Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Medical Forms Will Streamline Veterans Claims Process

Physician Questionnaires to Boost Disability Exam Efficiency


Physician Questionnaires to Boost Disability Exam Efficiency

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released three new disability benefits questionnaires for physicians of Veterans applying for VA disability compensation benefits. This initiative marks the beginning of a major reform of the physicians’ guides and automated routines that will streamline the claims process for injured or ill Veterans.

“This is a major step in the transformation of VA’s business processes that is yielding improvements for Veterans as we move to eliminate the disability claims backlog by 2015”

“This is a major step in the transformation of VA’s business processes that is yielding improvements for Veterans as we move to eliminate the disability claims backlog by 2015,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

These new questionnaires are the first of 79 disability benefits questionnaires that will guide Veterans’ personal physicians, as well as VA physicians, in the evaluation of the most frequent medical conditions affecting Veterans.

Accurate and timely medical evaluations are a critical element of VA’s continued commitment to high-quality and prompt decisions about the nature and degree of conditions afflicting Veterans. Streamlining this process by directly involving Veterans’ treating physicians in providing specific information needed to evaluate their claims will lead to completeness in the examination and faster compensation decisions.

VA’s goal is to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a decision quality rate no lower than 98 percent, a mark Secretary Shinseki has mandated by 2015. The physician questionnaire project is one of more than three dozen initiatives actively underway at VA, including a major technology modernization that will lead to paperless claims processing.

The disability benefits questionnaires are part of VA’s automated health records system which prompts VA physicians conducting disability examinations to include precise information in a standardized way to assist claims adjudicators in ensuring Veterans receive the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible. These VA examination results are electronically available to claims adjudicators in VA regional offices.

For Veterans who receive their care from private physicians, VA has placed the disability benefits questionnaires on its Internet site (http://www.vba.va.gov/disabilityexams) with instructions for physicians to submit examination results on Veterans’ behalf.

The first three questionnaires cover B-cell leukemia (such as hairy-cell leukemia), Parkinson’s disease and ischemic heart disease. VA recently published a final regulation to be implemented Oct. 30 that will establish the presumption of eligibility to VA disability compensation benefits for Veterans with one of these three conditions who were exposed to Agent Orange, a herbicide agent used extensively in Vietnam.

In practical terms, Veterans who served in Vietnam during the war who have a “presumed” illness do not have to prove an association between their illnesses and their military service. This “presumption” establishes eligibility to VA compensation if their condition is disabling to a compensable level.

For additional information on the VA disability compensation program or additional presumptive disabilities for Veterans exposed to herbicide agents, contact VA at 800-827-1000 or visit http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/AO/claimherbicide.htm.

Monday, October 25, 2010

War-zone burn pits violate laws, GAO says


By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Oct 17, 2010 16:48:51 EDT

Of four U.S. bases in Iraq operating burn pits, none complies with federal regulations designed to keep service members safe, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.

The report includes photos of hazy air near the pits, photos of prohibited hazardous materials, and a list of emitted health hazards such as carbon monoxide, dioxins, particulate matter and carcinogens.

Contracts with private companies to run the pits did not reflect emissions guidance, the contractors disobeyed orders to comply with the regulations, and incinerators were not installed for five years — in part due to contract disputes, GAO found.

The military also does not sample burn-pit emissions as required by its own regulations, the report said.

“The health impacts of burn-pit exposure on individuals are not well understood, mainly because the military does not collect required data on emissions or exposures,” it said.

Contrary to initial military claims that there are no known long-term health effects from the burn pits, GAO found that long-term health implications cannot be ruled out.

The report comes after Military Times began investigating the use of burn pits in the war zones in October 2008, leading Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., to request an investigation by GAO.

READ MORE: http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2010/10/military-gao-says-burn-pits-violate-laws-101410w/

Agent Orange Is Going To Cost America $42 Billion Over Ten Years


Not only is it the cause of severe birth flaws for gener
ations of Vietnamese kids, the herbicide/chemical weapon Agent Orange has afflicted a lot more than a million American veterans. Scores of soldiers who enlisted or were drafted to serve their country came home with such conditions as acute peripheral neuropathy, soft tissue sarcoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma, to name a couple of. The Washington Post reports that a quarter of the one million troops receiving disability checks, or 270,000 Vietnam War veterans, will in two months get compensation for diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s and different types of leukemia. This means that forty two billion dollars can be spent by American working class on this in 10 years.

Agent Orange causes every little thing from diabetes to erectile dysfunction

The Department of veterans’ Affairs reports on which medical condition is most common from Agent Orange. It actually ended up being diabetes. Agent Orange also has erectile dysfunction tied to it now. Normally this would be attributed to age but veterans are getting additional compensation for it. Alan Simpson thinks that this compensation is way far off from what federal spending is attempting to do. Alan Simpson is the chairman of President Obama’s deficit commission.

“The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess,” he said.

Also, Sen. Daniel K Akaka (D-Hawaii) who’s the chairman of Veterans’ Affairs Committee thinks these are “presumptive conditions” that taxpayers are now paying for. The Post found an email stating Alkaka’s plans to be in a listening to on “what changes Congress and also the VA may need for making to existing law and policy,” around September 23.

VA spending isn’t right

The Associated Press reports on the how much the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is going to end up spending on Vietnam veterans with diabetes. It appears like it can be way too much. The VA’s numbers for how much would be paid for diabetes per year are shown to be much higher than independent calculations depending on VA records that show $850 million a year being enough. Considering that the VA spends $34 billion a year on disability benefits for American veterans wars, the $42 billion increase over the next ten years is an earth-shattering leap.

Then there’s the ‘Credible evidence for association’

Victoria Anne Cassano is the Veterans’ Health Administration Director of Radiation and Physical Exposures. She explains that there was a federal law created on Agent Orange in 1991 saying that chemical agents and afflictions do have a correlation with Agent Orange “if the credible evidence for the association is equal to or outweighs the credible evidence against the association.” The Post reports it does not take much to meet that burden of proof. Cassano says, “Does it make you take a deep breath? Does it give you pause? Yes. But you nevertheless do what you think is the right thing to do.”

So, how much do 20 B-2 Bombers cost?
Source: http://www.cdi.org/issues/aviation/b296.html
Estimated Cost of the First 20 B-2 Bombers
Program Acquisition Cost (RDT&E and procurement) $44.65 Billion
Life Cycle Cost (RDT&E, procurement, operations and support) $49.9 Billion
Cost per plane $ 2.5 Billion

Director of Ford Foundation's Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin to deliver message


University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Cynthia D Quinn, (808) 956-6545
Director of Communications & External Relations, William S Richardson School of Law
Posted: Oct. 19, 2010

The 2010 celebration called Make Agent Orange History is a two-part program including a keynote address with Charles Bailey, film screening, and a special educational session presented by the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, William S. Richardson School of Law (Environmental Law and Health Policy Center) and San Francisco-based strategic communications non-profit Active Voice.

Charles Bailey, Director, Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin, will pay a special visit to the UH Mānoa campus on October 21 and 22 as part of the international celebration of Conflict Resolution Day 2010. Conflict Resolution Day is celebrated annually on the third Thursday of October to promote the use of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments and the legal system.
Keynote address and film: Thursday, October 21 from 5‐7 p.m. (reception 5-5:30 p.m.)

Charles Bailey will give a keynote talk that will be followed by the showing of the film “Vietnam's Lingering Ghost: Facing the Legacy of Agent Orange” as part of the Make Agent Orange History program. Charles Bailey is the key architect of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group, a diverse group of private citizens, scientists, and policy makers from the U.S. and Vietnam who, through the effort of the Ford Foundation, were brought together to work on critical issues related to the legacy of Agent Orange that the two countries’ governments, for decades, were unable to resolve. Bailey will recreate his experience forming the U.S.-Vietnamese Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin and address the strategic selection of participants and the vital role neutrality played in its success.

READ MORE: http://www.hawaii.edu/news/article.php?aId=3948

Widow wants other vets to get checked out for heart condition




SEBRING -- "I just want others to know that it exists and it is treatable," said Jean Foster this week.

Foster is the recent widow of Nu-Hope Director Sandy Foster, whose sudden death in September left many in the community in shock.

Sandy Foster, a veteran who served in Vietnam, died unexpectedly while on a golfing trip in North Carolina from a heart attack that Jean was told later was caused by ischemic heart disease, which can be caused by Agent Orange.

Ischemic heart disease is characterized by a reduced flow of blood to the heart muscle, which makes a person feel tired, and can cause a heart attack.

Jean was informed that her husband's condition was one approved by Congress to receive benefits this year because of the exposure vets received during the Vietnam War.

"I was stunned when I discovered that Sandy died from a form of heart disease that is caused by Agent Orange," Foster told the News-Sun this week. "I am angry as well. If we had of known, he would still be here. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

READ MORE: http://www.newssun.com/news/102410-eb-Foster



October 24, 2010 posted by Robert O'Dowd

(WASHINGTON, DC) – For the life of me, I still don’t know why the Veteran Service Organizations (VSO’s) have not published the list of 130 military bases on the National Priority List (EPA Superfunds), the chemicals found by EPA and the health effects of exposure.

Courtesy: Salem-News.com

The EPA Superfund database is accessible from the internet and the health effects of exposure to many of the contaminants have been identified by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR).

Many vets have access to the internet from their own computers or from another family member. It’s not like this is classified information or any national security issues are in play.

What is at stake is the health of veterans. The health of veterans should be of paramount interest to all VSO’s. Veterans pay dues to their VSO’s to represent them and to protect their interests.

Not everyone who served on an EPA Superfund base was exposed to toxic chemicals. Publishing the EPA lists is not going to spread panic among veterans. We’re mature adults fully capable of making rational decisions about our health care needs.

DOD, the biggest owner of Superfund sites, has no interest in notifying veterans of their possible exposure to toxic chemicals nor is there a legal requirement for any government agency to notify veterans or Congressional interest in pursuing this.

READ MORE: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/10/24/veterans-exposed-to-chemicals-need-to-know/

Sunday, October 17, 2010

You Can Do This In Your Community


Press Release

October 15, 2010

No. 10-22

Ken Holybee

Vietnam Veterans of America To Hold Town Hall Meeting on Generational Effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin

Santa Rosa, CA —Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 223 in Santa Rosa will hold a Town Hall meeting to address the birth defects, diseases, and learning disabilities affecting the children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans. The forum will be held on Saturday, October 16, 2010, at 1:00 pm, at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building , 1351 Maple Avenue, in Santa Rosa , California .

“We cannot be silent about the effects of our battlefield exposures on our children in the face of overwhelming evidence connecting many diseases and birth defects to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam ,” said Ken Holybee, Legislative Coordinator for the California State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America and for Chapter 223, Santa Rosa .

“We encourage all veterans with children and/or grandchildren suffering from illnesses, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities to come share their stories. We will explore issues surrounding Agent Orange exposure, including scientific information, health effects, and methods for educating the public and elected representatives about the issues of Vietnam veterans, their children, and their families,” said Holybee.

The goal of the town hall meeting is to bring attention to the hidden cost of our service and to encourage the government to create and maintain a registry of these birth defects as well as assist our doctors in finding ways to diagnose and treat these birth defects. Veterans of all wars are subjected to many contaminates and most were not aware of what was being used or what effects most would have on their health. Said Holybee, “Our children are innocent victims of our war and need the help of our government to cope with these problems. We worry, who will be there to take care of them when we are gone?”

In keeping with VVA’s founding principle, “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another,” Vietnam veterans throughout the state of California continue to fight for the welfare of our nation’s veterans from all wars.

Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

Dioxin and chromosome damage

From: George Claxton
A new study released last month shows that dairy cows exposed to dioxins and dioxin like compounds have genetic damage. Genetic damage is one route to chemically induced cancer. Althouugh IOM has consistantly stated that dioxin does not cause genetic damage, the evidence is clearly in the other direction.

The study authored by G.P. Di Meo, et al, and published in the journal "Carcinogenesis" as an in press clearly shows that "although the role of other pollutants in the genesis of the recorded chromosome alterations cannot be ruled out, our results confirm the findings of previous research into dioxin exposed sheep".

I believe that the reason the chemical industry and government have tried to deny mutagenic damage by dioxin is because the connection would be a clear cut answer to dioxin being the most dangerous chemical on earth and is in fact, a "human carcinogen".

Faithfully submitted by

George Claxton

READ MORE: http://mutage.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/5/355.full

Veterans 'In The Dark' About Environmental Hazards

“No mama, no popa, no Uncle Sam.
No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces.
No rifles, no planes, or artillery pieces.
And nobody gives a damn.
We’re the sick and dead who lived and worked on contaminated land.”

Veteran Service Organizations are not providing critical health information to their memberships on military installations that are EPA Superfund sites. (WASHINGTON, DC) – Veteran Service Organizations (VSOs) have not notified veterans of their possible exposure to environmental hazards at 130 military installations on the EPA National Priority List (Superfund sites).
Courtesy: CNN
There‟s a critical need for the VSOs to exercise leadership by identifying the 130 military bases on the NPL, including the EPA internet link to Contaminants of Concern for each base.
There is no legal requirement or interest by the Defense Department or any government agency to notify veterans that they may have been exposed to toxic chemicals, radiation or other environmental hazards.
It‟s unlikely that the government will step into this role without specific legislation. Under intense pressure from Congress, the Marine Corps at Camp Lejeune established a website registry for veterans who may have been affected by TCE contaminated drinking water at the base.
A number of Congressional hearings were held, bills introduced into Congress to provide medical care to veterans and their dependents, but as of this date, the Marine Corps has not accepted responsibility for illnesses and deaths linked to the contaminated well water.
With 130 military bases on the EPA National Priority List (EPA Superfund), veterans are at risk of exposure to environmental hazards.
The mission of VSOs is to serve veterans and support their needs. Nothing can be more important than your health. There‟s no magic pill for exposure to an environmental hazard. Medical care providers need to know when a patient has been exposed to particular environmental hazards to provide appropriate medical care. Failure to provide this critical information is inexcusable.
Not everyone who was stationed on an EPA Superfund base was exposed to an environmental hazard, but an indeterminate number were and the health effects are serious.
Emails to the national headquarters of the American Legion, VFW, the Marine Corps League and other VSOs asking them to alert their membership of possible exposure to toxic chemicals were left unanswered.
This is not rocket science. The information on environmental hazards is resident on the EPA Superfund database. The link to the websites is contained in this article. This is literally a „no brainer.‟ Any VSO with a website only has to cut and paste the list of military bases.
Courtesy: Salem-News.com
MCAS El Toro Example. Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, has been an EPA Superfund site since 1990. In 1985, the Orange County Water District found trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in shallow irrigation wells down gradient of the base.
Before knowledge of the adverse health effects on humans from exposure to these TCE and PCE were known, they were commonly used as degreasers for aircraft and vehicles.
In 1990, MCAS El Toro was placed on EPA‟s National Priorities List (NPL) primarily because of a plume of toxic waste of TCE and PCE spreading off base several miles which threatened the local water supply. In 1993, MCAS El Toro was placed on the DoD BRAC list and officially closed in 1999.
At El Toro, the Navy identified 25 contaminated areas on base, including landfills containing both hazardous and solid waste; buried drums of explosives and low-level radioactive waste; and areas where PCBs, battery acids, leaded fuels, and other hazardous substances were dumped or spilled. The Navy spent millions of dollars in cleaning up the former base.
At a September 2010 Irvine City Council meeting, the Navy estimated that it would take 40 years to complete the environmental clean-up at El Toro.
Assuming a Marine veteran “connects the dots of military services to a current medical condition,” their only remedy is to file a claim with the Veterans Administration, assuming they are aware of what happened to them and unless they lived in Orange County, California that‟s unlikely.
EPA‟s Contaminants of Concern
For military bases that are EPA Superfunds, EPA defines environmental hazards as Contaminants of Concern (COC‟s).
According to EPA, “COC‟s are the chemical substances found at the site that the EPA has determined pose an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment. These are the substances that are addressed by cleanup actions at the site.”
“ Identifying COC‟s is a process where the EPA identifies people and ecological resources that could be exposed to contamination found at the site, determines the amount and type of contaminants present, and identifies the possible negative human health or ecological effects that could result from contact with the contaminants.”

READ MORE: http://www.veteranstoday.com/


Courtesy: CNN
(PITTSBURGH, PA) – An informational meeting about the CAMP LEJEUNE WATER CONTAMINATION effects will be held Saturday, November 6, 2010, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, located at 107 6th Street, Pittsburgh, PA.
Sometime in the 1950’s through 1987, the US Military improperly disposed of chemical degreasers and other toxic substances that ultimately contaminated the drinking water at Camp Lejeune.
These contaminants posed multiple health risks to countless military personnel, their families, and private individuals living and working near the vicinity of the base. These risks include:
• Cancers
• Reproductive disorders
• Birth defects
• Neurological problems
• Kidney and Liver disease If you believe your health or the health of a loved one has been affected from exposure to the water at Camp Lejeune, you are invited to attend this free informational seminar. Lunch will be provided at no charge to registered guests.
We currently have 19 people registered to attend the November 6th meeting in Pittsburgh. In order to justify the expenses incurred with such a trip it will be necessary to have at least 50 people registered and confirmed by October 30th.
Mike Partain and Jerry Ensminger will be giving an overview of the contamination which includes the supporting documents.
Representatives from the Bell Legal Group will be present for questions during the lunch break and after the presentation.
This is your opportunity to get informed about what happened at Camp Lejeune. If you would like to receive more information about our meeting, email Vanessa Bertka at vbertka@edbelllaw.com. Please copy Mike.Partain@tftptf.com and jerry.ensminger@tftptf.com in the email.
Additional meetings are scheduled for:
November 21, Elks Lodge, Troy, NY
December, exact date TBD, Tampa Florida

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dioxin like polychlorinated biphenyls and malignant melanoma

from George Claxton

A new study released last month shows a connection between dioxin like polychlorinated biphenyls and malignant melanoma. The study is titled "Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), UV radiation, and cutaneous malignant melanoma". The study was published in the journal BMC PROCEEDINGS ( 4 SUPP : 04). The study is from the 16th International Charles Heidelberger Symposium on Cancer Research in Colmbra, Portugal, 26-28 September 2010. The authors are Richard P. Gallagher, et al.

Vietnam Veterans have claimed for many years that their skin cancers have been caused by the deadly dioxins and furans in Agent Orange. The US Government and big industry have always peddled the excuse that the real culprit was sunlight in Vietnam. However, the above study has finally accounted for the confounding problem of sunlight.

The study stated that "a strong association was seen between melanoma risk and plasma levels of total PCBs" AND "these associations persisted after adjustment for recreational sun exposure, sun sensitivity and pigmentatior". This study will have to be confirmed by a larger study (non industrial by company lackeys).

READ the abstract of the study: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1753-6561/4/S2/O4

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blood tests for Mapua

The Press 14/10/2010
Mapua residents could be blood-tested for dioxins next year to see if they have been affected by the cleanup of the town's toxic chemical site.

The Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council this week called for proposals for the study. The contract is expected to be awarded in April.

The study will involve health questionnaires and blood samples, which will be matched against samples from volunteers from outside the region.

The samples will be tested for dioxins and other toxins, such as organochlorine pesticides.

Experimental New Zealand-designed technology was used to remediate the 3.3-hectare site where the former Fruitgrowers Chemical Company made pesticides for 55 years.

The three-year cleanup project finished in 2007.

Up to 200 people lived near the site from 2004-2006 – a period thought to cover the highest dioxin emissions.


From Wikipedia
Mapua is a small town in the South Island of New Zealand.

It is to the west of Nelson on State Highway 60 and on the coastline of Tasman Bay. The 2006 census gave a population of 1878, up 16.1 percent since the 2001 Census.

With a thriving wharf and commercial area, Mapua has grown in popularity for visitors, with numbers swelling the region over the summer months.

A large fair and market is held every Easter Sunday. Up to 30,000 people visit the town on this day to enjoy rides, stalls, and other attractions. The local schools and playcentre benefit from the fair, which is their primary fundraising activity.
[edit] Former contaminated site

In the 20th century, Mapua was one of the most contaminated sites in New Zealand due to pesticide residues in the soils from a now defunct factory, but has since had a major cleanup operation.

In 1932 the Fruitgrowers Chemical Company built a plant to manufacture pesticides for use in the numerous orchards in the surrounding area. In the 1940s organomercury and organochlorine pesticides, including DDT, DDD, dieldrin, 2,4-D and paraquat, were produced. Organophosphorous pesticides were produced from the 1960s. By 1978, 124 chemicals were being used to produce 84 different formulations. The plant closed in 1988.

The site was taken over by the Tasman District Council in 1989, and measures were taken to prevent leaching of the chemicals into the adjoining Waimea Inlet. The 1999 Budget allocated $3.7 million towards containment of the site. Site decontamination was carried out, initially by Thiess Pty. Ltd. but later by the Ministry for the Environment. The site was handed back to the Tasman District Council in November 2007.

Ft. Detrick linked to Agent Orange testing

October 13, 2010 - 5:01pm
Related Stories
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Fort Detrick tested Agent Orange between 1946-1963
EPA outlines Fort Detrick, Md., sampling plan
FORT DETRICK, Md. - Army researchers at Fort Detrick sprayed the dangerous herbicide Agent Orange at various locations outside the fort, a four-year-old report reveals.

The Department of Defense has evidence that Fort Detrick worked to develop Agent Orange -- a defoliant sprayed on forests to destroy vegetation during the Vietnam War -- beginning in the 1950s.

The poison reportedly was sprayed on grass around Fort Ritchie, Md. and other locations.

The information comes as Frederick County residents express increasing concern that experiments at Fort Detrick may have raised their risk of cancer. After the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was linked to cancer and birth defects in Vietnamese and Americans who served in the war.

A Fort Detrick scientist tells The Gazette he and his colleagues are "trying to get their hands" around the idea that Agent Orange was tested outside and not just in greenhouses as they previously thought.

Bob Craig tells the Gazette he and other scientists only recently discovered the 2006 report along with other documents.

FORT DETRICK, Md. - Army researchers at Fort Detrick sprayed the dangerous herbicide Agent Orange at various locations outside the fort, a four-year-old report reveals.

The Department of Defense has evidence that Fort Detrick worked to develop Agent Orange -- a defoliant sprayed on forests to destroy vegetation during the Vietnam War -- beginning in the 1950s.

The poison reportedly was sprayed on grass around Fort Ritchie, Md. and other locations.

The information comes as Frederick County residents express increasing concern that experiments at Fort Detrick may have raised their risk of cancer. After the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was linked to cancer and birth defects in Vietnamese and Americans who served in the war.

A Fort Detrick scientist tells The Gazette he and his colleagues are "trying to get their hands" around the idea that Agent Orange was tested outside and not just in greenhouses as they previously thought.

Bob Craig tells the Gazette he and other scientists only recently discovered the 2006 report along with other documents.

For the full Gazette report click here:http://www.gazette.net/stories/10072010/frednew155356_32544.php

WTOP's Evan Haning contributed to this report.

WTOP's Evan Haning contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Panel may rethink Agent Orange law

BYLINE: David Rogers

With costs mounting, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is laying the groundwork for a second look at the landmark 1991 Agent Orange law that has governed nearly two-decades of disability claims related to the herbicide widely used in the Vietnam War.

That was the consistent theme of a hearing Thursday that featured testimony by Cabinet secretaries past and present about living under the law's limits and navigating through the often vague scientific standards for judging what diseases qualify as service-connected claims.

Veterans Affairs Secy. Eric Shinseki strongly defended his controversial decision last year to add ischemic heart disease but allowed too that having just 60 days to reach a conclusion -as prescribed by the Agent Orange law- was "a bit constraining....a little challenging."

Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi, whose decision to add type 2 diabetes in 2001 has since led to an explosion is claims, was more blunt, saying he had desperately wanted clearer scientific evidence to help him sort through confounding life style factors, like diet or smoking, which might contribute to an illness.

"It's a greater challenge for secretaries, when you're dealing with the diabetes, the prostate cancer, because we know if we live long enough, we're going to die of prostate cancer, as well as heart disease," Principi said. "And those confounding factors really make it very, very difficult for us"

Indeed, Agent Orange claims are a world turned-upside-down from decades ago when returning soldiers had to fight to get attention to deadly lymphomas linked to the herbicide. Now the more common frailties of men in their sixties-prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease-lead the list, and VA estimates that one out of every four surviving Vietnam veterans could soon be collecting payments for one Agent Orange claim or another.

The hearing brought some touching moments. Shinseki, who served himself in Vietnam, repeatedly referred to the infantry soldiers then as "the youngsters."

"We are asking the secretary to play God," exclaimed Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, "At the end of the day, we used the poison and we poisoned our own people."

But for many who also served in the war, the sheer number of claims now defies credibility.

"If the American people lose faith in the integrity of the V.A.'s disability compensation system - and that's not just about cost - veterans and their families will most certainly suffer," said Principi, a Navy veteran of Vietnam. "And the surest way for that to happen is for the American people to believe that large numbers of veterans are being compensated for illnesses that may not be the result of their military service. And I think that's the crux of the issue."

VRP - Vietnam 35 Years Later: Agent Orange

Vietnam Reporting Project

Vietnam Reporting Project fellow and CBS5 reporter/anchor travels to Vietnam to report on the impact of Agent Orange on Vietnam, 35 years after the end of the war. Generations of Vietnamese continue to be born with birth defects and other illnesses believed to be the result of exposure to herbicide Agent Orange.

View the video at: http://www.vietnamreportingproject.org/video/vrp-special-report-vietnam-35-years-later-agent-orange

Vietnam 56 Billion VND Raised for AO Victims

Associations of Agent Orange (AO) victims in 50 cities and provinces across the country have collected 56 billion VND during the Action month for Vietnamese AO victims.

Of the total, the AO victims sponsor fund spent nearly 49 billion VND on supporting 188,669 victims with a wide range of activities.

Part of the money was used to provide free health care check-ups and medicine for victims in remote areas and health insurance books for poor victims.

Besides, the fund provided orthopedic surgeries and rehabilitation treatment for 1,971 patients. A total of 2,743 wheelchairs and supporting devices were also handed to the victims.

Meanwhile, over 23 billion VND was used to assist 34,234 victims in developing their business.

The fund has found individuals and organisations to provide regular allowances ranging from 150,000-500,000 VND a month for 1,979 victims.

Those suffering from AO effects in high areas were provided with savings books and blankets, mosquito-nets, clothes and household utensils.

VA will reconsider cases of Agent Orange exposure

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
BYLINE: William Cole

The Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to review the cases of 16,830 "brown water" Navy and other Vietnam-era veterans whose disability claims related to the herbicide Agent Orange were denied, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka's office said.

Akaka, D-Hawaii, said the VA denied claims without properly determining whether veterans served in Vietnam's inland waterways, referred to as "brown water," or in other locations where they may have been exposed to Agent Orange.

Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, urged the VA to reconsider cases in which claims by Vietnam veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange were denied without obtaining relevant military records.

Akaka sent a letter to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on March 30 saying Veterans' Affairs Committee staff visited VA offices, reviewed 80 randomly selected claims "and found some alarming trends in adjudication."

Most of the files reviewed did not include evidence such as deck logs, a captain's history or other documents that would make it possible to determine whether the veteran served exclusively offshore, where exposure to Agent Orange was unlikely, or served on inland waterways and could have been exposed, the letter said.

Shinseki wrote back on Sept. 17 saying he agreed that a review of all 16,830 affected cases was warranted "and will be conducted to identify and correct any case that was improperly denied."

"I commend VA for responding to data showing that many Navy vessels thought to have stayed at sea actually traveled into the inland waters of Vietnam," Akaka said. "As a result, veterans who served on these vessels are eligible for the same benefits as Vietnam veterans who served on land."

From 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange -- which contains highly poisonous dioxin -- and other herbicides to remove leaves from trees that provided cover for enemy forces, the VA said.

The VA said it has recognized certain cancers and other diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, and that veterans, their children and survivors may be eligible for compensation.

Claims had been placed on hold by the VA while litigation was pending concerning veterans who served on "blue water" ships away from shore and their exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. Those claims were subsequently denied.

Many of those veterans actually served in inland waters, and should have received the same presumption of exposure as veterans who had "boots on the ground," Akaka's office said.

With the review, the claims of some veterans previously considered "blue water" veterans will be re-evaluated for evidence of "brown water" service, or evidence of service in other locations where the VA acknowledges that herbicides may have been used, such as the perimeter of Air Force bases in Thailand, Akaka's office said.

The committee website -- http://veterans.senate.gov -- provides a list of vessels the VA has acknowledged traveled in inland waters, as well as evidence about other ships.

US Defense Secretary to Visit Vietnam

Thanh Nien News; October 1, 2010
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will make an official visit to Vietnam this October 11, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of National Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh said Thursday.

Vinh added that, during Gates’ visit, the two countries will discuss their cooperative efforts to search for the remains of US MIAs, overcoming the war’s consequences and developing international trainings, including teaching each other Vietnamese and English.

On September 29, Vinh returned from a three-day visit to the US where he met with leaders about the first-ever ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) to be held this October 12 in Hanoi.

Read more at: http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20101001153723.aspx

Toxic Legacy: Healing from Agent Orange


Thirty-five years ago the war in Vietnam came to an abrupt end, yet for millions of Vietnamese soldiers and citizens and for thousands of American veterans and their descendants, a legacy of diseases, disabilities, and unexplained symptoms echo down the decades. During the war, some 4.5 million Vietnamese were exposed to highly toxic dioxins sprayed by the American military. Today we’ll hear from a range of individuals from varied sectors and backgrounds who’ve gathered together in support of a ten-year plan of action to clean up toxic hotspots in Vietnam and expand humanitarian services to people with disabilities as a result of exposure to Agent Orange dioxins.

This program was funded by the Agent Orange in Vietnam Information Initiative.

Susan Berresford, Convener, U.S. -Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin; Former President, Ford Foundation

Charles Bailey, Director, Special Initiative on Agent Orange, Ford Foundation

Rick Weidman, Director, Government Relations, Vietnam Veterans of America

Mary Dolan-Hogrefe, Director of Public Policy, National Organization on Disability

Bob Edgar, President and CEO, Common Cause

De Tran, Journalist, Editor, VTimes

Read more and listen to the program at: http://aworldofpossibilities.org/program/toxic-legacy-healing-from-agent-orange

Monday, October 11, 2010

Army Bids Goodbye to Last Draftee

Chief Warrant Officer Clyde Green and his wife Veria, in front of their house on base. Green, one of the last men drafted into the Army, and a Vietnam veteran, is retiring after 40 years of service in a ceremony to be held at Fort McPherson Thursday. He’s the oldest soldier at Fort McPherson, where he lives in the oldest house on base.

Bob Andres bandres@ajc.com


September 30, 2010
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

He was a kid who didn't want to be a Soldier. There was a war in Vietnam and a peace movement in America.

But then he got the government's letter and soon found himself on a cold December morning in 1970 in front of a post office in Sumter, S.C., listening to a Soldier read names until he heard his: "Clyde Green!" With that, the 20-year-old kid climbed on the bus headed to a U.S. Army base.

"I didn't want to join the Army," Green said last week. "The Army came and got me."

When he retired as a chief warrant officer in a ceremony this morning at Fort McPherson, Ga. --- after 39 years, 9 months and 15 days of continuous active duty --- he became, by the best accounting, the last U.S. Army draftee who fought in Vietnam.

READ MORE: http://www.military.com/news/article/army-bids-goodbye-to-last-draftee.html

Widows urged to check VA compensation


The Associated Press
HONOLULU — Hawaii's U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka is urging widows and widowers of deceased veterans to be sure they received compensation for the month of their spouse's death.
The island Democrat is quoting the Department of Veterans Affairs as saying, 196,000 widows and widowers have received a total of $124 million in month-of-death back payments since he uncovered a VA accounting error in December 2008.
Akaka, the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said Thursday in a Washington news release that he wants to be sure that all surviving spouses receive the compensation they are due.
Akaka's office says surviving spouses of veterans had been wrongfully denied the benefits for almost 12 years.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Widows on a Warpath demand justice for chemical spraying victims


OROMOCTO, NB – Widows of soldiers affected by the deadly chemical Agent Orange held a protest outside CFB Gagetown on Friday.

The group Widows on a Warpath are fighting against what they believe is unfair compensation for the victims of chemical spraying.

Agent Orange and other deadly herbicides were tested at CFB Gagetown in the 1960s and 1970s.

In 2007 the government agreed to pay $20,000 to the families of those who fell ill or died from the sprayings – but only if the victims fell ill within certain guidelines.

The widows say that everyone affected by Agent Orange needs to be compensated.

“We want Mr. Blackburn and Mr. Harper to know that we’re no finished with this,” says the head of Widows on a Warpath Bette Hudson.

“We will continue,” says Hudson, “because we want justice for our husbands, and that’s all we’ve wanted from the beginning – justice for our husbands and our families.”

As of now, only women whose husbands became ill or died before the cut off date of February 2006 are eligible for compensation.

The protestors also said Friday that they want Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran reinstated.
© Copyright (c) CW Media Inc.

Toward healing Vietnam


1 October 2010 - The war in Vietnam ended more than 35 years ago, but Trinh Luc, age 18, is still feeling the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military. Totally disabled since birth with mental deficiencies, violent tremors and muscle degeneration, he lives in rural Vietnam with his mother, 59, who was a volunteer cook with Vietnamese troops in the jungle mountains during the war and recalls being sprayed several times. Her skin is still blotched and bumpy with chloracne.

Agent Orange, it seems, is still causing fresh harm to innocent newborns and adults in Vietnam, not to mention its harm to war vets on both sides of the Pacific. The good news is that we can stop this nightmare, and at a reasonable cost.

Doing so would be in the best American tradition of humanitarian care, and would help address the remaining shadow on the relationship between our two countries. An action plan is now in hand that comes out of another valued tradition - a public-private partnership.

READ MORE: http://vato21stcentury.blogspot.com/2010/10/agent-orange-vietnamese-victims-still.html

Hearing exposes flaws in Agent Orange law, studies


Anthony Principi, former secretary of veterans affairs, warned last week that disabled veterans and their families will suffer if Americans “lose faith in the integrity” of the VA disability compensation system.

“And the surest way for that to happen,” he told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, “is for the American people to believe that large numbers of veterans are being compensated for illnesses that may not be the result of their military service. That’s the crux of the issue we’re all grappling with.”

Thankfully, for hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans in line to be compensated for three additional diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure, few senators seemed ready to grapple with that issue any time soon.

The hearing that many veterans feared boosted confidence that, in the months ahead, they will be found newly qualified for disability payments. But it also revealed that up to $4 billion a year more in compensation will be paid in part because VA and Congress have mishandled this volatile issue.

Studies cut short

As witnesses explained, the government cut short or never sponsored a host of potential Agent Orange studies that might have better informed on levels of exposure, or the relative incidence of herbicide-linked conditions among Vietnam veterans versus other populations.

Congress in turn left the 1991 Agent Orange law on automatic pilot and with such ambiguous guidance that VA secretaries are strapped to make presumptive disease decisions with confidence. The result is uncertainty now about the fairness of some Agent Orange claims for veterans and taxpayers.

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/10/02/2523985/hearing-exposes-flaws-in-agent.html#ixzz11bqk7dd8

Shenseki's Call to IBM CEO


By Bob Brewin 10/06/10 01:18 pm ET

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki personally called the chairman and chief IBM, Samuel Palmisano, this summer to express his dissatisfaction with the company's progress on development of a computer system to process veterans' claims for ailments associated with Agent Orange, VA Chief Information Officer Roger Baker told the Senate VA Committee on Wednesday.

Baker alluded to a post I wrote in September on Shinseki's pique with IBM.

Contractors often run late on government information technology contracts, and IBM did not "understand it was not business as usual" when it came to the small-($9.1 million)-but-important-Agent-Orange project, Baker said in response to a question from the committee's ranking member, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

IBM got the message it needed to meet its 90-day delivery schedule for the system after Shinseki called Palmisano, he told Burr. "Its not every day a Cabinet secretary calls a CEO," Baker said.

He also said he expects IBM to meet the delivery schedule, but may need a backup if IBM misses it. VA issued a proposal for a second contractor in September, although the department has not issued an award.

VA expects to be hit with 240,000 claims from Vietnam veterans exposed to the Agent Orange defoliant and Burr said the VA definitely needs the Agent Orange system as it faces "an implosion of the claims process".

Now, if only IBM and VA would answer my multiple, more-than-month-old queries on what problems they have encountered with the Agent Orange claims system, what it's supposed to do, and when it will go into operation.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We can stop the nightmare from Agent Orange


- Traitors like U.S. Sens. James Webb and Richard Burr aside consciousness is flowering amid tragedy -

By Susan V. Berresford, convener of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin

The war in Vietnam ended more than 35 years ago, but Trinh Luc, 18, is still feeling the effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the U.S. military. Totally disabled since birth with mental deficiencies, violent tremors and muscle degeneration, he lives in rural Vietnam with his mother, 59, who was a volunteer cook with Vietnamese troops in the jungle mountains during the war and recalls being sprayed several times. Her skin is still blotched and bumpy with chloracne.

Agent Orange, it seems, is still causing fresh harm to innocent newborns and adults in Vietnam, not to mention its harm to war vets on both sides of the Pacific. The good news is that we can stop this nightmare, and at a reasonable cost.

Doing so would be in the best American tradition of humanitarian care, and would help address the remaining shadow on the relationship between our two countries. An action plan is now in hand that comes out of another valued tradition — a public-private partnership.

By the end of the war in 1975, 2.5 million U.S. military personnel had served in combat zones where many were exposed to Agent Orange’s toxic contaminant, dioxin. Upon returning home, many began reporting unusual illnesses: chloracne, several forms of cancer, diabetes, and birth defects in their offspring.

READ MORE: http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/10/05/we-can-stop-the-nightmare-from-agent-orange/

U.S. Sen. Harkin: Applauds VA decision to review previously denied Agent Orange benefits for Vietnam veterans with "brown water" service

October 1, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today applauded the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for its decision this week to review the cases of 17,000 “Brown Water” and other Vietnam-era veterans who may have been exposed to Agent Orange. “Brown Water” vets are those who served in the inlets and inland waterways of Vietnam, where the use of Agent Orange was prevalent, while a “Blue Water” classification denotes service outside of affected areas. Senator Harkin, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, is a cosponsor of S. 1939, the Agent Orange Equity Act, which was designed to address cases of veterans who served in inland waterways and other areas of Vietnam who were denied benefits despite evidence of Agent Orange exposure.

“It is our moral obligation to treat our veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange, which has been linked to so many debilitating diseases,” Harkin said. “They served our country and we must honor the sacrifices they made.”

With the VA’s decision, veterans who served their nation in the inland waterways of Vietnam and at Air Force bases that may have been contaminated by Agent Orange will now receive more standing to claim Agent Orange benefits. Previously, veterans potentially exposed to Agent Orange were denied “Brown Water” classification without obtaining relevant military records, such as deck logs, and were classified as “Blue Water.” Conditions linked to Agent Orange exposure include lymphoma, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer and respiratory cancers.

A full list of diseases for which Veterans may claim Agent Orange benefits is listed here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Faces of Agent Orange - Amy King-Applewhite

from The VVA Veteran, September October 2010
Amy King-Applewhite’s younger daughter once had to leave her classroom in the middle of a teacher’s instructions, but it wasn’t because she didn’t want to hear what her teacher was saying. Because of a problem with her eardrum, it sounded to her as if the teacher was screaming.

Her eardrum vibrations speed up and slow down abnormally so that without warning she either hears things at a painfully loud level or at a level so low that she cannot hear the sound. It’s only one small part of the story of the child’s problems, her older sister’s problems, and their mother’s problems.

King-Applewhite, 35, was born with an undeveloped digestive system.

“I went through many years of testing to find out why my stomach and abdomen hurt,” she said. “Being 12 years old and having multiple colonoscopies and throat scopes were painful and a violation to my body.”

Despite those invasive procedures in the 1980s, which were even more uncomfortable than they are today, doctors never came up with a diagnosis.

Her rashes, particularly on her hands and feet, made her skin red, itchy, painful, and peeling. Other children's reactions ranged from tactless to cruel. "I remember being asked once if I was part snake," she said.

Her teenage and early adult years were plagued with painful, irregular menstrual cycles (and misdiagnoses for the cause), endometriosis, bilateral fibroid tumor breast disease, and ovarian cysts. Doctors tried many medications, laparoscopies, and other surgeries.

Despite King-Applewhite’s medical conditions, she became the mother of two girls. She wanted more children, but ended up getting a hysterectomy. The ovaries that had been left intact produced cysts that ruptured.

Read more: www.vva.org
The VVA Veteran, September/October 2010, Page 18

from The VVA Veteran

September/October 2010, Vol. 30, No. 5

On August 30, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki published the final rules declaring Parkinson’s disease, ischemic heart disease, and hairy cell leukemia as presumptive service-connected conditions for exposure to Agent Orange for Vietnam veterans. VVA applauds Secretary Shinseki and President Obama for moving ahead with the process according to the science and acting in accord with the provisions of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4), despite opposition led by a few Senators who challenge the wisdom of that law. What was interesting was Senators who were not in public life in 1990 or 1991 speaking about what “our” (congressional) intent was when the law was enacted.
The fact remains that Public Law 102-4 has fulfilled much of its promise by getting the focus of the debate about Agent Orange and the other toxins used during the Vietnam War off of straight politics and onto the science. One can argue that there has not been nearly enough science published on Agent Orange and the other toxins of war, and VVA agrees with that premise. In fact, VVA has been pushing hard for more and better research and robust epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans, our children, and our grandchildren for the better part of two decades.
One should ask where the folks who now say there is not enough science have been.
In September, VVA anticipates that there will be two new pieces of legislation introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate to begin to answer the need for additional research. One bill would create an extramural research program at the VA to fund studies by non-VA researchers on the environmental wounds of war of every generation. The other would focus on the need for both epigenetic studies of birth anomalies in the children and the grandchildren of Vietnam veterans, as well as immediate delivery of desperately needed health care to these progeny of Vietnam veterans.
VVA contends that many Vietnam-era veterans also were exposed in their service elsewhere in Southeast Asia during the war, including in Thailand and Laos, and aboard Navy vessels off the coast of Vietnam, as well as at military bases located in the continental U.S. and its territories. VVA will continue to fight for all who suffer long term health effects as a result of their service to our nation.

Requesting permission to speak with a Veteran Navy Corpsman

To Whom It May Concern,

I am inquiring into the possibility of speaking with a Navy Corpsman who served with a patrol in Vietnam . I am currently learning more about the experiences of a group that was in harm's way to a great degree, but about which there is little written. I fully respect any Sailor, Marine, Soldier, or Airman's privacy, but think there is a story to be told. I am currently writing a novel about a young person who is drafted and serves during the war in 1970. As an aside, I just finished Karl Marlante's Matterhorn , and even more so respect that even fiction has to be "told right."

My background is this: I am a 62 year old physician, who is currently the medical director for my state's drug and alcohol treatment administration. One mission is to be prepared for the current and future veterans who need an array of services and support. My training is in psychiatry and addiction medicine. Although I did not serve in any branch of military service, my family comes from a proud tradition in the Marines. My father, John B. Cohen, had retired as a Major in the Marine Reserves, after serving as a Lieutenant and Captain in the Pacific Theater in WWII, especially at Roi Namur, Saipan and Tinian. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for rescuing several sailors who was swept over in the Kwajelein Reef. He also related to me some stories about the day-to-day courage of his men in battle, including the Naval Corpsmen.

I am, however, making this request as a private citizen, not connected to my governmental service. The novel I am currently revising spans the lifetime of one person from early childhood through his being in Vietnam . It is not intended to focus on the right or wrong of war or of the Vietnam War in general, but the experience taken from the viewpoint of a young man who eventually became a corpsman: what he learned in preparatory training, what he carried with him into battle, how he kept watch over the health and safety of the patrol, and how he interacted with the staff, patrol officers, and combat marines.

I thank you for your consideration. If I can gain permission, I would anticipate being oriented to the process for interviewing, having already read through the relevant portions of your public relations manual.


Peter R. Cohen MD
14403 Butternut Court
Rockville , Maryland MD
Home (after 5 pm): 301-871-8947
Work: 410-402-8677
Mobile Phone (personal): 240-432-5019