Saturday, August 11, 2018

Jury Awards Terminally Ill Man $289 Million In Lawsuit Against Monsanto

At 42, Dewayne Johnson developed a bad rash that was eventually diagnosed as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Four years later Johnson — now near death, according to his doctors — has been awarded a staggering sum of $289 million dollars in damages in a case against agricultural giant Monsanto.
The former school groundskeeper sued the company, arguing that an herbicide in the weed killer Roundup, likely caused the disease. His lawyers also contended Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the alleged risk from their product.
On Friday, a San Francisco jury agreed. They deliberated for three days before awarding Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and $39 million in compensatory damages.
"The jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of Johnson's attorneys, according to the Associated Press.
"This should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto," Kennedy added.
Johnson's is the first of hundreds of cancer-patient cases against Monsanto and could be a bellwether of what lies ahead for the company.
As NPR's Bill Chappell reported:
"Claims against Monsanto received a boost in 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organization — announced that two pesticides, including glyphosate, are 'probably carcinogenic to humans.'
Monsanto is now facing hundreds of lawsuits, many of which were filed after that 2015 announcement. Dozens of the suits were joined to be heard in the court of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria – who, even as he allowed the case to proceed, said the plaintiffs 'appear to face a daunting challenge' in supporting their claims at the next phase of the case."
"We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that ... Roundup could cause cancer," Johnson's lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

Judge dismisses 2003 lawsuit over Dow dioxin contamination

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Dow Chemical has prevailed in a long-running lawsuit by property owners over dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee River.
TV station WJRT says the 2003 lawsuit was recently dismissed by a Saginaw County judge. Dow argued that the statute of limitations had long expired when the case was filed.
The company's legal position was strengthened in January. The Michigan Supreme Court said the clock began to run when damage occurred, not in 2002 when regulators publicly reported high levels of contamination in the river's flood plain.
WJRT says Dow has been cleaning up properties along the river by replacing contaminated soil. Property owners wanted to be compensated for lost land value and enjoyment of their property.

Friday, August 10, 2018



Veterans hope burn pit bill will provide VA health care, disability benefits

Veterans are praising new legislation that, if passed, will provide immediate VA health care and disability benefits to service members exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits.
Following several reports by 8 On Your Side on the burn pit issue, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R)-Florida announced he has introduced into Congress the "Protection for Veterans' Burn Pit Exposure Act of 2018."
"This will enable the veterans battling illness to immediately access VA medical care and disability benefits," Rep. Biliraksi stated in a Tarpon Springs news conference.
Lauren Price, a navy veteran, worked on the legislation with Mr. Bilirakis.
"It's the most important fight of my life," she said.
When Lauren Price went to war in Iraq in 2008, burn pits operated 24/7.
The military dumped any and all waste into pits, doused it with jet fuel, then ignited it.
Price remembers smoke, carrying toxic fumes and particulates, was everywhere.
"No matter what you did you couldn't hide from it," stated Price.
Christina Thundathil's duties in Iraq included burning human waste with jet fuel every day for 300 days.
"My lungs are moderately damaged," explained Thundathil.
Price and Thundathil now suffer chronic incurable bronchial and lung diseases.
"It was irrelevant where you were, when you were, if you were in the shower, there's an air conditioner running in the shower room, you were always breathing it," Price added.
The department of Defense and VA reject any connection between service members contracting rare and inexplicable diseases and open air burn pits.

Burn pits

It has taken quite some time for the VA to recognize the adverse effects of exposure to Agent Orange. Now the VA is conducting studies to determine the health effects of exposure to the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The burn pits may very well become the new “Agent Orange” by taking some time to evaluate the veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the effects include heart and lung problems, cancer, digestive tract issues and many other health issues.
Iraq had at least three football-field size burn pits that burned continuously and caused the air quality to be very bad. Some of the people that worked near them developed a chronic cough that some service members called the “Iraqi Crud.”
The VA created the Institute of Medicine committee to study of health issues and the connection to burn pits. The IOM ultimately concluded that there is not enough evidence to prove toxic burn pit smoke harmed U.S. service members. However, the studies that the IOM relied on are arguably unreliable. The VA has been accused of stalling for time under the guise of scientific uncertainty. It is understandable that the VA has to have enough evidence of a nexus and new health issues.

Tribes seek probe of dioxin in The Dalles

Four Indian nations in the Columbia Basin are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into dioxin contamination at a Union Pacific-owned Superfund site in The Dalles, according to an article by Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate of the Portland environmental journal Cascadia Times.
Past studies showed that several species of Columbia River fish caught downstream from The Dalles were contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic chemical, according to the article. No one knows yet if the dioxin originated at the Union Pacific Superfund site.
But the four Indian nations, each with treaty rights to Columbia River fish, want to find out.
The reporters' article, Dioxin in The Dalles, is the fourth in a series on a site in the Columbia riverfront community long used to treat railroad ties with creosote. It was based on a review of 5,500 pages of documents released in May by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Germany Heat Wave Lowers Elbe and Other Rivers, Exposing Dangerous World War II Munitions

An ongoing heat wave in Germany has lowered water levels on numerous rivers, including the Elbe River, where dangerous World War II munitions have been exposed.
Police are warning against touching grenades, mines and other possibly live explosives exposed in areas that were once battlegrounds in the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony during World War II, Deutsche-Welle reports.
Saxony-Anhalt police spokeswoman Grit Merker told the newspaper at least 22 grenades, mines and other explosives have been found so far this year.

Appeals court orders Trump administration to ban pesticide harmful to children's brains within 60 days

A federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration Thursday to revoke approval for a widely used pesticide that studies show can harm the brains of children.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide initially developed as a nerve gas during World War II.
“This decision to tell the EPA to do the ban is a pretty bold move,” said Kristen Boyles, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, who represented environmental and farm worker groups in the case.
But she said it was justified by the science and the EPA’s continued foot-dragging.
The 2-1 decision stemmed from a 2007 petition by two environmental groups to prevent the chemical from being used on food.
The groups cited studies that found children and infants who had been exposed prenatally to low doses of chlorpyrifos suffer from reduced IQ, attention deficit disorders and delayed motor development that lasts into adulthood.
“The EPA failed to take any decisive action in response to the 2007 petition, notwithstanding that the EPA’s own internal studies continued to document serious safety risks associated with chlorpyrifos use, particularly for children,” New York District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who was filling in on the 9th Circuit, wrote for the panel.
The Obama administration proposed banning the pesticide’s use on food crops, but former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course last year and decided to retain the pesticide.

Monday, August 6, 2018

SHAME! - VA rips 'Blue Water' Agent Orange bill, urges Senate to sink it

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they strongly oppose passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), which would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 veterans.
The legislation would give coverage to service members who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.
The Blue Water Navy bill passed the House unanimously in late June and seemed certain to fly through the Senate, given reports of close coordination on the bill between veterans’ affairs committees, and the House having negotiated a plan to pay for the benefits with major veteran service organizations.
On Wednesday, however, with Robert Wilkie installed two days earlier as VA secretary, his undersecretary for benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, delivered a blistering attack on the Blue Water Navy bill, and on a proposal to test providing routine dental care to veterans, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
Lawrence testified that there’s still no credible scientific evidence to support extending Agent Orange-related benefits to shipboard personnel who never went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its rivers. Without such evidence, he said, it would be wrong, and would create a disastrous precedent, to award VA benefits.

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.

Some veterans got Agent Orange benefits, many more still waiting

Navy veteran Lonnie Kilpatrick received a letter in April from the Department of Veterans Affairs, reversing its previous decision and approving Agent Orange benefits for him.
Kilpatrick was stationed on Guam during the Vietnam War, according to retired Marine Brian Moyer. Moyer is lead organizer for the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam,
Kilpatrick died a month after receiving the letter. He's one of only a dozen or so veterans who served on Guam and whose ailments were recognized by Veterans Affairs as being related to Agent Orange exposure.

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.


The United States government, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, has a DUTY to TREAT medical problems associated with military service; COMPENSATE veterans (or their families) for early death or disability associated with their service; and MONITOR and DOCUMENT the effects of government policy and MISTAKES that created a higher health risk. For 50 years, VA has FAILED to monitor and document the effects of Agent Orange on military members that served in the "Blue Water Navy" during Vietnam. Congress is attempting to "fix" this dereliction of duty - and VA Officials oppose the change. We the people support treatment and compensation for these medical issues; and believe monitoring and documenting these issues should be the responsibility of VA, not the individual veterans.

REFUSE - CONFUSE - DELAY -DENY - Veteran against veteran: A new battle on Capitol Hill pits Agent Orange funding against low-cost mortgages

A new battle on Capitol Hill is pitting Vietnam veterans against more recent service members.
The Senate is currently considering the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, a bill that would extend benefits to 90,000 vets who served in the Navy off the coast of Vietnam and say they were exposed to Agent Orange. The House of Representatives in June approved the bill 382-0.
But one of the ways it would pay for the bill, which the Veterans Administration estimates will cost $3.4 billion over the next five years, is by increasing fees on home loans guaranteed by the Veterans Administration – a benefit far more likely to be accessed by younger vets.
The home loan program is a point of pride among the VA. It is available to anyone who has served, and offers generous terms including no down payment requirements, and the ability to fold closing costs into the overall loan amount.
Veterans often don’t have much of a credit profile, since many spend their entire early adult life in service. Yet delinquency rates for the VA loans are much lower than any other category of mortgage. That’s not just because vets are more disciplined, but because VA underwriting considers how much money homeowners will have after paying the mortgage and other expenses, a more holistic approach than many other lenders take.
The VA declined to comment for this story, as did other housing market participants, even as they privately expressed dismay over the inter-generational feud and Congress’ inability to take care of American service members. At least one senator, North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, in a Wednesday hearing also said he was uncomfortable with that idea.
But as the National Association of Realtors said in a letter to two senators, “as a benefit, NAR believes that VA loan guarantee fees should be based on the risk of the loan made, and not the costs of other VA programs or benefits.”

DENY - DELAY - CONFUSE - REFUSE - VA: Science Doesn't Support Agent Orange Claims from 'Blue Water' Vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs opposed a bill Wednesday that has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate to extend Agent Orange health care and disability benefits to "blue water" sailors who served offshore during the Vietnam War.
"The science is not there" to show that the freshwater systems of Navy ships were contaminated by dioxin from Agent Orange defoliants widely used in Vietnam, said Paul Lawrence, the undersecretary for benefits at the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration.
"It's difficult to hear from veterans who are ill" as they file claims, he said at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, but "there is no conclusive science" from a report by the Institute of Medicine to show a service connection.
Several senators from both sides of the aisle and representatives of veterans service organizations (VSOs) disputed Lawrence on the evidence for a service connection and urged passage of the bill, something the committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, has made a "top priority."
The House has already passed by a vote of 382-0 the bill, which would allow sailors who served offshore in Vietnam to claim care and benefits for so-called "presumptive" diseases from exposure to Agent Orange, including respiratory cancers, heart disease, Parkinson's and chloracne.
Those who served on the ground and on the rivers of Vietnam are already able to claim Agent Orange benefits, and "it doesn't make any sense" to exclude the blue water sailors, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
"I think this is an injustice that we can and must rectify," she said.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 90,000 sailors could be covered by the bill, which would likely cost about $1.1 billion over 10 years.
Lawrence and Dr. Ralph Erickson, the VA's chief consultant for post-deployment health at the Veterans Health Administration, also expressed concerns about Congress' proposal to "offset" the cost of the bill, H.R 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018.
In the House version of the bill, the money would come from a small increase in payments from non-disabled veterans who use the VA's home loan program, about $2 per month.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold hearings on H.R 299 on Wednesday, August 1 at 2:30pm (EDT)
Testimony supporting H.R. 299 Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act 2018 will be presented at that time. 
The hearing will be held in room 418 Senate Russell Office Building, Washington, DC.  This will be the last hearing before the Senate sends the bill to the Senate floor for vote and passage. 
The bill passed the House on June 25, 2018 by a vote of 382-0.
Please go to  and send the prepared alert to your Senator requesting their support of  H.R. 299 prior to the hearing and please follow-up with a phone call to their offices.

Monday, July 30, 2018

From Dow’s ‘Dioxin Lawyer’ to Trump’s Choice to Run Superfund

The lawyer nominated to run the Superfund toxic cleanup program is steeped in the complexities of restoring polluted rivers and chemical dumps. He spent more than a decade on one of the nation’s most extensive cleanups, one involving Dow Chemical’s sprawling headquarters in Midland, Mich.
But while he led Dow’s legal strategy there, the chemical giant was accused by regulators, and in one case a Dow engineer, of submitting disputed data, misrepresenting scientific evidence and delaying cleanup, according to internal documents and court records as well as interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the project.
The lawyer, Peter C. Wright, was nominated in March by President Trump to be assistant administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency overseeing the Superfund program, which was created decades ago to clean up the nation’s most hazardous toxic waste sites. He is already working at the agency in an advisory role as he awaits congressional approval. If confirmed, Mr. Wright would also oversee the emergency response to chemical spills and other hazardous releases nationwide.
E.P.A. officials pointed to Mr. Wright’s expertise in environmental law and his tenure at Dow as valuable qualifications. The White House on Saturday referred questions to the E.P.A.
He spent 19 years at Dow, one of the world’s largest chemical makers, and once described himself in a court deposition as “the company’s dioxin lawyer.” He was assigned to the Midland cleanup in 2003, and later became a lead negotiator in talks with the E.P.A. It was during his work on the cleanup that the agency criticized Dow for the cleanup delays, testing lapses and other missteps.
For more than a century, the Dow complex manufactured a range of products including Saran wrap, Styrofoam, Agent Orange and mustard gas. Over time, Dow released effluents into the Tittabawassee River, leading to dioxin contamination stretching more than 50 miles along the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers and into Lake Huron.
Dow, which merged with rival DuPont last year, is among the companies most affected by Superfund cleanups nationwide, E.P.A. data shows. The combined company is listed as potentially having responsibility in almost 14 percent of sites on the E.P.A.’s list of priority Superfund cleanups, or 171 locations nationwide.
Mr. Wright has pledged to recuse himself from cleanups related to his former employer, a move welcomed by even one of the administration’s congressional critics.
Still, his appointment “raises all kinds of red flags, and it makes his job more difficult in the sense that he will be watched every second,” said Christine Todd Whitman, who led the E.P.A. under President George W. Bush and who has criticized the agency under the Trump administration.
In recent months, the E.P.A. under its former chief, Scott Pruitt, has been beset by ethics investigations, and an earlier choice to run the Superfund program, a former banker with no experience in toxic cleanups, ultimately resigned. Mr. Pruitt himself stepped down this month, having launched major regulatory rollbacks at the E.P.A. while striking an industry-friendly stance that his successor,  Andrew Wheeler, is expected to continue.

Veterans exposed to battlefield burn pits press VA for care and compensation

As an Air Force lab technician at Camp Tallil in southern Iraq, Wesley Archuleta had the task of burning medical waste — body parts, surgical remains and blood bags that would “go off like grenades” in the flames.
Fifty feet from where he deposited his grisly loads, workers fed an open-air burn pit with just about anything imaginable from the modern battlefield: chemicals, weapons, munitions, metals and plastics.
“You name it, they burned it,” said Archuleta, 47, of San Antonio, who suffers from tremors, a chronic cough and shortness of breath.
Enrique Diaz, of Houston, an Air Force engineer deployed at Camp Speicher in Northern Iraq, would watch as contractors backed up to a burn pit a quarter-mile from where he slept to deposit chemicals, plastics and assorted waste.
The VA says the most frequently claimed ailments from burn pits exposure are asthma, chronic bronchitis, allergic rhinitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnea.
The VA’s burn pits registry measured participants by their ability to perform five activities, the most strenuous of which was running or jogging a mile and the least strenuous was walking ten steps. More than one-third reported difficulty completing all five.
A Pentagon-supported study this year examining the health of 75,000 veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan found a 24-30 percent higher risk of new-onset asthma than those without combat experience. Hispanic men and women had an even higher rate of asthma.
In a study published this spring, impurities were found in the lungs of mice given droplets of water with dust from near an Iraq burn pit. “When you look at the mouse lungs under the microscope, what you see is identical to what you see in soldiers’ lungs,” said Dr. Anthony Szema, a professor at Zucker Medical School at Hofstra University.
Diaz’s worsening health problems led to his separation from the military for asthma. Diaz, 44, who could run six miles a decade ago, now takes three asthma medications and suffers from headaches and a sinus condition that landed him in emergency rooms this spring.
Like thousands of others who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Texans are pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs to acknowledge that their health problems stemmed from haphazard burning and grant them the care and the benefits that accompany service-connected injury.

Final Cleanup Of Soils At Montana Pole Plant Delayed Another Year

Final Cleanup Of Soils At Montana Pole Plant Delayed Another Year
Final cleanup and construction on Butte’s smallest Superfund site, the Montana Pole and Treating Plant, continues to be pushed back.
The state Department of Environmental Quality has been in charge of cleaning up toxins in the soil and water leftover from the former wood treatment plant located just south and west of Butte for more than 20 years.
Standing in front of the water treatment plant there last week, DEQ project manager Dave Bowers said the agency is not going to meet their goal of finishing the cleanup of contaminated soils at the site this year.
That’s not because they’ve hit any recent snags on the physical site itself. DEQ and the company they’re contracting with just need a green light to do the work, Bowers says.
“They’re ready for everything. Construction...the last thing you’re waiting for is what’s the cap gonna look like? That’s pretty much it," said Bowers. "That’s what’s been going on behind the scenes. These guys are ready to go.”
Part of the DEQ’s cleanup efforts have involved treating about 200,000 cubic yards of pentachlorophenol and dioxin-laced soil. But since the dioxins did not break down over time as expected, the state has decided to bury and cap the dirty dirt at a waste repository on site, which is a departure from the original 1993 cleanup plan.
That new design now needs to be approved by administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency, and that’s where the DEQ is hitting a bureaucratic bottleneck.

A toxic town, a search for answers

Industrial chemicals dumped long ago still haunt Minden, W.Va., a community beset by cancer and fear. Like her father, physician Ayne Amjad is trying to track the links.
Even before Hassan Amjad’s family buried him on a West Virginia hillside, phone calls flooded his daughter’s office.
The callers remembered him as a kind man, boundless in his curiosity, fiery in his convictions, who had long maintained a medical clinic in nearby Oak Hill, in an old whitewashed house with a squeaky screen door and creaking wood floors.
But some of them also sounded worried. Ayne Amjad, a doctor like her father, heard the same questions again and again: Who will stand up for us now? Will we be forgotten?
Her father had made it his mission to get justice — or at least answers — for the people of this once-thriving coal town an hour south of the state capital. He told anyone willing to listen that industrial chemicals dumped decades ago by the now-defunct Shaffer Equipment Co. had long been poisoning residents.
In the final months of his life, the elder Amjad and his wife spent many days in Minden knocking on doors, scribbling detailed medical histories, hoping to document potential links between cancer and the polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, that had been discovered throughout the area.
Local activists say that by their count, roughly a third of Minden residents have died from or been diagnosed with cancer in recent years. State health workers say the official numbers are much lower.
Many people want to leave this place, where ramshackle houses dot the small valley not far from the New River. Its population has dwindled to 250, and few who remain have the resources to move.
“He said if it killed him, he was going to figure out what happened in Minden,” recalls Percy Fruit, 63, who lives in the house where he grew up near the old Shaffer facility, and whose parents both died of cancer. “He just wanted the wrong righted.”
More than once, Amjad told his daughter, “If I’m known for anything in my life, I want it to be that I helped the people of Minden.”

Monday, July 23, 2018


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

July 27, 2018
Glasgow, Kentucky
Contact: David Cowherd

September 22, 2018
Chillicothe, Ohio
Contact: Thomas Estes
740- 279-8717

October 13, 2018
Oxford, Michigan

Senator Booker Introduces USS Frank E. Evans Amendment to FY 2019 NDAA

For the past two years, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has continued to take action to honor the 74 American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice aboard the USS Frank E. Evans.  On June 11, 2018, Senator Booker, along with Senators Menendez and Schumer, introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would give the Secretary of Defense one year to authorize the inscription of these names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The language was included in the House bill that would accomplish the same result. Senator Booker and his colleagues are focused on maintaining the House language in the final bill. We are working with Senators Hoeven, Schumer, Menendez, and several other Senate and House colleagues to get this done.
With your help, Senator Booker hopes that these sailors can be honored and their families can find peace of mind knowing their loved ones have been given the respect and recognition they deserve.
Linked below please find a recent article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer on July 9, 2018, which highlights Senator Booker’s involvement, as well as provides a history of the USS Frank E. Evans.

GAO Report: VA Whistleblowers 10 Times More Likely To Be Punished

A GAO report published yesterday blew apart VA assertions of fairness by showing VA whistleblowers are ten times more likely to be punished than peers who say nothing.
The report also revealed senior VA managers are sometimes not held accountable for substantiated misconduct and that sometimes those same managers are allowed to investigate themselves.
Let me put that another way.
There is a fox. That fox is guarding the henhouse. It sometimes guards the henhouse from inside the chicken coup. Other times, it guards the hens by putting the hen right into its mouth.
No wonder the agency has such a hard time finding employees. It may not be as related to the public-private pay gap as some VA officials may have you believe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Trump loyalists at VA shuffling, purging employees before new secretary takes over

Ahead of Robert Wilkie’s likely confirmation to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump loyalists at the agency are taking aggressive steps to purge or reassign staff members perceived to be disloyal to President Trump and his agenda for veterans, according to multiple people familiar with the moves.
The transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants who have been moved from the leadership suite at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles.
The employees served agency leaders, some dating back more than two decades, in crucial support roles that help a new secretary.
None said they were given reasons for their reassignments.
The moves are being carried out by a small cadre of political appointees led by Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke who have consolidated power in the four months since they helped oust Secretary David Shulkin.
The reshuffling marks a new stage in a long estrangement between civil servants and Trump loyalists at VA, where staff upheaval and sinking morale threatens to derail service to one of the president’s key constituencies, according to current and former employees.
Among those reassigned is an experienced scheduler whom Wilkie told colleagues he wanted to work for him once he is confirmed by the Senate, according to former and current employees.
Other career senior executives with institutional knowledge of VA’s troubled benefits operation also have been sidelined, some to other cities, according to multiple people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. A high-ranking executive appointed during the Obama administration to a six-year term quit last week after clashing with Trump aides. Even some Trump appointees have been pushed out for challenging the leadership group.
VA officials say the reassignments will help their efforts to improve the agency’s overall culture and performance. Still, it is highly unusual for a leader in an acting, caretaker role — which began for O’Rourke on May 30 — to make such significant changes before a permanent leader arrives.
“Under President Trump, VA won’t wait to take necessary action when it comes to improving the department and its service to Veterans,” spokesman Curt Cashour said in an email. Wilkie, according to Cashour and a spokeswoman for the nominee, has had no hand in the changes as he awaits Senate confirmation.
Current and former employees — and now alarmed members of Congress — call the reshuffling a loyalty purge that is targeting the alleged political sympathies of civil servants whose jobs are, by definition, nonpartisan.

Senate plans path ahead for ‘blue water Navy’ benefits fix

WASHINGTON — Senate lawmakers will start their work next month on legislation to extend disability benefits for nearly 90,000 veterans who worked around toxic chemicals during the Vietnam War but have been denied compensation for that exposure.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee is planning an Aug. 1 hearing on the issue, one that committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has called a “top priority” for the remainder of the year.
Last month, House lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation dealing with the plight of “blue water” Vietnam veterans, adding a new Veterans Affairs home loan fee to pay for the $1.1 billion needed to cover benefits costs.
Supporters of that measure had pushed for the Senate to quickly approve the measure, but Isakson has said he wants to hold public debate on the issue to ensure that lawmakers aren’t overlooking needed improvements to the proposal.
House passes benefits fix for ailing ‘blue water’ veterans, now awaits Senate’s move
House passes benefits fix for ailing ‘blue water’ veterans, now awaits Senate’s move
The bill would provide disability payouts for about 90,000 veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam.
But under existing rules those veterans must provide proof of exposure to the chemicals to receive disability benefits. In contrast, troops who served on the mainland or patrolled inland rivers during the war are assumed to have been working with or near Agent Orange and are given special expedited status when filing disability benefits claims.

Does glyphosate cause cancer?

Does glyphosate cause cancer? Monsanto herbicide trials take shape in US
A California man is dying of cancer, and he is blaming the glyphosate found in Monsanto‘s Roundup, while a judge has allowed hundreds of more cases to move forward. But research shows the link is anything but clear.
A San Francisco court began hearing opening statements in the first US trial of its kind on Monday: A California man dying of cancer is , claiming the popular weed-killer Roundup is to blame for the disease.
Days after, a federal judge in San Francisco allowed hundreds of lawsuits against Monsanto to go forward. The judge said on Wednesday that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to hear the case.
The plaintiffs argue that Monsanto products containing glyphosate, most notably Roundup, were at fault for cancer that either they or their deceased relatives were diagnosed with.
In particular, the trial of 46-year-old Dewayne Johnson was expedited due to his likely death in the coming months from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to his lawyer.

Dow Chemical continuing to clean up dioxin along Tittabawassee River

FREELAND (WJRT) (7/16/2018) - The clean up of contaminated soil downstream from Dow Chemical continues along the Tittabawassee River -- much to the delight of many homeowners.
Some property owners feel they are getting brand new backyards.
"Before we bought the house, my wife and I did a lot of research on the Dow issue the chemicals in the dirt," said Ben Adams, who purchased a home near Freeland two years ago.
Two years later, he's happy with the cleanup work that has been done.
"It really allows us to have peace of mind when our kids are back there, or when I am cutting the grass," Adams said.
He had a foot of soil removed from about a half acre of his property that was closest to the Tittabawassee River, which testing showed was contaminated with dioxin.
Dow Chemical has been paying for the removal of the soil and the Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the work.
"We were really excited to make sure they were able to remove all the contaminated dirt, but then also reseed it and actually they will cut the grass the first couple of times for us," Adams said.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

July 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Call To Action

Waiting For An Army To Die Won't Work When A Significant Number of Vietnam Veterans Are Reporting Children and/or Grandchildren With Birth Defects Related to Exposure to Agent Orange:

by Mokie Porter

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.the Ford Foundation, announced that it is funding and launching of a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam

The Ford Foundation and the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin are hoping to mobilize resources and raise awareness for the continuing environmental health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from the use of A/O, with the end goal of gaining the support of Congress, American business, and the American people to direct U.S. dollars to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. When representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) asked at the June 2nd meeting whether the condition of American veterans, their children, and grandchildren would also be a subject of the public relations campaign, the answer from the chair of the Working Group, came back "We have given you the report."

The June 1, 2009, report, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," which was done by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, concludes 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." for report and VVA reactions.

The report includes five detailed recommendations for greater clarity and justice: (1) Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families; (2) Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies; (3) Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren; (4) A Fresh Approach to Research; and (5) Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities.

If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign will focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but not American victims of Agent Orange, then veterans need to launch our own grassroots publicity campaign to gain the support of Congress, American business, and the American people for the unfinished Agent Orange agenda for American veterans and their families.

The Task Ahead: Don't Mourn, Organize and Publicize in Your Own Communities

This is not just a VVA issue.VVA members, chapters, and state councils need to reach out and work with other veterans organizations in their communities and to be a force multiplier. Many of our members, of course, are members of other veterans organizations, so this will help.

The brunt of the fallout of this one-sided, public-awareness campaign will rest on our members at the grassroots, in chapters and state councils, where the network exists for our veteran families. We cannot allow those veterans outside the VA/VSO network to find out about their A/O exposure from the perspective of the Vietnamese victims, as they watch the Ford Foundation media campaign unfold in print and on television.

While, at this point, we know very little about the when and where of the Ford Foundation media campaign, we expect that it will begin this summer and continue through the year. We anticipate a multi-media barrage, with Ford's efforts directed toward the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, celebrities, etc. We have not located the budget for this endeavor yet, but expect that, minimally, it will be in the range of six figures.

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. That's not the right approach to take and may well create a great deal of pain in those veterans, whose "welcome home" nearly forty years ago, was a slap in the face, or disdain and distance, and who will now, once more, be reminded of the esteem in which their government holds them, as they watch while the Ford Foundation media campaign focuses on the suffering of their former enemy.

What do we need to create awareness? We need real stories about real people to convince the American people and Congress that our A/O problems are real.

We already have two excellent stories, though still in the rough draft stage. More will be needed. If each state would identify at least one family with a child or grandchild affected by A/O, willing to share their story, we will begin to have ammunition to use locally and nationally with the media and with legislators.

One idea that has been suggested is holding veterans health forums at the chapter and state council levels. That's a good way to get local media attention, and a forum to discuss the issue of A/O, as well as all the host of illnesses and maladies associated with military service. It would likely be useful to have a nuts-and-bolts, how-to plan for this type of health forum.

What we need is something that could be shared with other states and chapters, like a "checklist for organizers of local health forums," or a document that has tips for putting on a "high-interest, high attendance, high media coverage veterans health forum in your community.

Ideas other than a veterans health forum will likely emerge, and a forum for the sharing of these ideas, info, intel, and good stories will be needed, if we are to sustain a vital campaign. What works in one area may not work in another area. Local initiative, local creativity, and local enthusiasm and energy will be essential.

This is not just about Vietnam/Agent Orange alone; it is about all toxic exposures in all theaters of our recent wars whether in Thailand, on Eglin Air Force Base, Guam, Puerto Rico, Texas, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.--the larger lesson continues to be this: The cost of war doesn't end when the guns are silent, in fact it takes a generational toll so we, as a nation, must be willing to pay the price.

(See VVA web page for report and VVA reactions. The report is also available at

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Military And Motor Neuron Disease: Military-related factors affecting survival of veterans with ALS

Military veterans may have higher rates of death from the progressive neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as motor neuron disease, than non-veterans. However, few studies have examined what might be behind this association. The authors of a PLOS ONE study evaluated the relationship between various military-related factors and ALS survival among U.S. veterans.
The study has just been awarded the 2018 PLOS Veterans Disability & Rehabilitation Research Channel Prize. I interviewed via email co-author John Beard, epidemiologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health at Brigham Young University, to find out more.
Q-What drew you to study epidemiology?
JB: It happened gradually over time. I’ve been interested in numbers and research since I was about 10 years old, so I majored in statistics for my undergraduate degree. I then earned graduate degrees in public health and epidemiology so that I could apply statistics to real problems that affected real people. I had some great mentors in graduate school and during internships who helped me to discover that epidemiology was enjoyable, fulfilling, and a good fit for me.
Q-In your study, you examined rates of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) mortality amongst US military veterans. Why did you decide to study this topic?