a different organization from the one that exists today. Beyond the next five years, we're looking for new ways of thinking and acting. We are asking why, 40 years after Agent Orange was last used in Vietnam , this Secretary had to adjudicate claims for service-connected disabilities that have now been determined presumptive. And why, 20 years after Desert Storm, we are still debating the debilitating effects of whatever causes Gulf War Illness. If we do not stay attuned to the health needs of our returning veterans, 20 or 40 years from now, some future Secretary could be adjudicating presumptive disabilities from our ongoing conflicts. We must do better, and we will.

VA's mission is inextricably linked to the missions of the Departments of Defense (DoD) and Health and Human Services (HHS)-and closely linked to the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, and the Small Business Administration. We are not an independent operator. We administer the Servicemen's Group Life Insurance program and are prepared to deliver benefits for any of the 2.25 million men and women of all Services and Components, who are insured through it. And, together with DoD, we operate two of the Nation's largest health care systems-one for health care to meet operational commitments and one to deal with the long term health care effects of those operations. As a result, we are a participant with HHS in discussions of how to best deliver health care. VA's budget requirements are largely determined by the operational missions performed by the courageous men and women in the DoD and the entitlements and benefits which accrue to them for taking those risks. Additionally, VA is uniquely positioned to help with ideas and a model for providing more Americans with better, more cost-effective health care, something VA has long pursued on behalf of Veterans.

Largely hidden from public view is an enormous VA effort to improve management infrastructure and implement a Departmental model of management that insures significant improvement in human resources, IT, acquisition, financial and facilities management. This effort is critical to strengthening both our performance and accountability mechanisms across VA.

In all our missions, VA seeks to become more transparent by providing veterans and stakeholders more information about our performance than ever before. We want veterans to have the information they need to make informed decisions. We will be sharing more data about the quality of VA health care than ever before. Using our own web sites, we are displaying information on quality including Health Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) scores, wait times, and Joint Commission results.

Another element of transparency is disclosure when mistakes are made. We have aggressively disclosed problems with the reprocessing of endoscopes and with brachytherapy at several sites. These issues were found by our own staff and then publicly disclosed. In each of these cases, we notified Congress, the media, VSOs, and the patients. While this process is at times painful, it is the right thing to do for veterans and the Nation and will ultimately result in greater trust and better quality.

Summary

Our mission is to serve veterans by increasing their access to VA benefits and services, to provide them the highest quality of health care available, and to control costs to the best of our ability. Our efforts will remain focused on transforming VA into a 21st Century organization-People-centric, Results-driven, and Forward-looking, and further refinement of our strategic plan to achieve our commitments and provide metrics for holding ourselves accountable. We are applying business principles that make us more efficient and effective at every opportunity.

However, transforming VA and the current pace of military operations have required new levels of resources. The care of veterans, like the sacrifices they make on behalf of the Nation, endure for many years after conflicts are resolved. This investment in our veterans will, over time, provide increasing returns for them, for the Nation, and for VA. Providing veterans the care and benefits they have earned is a test of our character.

For more information please contact: Sarabjit Jagirdar, Email:- htsyndication@hindustantimes.com