Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beware the Senator Who Speaks With Forked Tongue

By John Weiss , Vietnam Veterans of America Rhode Island State Council

Morning of 23 September 2010

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the leading Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said yesterday, as reported by the Associated Press, that he has “concerns about a proposal to spend billions of dollars on disability compensation for Vietnam veterans who get heart disease and wants to make sure that science supports the expansion of benefits.”

The “proposal” Burr is referring to is a decision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, based on the recent National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine committee report, “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008.”

A little history is in order: From 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam and elsewhere to defoliate the jungle canopy, to destroy crops, and to clear the perimeters of U.S. bases. These herbicides were sprayed from fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, trucks, and backpack sprayers. The drums that stored these chemicals were often recycled and put to various other uses, sometimes to collect rain water, to serve as barbecue grill, etc. Nearly three million veterans served in Southeast Asia .

Contained in these herbicides was dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-paradioxin—one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.

On August 31, 2010, in the Federal Register, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the final rules amending the adjudication regulations concerning presumptive service connection, concluding that there was a positive association between exposure in Vietnam to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of three diseases: hairy cell leukemia & B-cell leukemias; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.

And for the first time in history, on September 23, Burr and his colleagues will call into question the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as outlined in the Agent Orange Act of 1991.

Recognizing that Burr was voted into the House of Representatives in 1994, it is obvious that he was not involved with the passage of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4), which passed the House and the Senate without a single nay vote. In fact, today, 19 years later, there are only 36 members of Congress still serving who voted for passage of this act in 1991.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 acknowledges the culpability of toxic exposures in health conditions that manifested years after a veteran’s service. Included in the law is the authority for the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to, on a biannual basis, provide a review of all scientific studies and research on the association between dioxin and specific diseases; and include recommendations for future research.

The act further grants the Secretary of the VA the authority to determine if a presumption of service connection is warranted for any of the health conditions addressed in the report.

If Sen. Burr is uncomfortable with the Secretary’s determinations based on the National Academy of Sciences recommendations, perhaps he would be more comfortable with the finding of the U.S. Air Force Ranch Hand Study, conducted by the U.S. Air Force on those who participated in the aerial spraying program, as sited in the 1992 testimony of Dr. Barry L. Johnson, Assistant Surgeon General, before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations:

A recent study on the health status of Vietnam veterans who participated in Operation Ranch Hand did not find any signs of liver disease, but did report increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood (a second report does not support these increases). In addition, an increase in body fat, diabetes, and blood pressure were also noted. These effects were strongly associated with TCDD levels in the serum. Ranch Hand veterans also had changes in blood (increased white blood cells, platelet, IgA, and sedimentation rates) which suggest a chronic inflammatory response, although no immunologic system diseases were identified. These immune system changes were also strongly associated with serum TCDD levels. These results differ from those reported in previous analyses of the Ranch Hand group in 1982 and 1985. The earlier analyses did not include an assessment of serum TCDD levels. A physical examination of Ranch Hand veterans is currently under way.

There is no doubt, that Burr, though too young to have faced conscription during the Vietnam Conflict, views himself as a supporter of those who served.

In fact, seven months ago, it was Sen. Burr who introduced a resolution recognizing March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Proclaimed Burr, “There’s no question that our troops served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War, and these veterans deserve our recognition and gratitude. Unfortunately, when these service members returned home, they were caught in the crossfire of public debate about our nation's involvement in the war.”

Today, Vietnam veterans are again caught in the “crossfire of public debate,” as Burr and others balk at the price of providing for the continuing cost of care for those whom he and others recognize “served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War.”

Words of praise and gratitude do not cost anything. Veterans’ compensation for service-related health conditions do. Sen. Burr, which is it?


  1. Senator Burr is just like Senator Webb they both are wolfs in sheep's clothing. Both pound each others chest and are what is wrong in Washington DC. Of late I have taken aim at calling it our nations cesspool. That may be somewhat harsh terms to use and by that I mean our nations capital is filled with carrier politicians who have become the real problem within our country. Both make claims to be taking the interest of our veterans to heart and would never do anything to hurt them in any way.They both know what will hurt the Vietnam Veteran and that is to change the existing laws as they have been written. They both lie and America is sick and tired of these types that claim on one hand to serve the public and on the other jam bills loaded with pork in their home states. The want to balance the budget at the veterans expense. It's plain and simple that something is going on in the backroom. I hate to think that Obama might also have a part in it. In his promise during the Presidential election he stated he would work for the Vets including the Agent Orange issue. It would appear he made good on that promise. However in hind sight most of the vets never thought anything would materialize. I had hope that a man who claimed to be a follower of Lincoln spoke with honor. But now it's starting to look like a set-up and a prearranged backroom deal. President Obama still has a man on his staff Mr. Allen Simpson who has had the nerve to lash out in a public lashing that most vets will never forget. But President Obama still retains this person on his staff. This man has not even offered to admit he was wrong in doing it. I see no retractions from him.
    Well Mr Burr and Mr Webb go ask Senator Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island what happened when he failed to support the flag amendment and voted against the wishes of Rhode Islanders. It's not a idle threat just a promise.

  2. It's another example of a "grateful nation" and it's lying elected officials. They will send soldiers to do their dirty work, calling them "Our Hero's" and other hogwash. And then ignore or reduce care when it comes to taking care of these men and women who were injured/sickened because of their own Government's actions. They are the epitome of the two faced politician. If it did not affect them (the political elite), they care absolutely nothing for the people that DID THE JOB!!! I get sick and tired of hearing these butt heads cry foul when the costs of care rises and jeopardizes their pork barrel projects. Take care Mr. Politico, it is because of the military man or woman and their sacrifices that gave the public the right to elect you. You can just as quickly become UNELECTED!