Thursday, June 21, 2018


Vet realtor pulls alarm on plan to fund ‘blue water’ Navy bill

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s plan to pay for a bill to extend Agent Orange disability benefits to 90,000 “blue water” Navy veterans of the Vietnam War — by raising funding fees under the Department of Veterans Affairs guaranty home loan program — will not continue to shield all disabled veterans from a funding fee, as the committee claimed last month as it cleared the bill for consideration of the full House.
The charge is made by “G2” Varrato II, a Phoenix Realtor, Air Force retiree, and director of the Veterans Association for Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) for the state of Arizona. The committee does not dispute Varrato’s argument that veterans with disabilities rated below 100 percent would see their waiver of a VA loan funding fee disappear if they use their benefit on mortgages that exceed the Freddie Mac conforming loan limit, a program expansion the committee bill allows.
Every major veteran service organization publicly endorsed the committee’s amended version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), which includes a new strategy to cover the bill’s $1 billion estimated cost for expanding Agent Orange-related benefits by charging slightly higher VA home loan funding fees and making other changes to the VA loan program.
It’s unclear now whether advocacy groups understood that certain disabled veterans, those with VA ratings below 100 percent, would be hit with their first VA home loan funding fees ever if they were to take advantage of the jumbo long feature.

The Rant: Monsanto disappears in merger

Bayer, the giant German pharmaceutical company is buying Monsanto for $63 billion and dropping Monsanto’s name in the acquisition. Monsanto is one of the most despised companies in the world, so the reason for the name deletion is obvious. Monsanto makes dioxin (in Agent Orange), PCBs, glysophate (Roundup), and genetically modified seeds (GMOs).
Bayer says, “The combination of the two businesses will allow us to deliver more innovation faster and provide solutions tailored to the needs of farmers around the world...Going forward, our teams in the labs and in the field will be able to take a much more holistic approach to innovation as we address the enormous challenges we face in agriculture.”
Translation: By forcing farmers to buy our GMO seeds, which requires farmers to spray our poisons on their crops, regardless of the environmental impact on people, plants, animals and insects, we now can make even more money for our shareholders.
Preparing for an onslaught of criticism, Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says, “We aim to deepen our dialogue with society. We will listen to our critics and work together where we find common ground. Agriculture is too important to allow ideological differences to bring progress to a standstill. We have to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other. It’s the only way to build bridges.”

Tampa Bay lawmaker drafts bill to help vets exposed to burn pits

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. -- After 10News revealed a possible treatment for veterans exposed to burn pits, there's finally some action for tens of thousands of suffering vets.
Burn pit exposure is an epidemic with many consequences that veterans deal with years after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Following a story in January, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R - New Port Richey) drafted legislation to help get veterans the health care and coverage they need right away.
Joe Hernandez was exposed to toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan when the military burned waste like chemicals, ammunition, oil and other items they had to get rid of.
Years after coming home, Hernandez noticed he was feeling weak.
"If I can't breathe or I don't feel well because I can't breathe, then what was the point of coming back alive," he said.
Hernandez is among thousands of veterans who have signed the VA's burn pit registry.
"I mean some of the stories are so very sad," he said. "These are our heroes we're talking about. They need health care immediately and they need to get their disability payments approved immediately."
Bilirakis drafted legislation that would give veterans presumptive status, making them eligible for health care and coverage right away.

Monday, June 18, 2018

VA OIG Report Reveals Continued Failure To Hire Enough Doctors

A report from VA OIG shows VA is still failing to hire enough doctors and nurses despite record taxpayer funding and heightened focus on increasing hiring in those vital categories.
A survey conducted in January 2018 of VA medical center directors revealed continued staffing shortages in key roles without the agency. At the top of the list were doctors and nurses. Human resources professional and police were also on the list of shortages.
The top reasons cited for the shortages were:
               Lack of qualified applicants
               Non-competitive salary
               High staff turnover
Basically, the list reveals widespread corruption in the agency and well-known whistleblower retaliation has damaged hiring capabilities in key occupations. The damage is so bad that record funds and increased spending in propaganda to deflate negative news still is not working to increase the applicant pool.
And who would want to take that risk with their career?
Think about it. As a medical doctor, the individual spent over ten years in training and invested over $200,000 to become a doctor. If that doctor, while at VA, reports malpractice or some other wrongdoing, the agency immediately retaliates by revoking the doctor’s privileges and destroying their reputation.

With Operation Popeye, the U.S. government made weather an instrument of war

It was a seasonably chilly afternoon in 1974 when Senators Claiborne Pell, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and Clifford Case, a Republican from New Jersey, strode into the chambers of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for a classified briefing. While the meeting was labeled “top secret,” the topic at hand was rather mundane: They were there to discuss the weather.
More specifically, Pell, the chairman of the now-defunct subcommittee for Oceans and International Environment, and his colleague were about to learn the true extent of a secret five-year-old cloud seeding operation meant to lengthen the monsoon season in Vietnam, destabilize the enemy, and allow the United States to win the war.
Though it cycled through several names in its history, "Operation Popeye" stuck. Its stated objective—to ensure Americans won the Vietnam War—was never realized, but the revelation that the U.S. government played God with weather-altering warfare changed history. The Nixon administration distracted, denied, and, it seems, outright lied to Congress, but enterprising reporters published damning stories about rain being used as a weapon, and the Pentagon papers dripped classified details like artificial rain. Eventually, the federal government would declassify its Popeye documents and international laws aimed at preventing similar projects would be on the books. But the public would, more or less, forget it ever happened. Given the rise of geo-engineering projects, both from municipal governments and private companies, some experts believe Popeye is newly relevant.

He's dying of cancer. Now, he's the first patient to go to trial to argue Roundup made him sick

(CNN) On bad days, Dewayne Johnson is too crippled to speak. Lesions often cover as much as 80% of his body.
Doctors have said they didn't expect him to live to see this day. But Monday marks a milestone: Johnson, 46, is the first of hundreds of cancer patients to see his case against agrochemical giant Monsanto go to trial.
Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, regularly used Roundup and claims it gave him cancer.
CNN reported last year that more than 800 patients were suing Monsanto, claiming its popular weed killer, Roundup, gave them cancer.
Since then, hundreds more non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients have made similar claims, Johnson's attorney, Timothy Litzenburg, said. He now represents "more than 2,000 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma sufferers who used Roundup extensively," he said.
Johnson, a father of two in California's Bay Area, applied Roundup weed killer 20 to 30 times per year while working as a pest manager for a county school system, his attorney said.

Veterans fear Brooklyn VA hospital may soon shut down

Shuttered clinics and transferred doctors have veterans fearful the Brooklyn VA hospital is on its way to closing.
The Bay Ridge facility’s ear, nose and throat clinic – which treats vets exposed to everything from Agent Orange in the Vietnam War to new toxins in America’s Mideast conflicts – is losing its contingent of doctors from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. A sign on the clinic door alerted patients that it was closing for good on June 27.
After a rally by veterans groups and ongoing pressure from Rep. Dan Donovan, the head of the city’s VA hospital system told The Post the clinic will, in fact, remain open. Martina Parauda said two to three part-time staff doctors will be hired to replace the SUNY physicians by the end of the month.
But vets suspect the VA ultimately wants to shut down the Brooklyn hospital, which sits on valuable oceanview property, or at least ax the last of its inpatient care.

The VA’s latest betrayal of Vietnam veterans

President Trump just signed the Mission Act, which is supposed to help ailing US veterans get prompt care, including the ability to see a civilian doctor on Uncle Sam’s tab.
Don’t count on it.
The fine print shows that vets are guaranteed nothing. The Veterans Affairs secretary is simply empowered to make rules for who gets civilian care. Though Trump and his pick for secretary, Robert Wilkie, favor making it easy for vets, Wilkie’s rules could last only as long as Wilkie remains in office. Worse, they don’t go into effect for two and a half years.
That’s too late for the hundreds of Vietnam vets, now in their 60s and early 70s, who are carrying a dangerous parasite picked up in Asia called liver fluke. Many don’t know it, but it’s a ticking time bomb likely to kill them.
Scandalously, the VA is doing zip to identify and treat these infected vets, even though an ultrasound test can detect liver-fluke infection in minutes and medicine can slow its progression into lethal bile-duct cancer. If there were ever an example of vets needing to be in the driver’s seat about getting outside care, this is it. But the Mission Act requires them to get their VA doctor’s permission first.

Why it's important for vets to be on the Burn Pit Registry

The exposure of troops to burn pits and open-air sewage pits is a black eye on the Global War on Terrorism. While troops were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a quick and easy solution to getting rid of garbage and sewage was to simply set it on fire. Years later, this has resulted in wide-spread health issues that affect many of our veterans.
The use of burn pits and the subsequent failure to address them as a serious issue has been likened to the struggles that Vietnam vets faced with Agent Orange in countless headlines. And, frankly, there is truth to this comparison. 

Monday, June 11, 2018

H.R. 299, a bill to amend title 38, United States Code

to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam, and for other purposes


MAY 18, 2018.—Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of
the Union and ordered to be printed
Mr. ROE of Tennessee, from the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, submitted the following R E P O R T [To accompany H.R. 299]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office] The Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, to whom was referred the bill (H.R. 299) to amend title 38, United States Code, to clarify presumptions relating to the exposure of certain veterans who served in the vicinity of the Republic of Vietnam, and for other purposes, having considered the same, report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that the bill as amended do pass.

Congressional hearing on burn pits exposure: Problems, possible solutions discussed

For 10 years, nonprofit Burn Pits 360 attempted to get the ear of Congress to air concerns about the treatment and care of veterans and military service members exposed to toxic airborne hazards and open burn pits while deployed to Southwest Asia.
On Thursday, for the first time, representatives of the Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars were able to bring those concerns — along with their own — to the Congressional VA Subcommittee on Health.
And those members of Congress — some of whom are veterans themselves — spoke with one voice, regardless of political party, on the need to expedite care for veterans without waiting years for the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense to complete a study on the health effects of exposure to those toxins.
Deployments, including the Middle East, have continued since the beginning of Operation Desert Shield in August 1990.
Millions of service members fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan were ordered to burn everything so it would not fall into enemy hands or impact the environment. They used burn pits for things that included human waste and batteries.
Burn pits toxins were not the only airborne hazards, heavy black smoke from burning oil fields and the brown-out conditions of frequent sandstorms carried hazards capable of bringing long-term health problems to those exposed.

Promotion of Endometriosis by 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in Rats and Mice


In the disease of endometriosis, endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, usually in the peritoneal cavity. Rodent models of endometriosis allow a way to reproduce the disease, evaluate effects of chemicals, and study mechanisms. Twenty-one days prior to induction surgery which produces endometriosis, female Sprague–Dawley rats and B6C3F1 mice were pretreated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) at 0, 3 or 10 μg TCDD/kg. Animals were treated again at the time of surgery and at 3, 6, and 9 weeks following surgery. Evaluations were made at 3, 6, 9, and 12 weeks postsurgery. TCDD produced a dose-dependent increase in endometriotic site diameter when all time points were pooled within each dose in rats and a dramatic increase in site diameter in mice at 9 and 12 weeks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

June 6, 1944

Updated Camp Lejeune CAP meeting information

From: ATSDR Camp Lejeune []
Subject: Updated Camp Lejeune CAP meeting information

Greetings Colleagues,

Please help spread the word about the next Camp Lejeune CAP (Community Advisory Panel) meeting which is open to the public in Atlanta, GA.
On this new CLJ page, please find ready-to-print or email posters, as well as registration information for the meeting on August, 8th, 2018.

Please share this information with your community members, and we appreciate your support.
ATSDR Camp Lejeune Team

Old Glory Honor Flight Planning Trip to Vietnam

GREEN BAY, Wis (WFRV) - Old Glory Honor Flight of Northeast Wisconsin has announced they're in the beginning stages of planning an honor flight to Vietnam.
The no-cost flight, which is currently planned for early 2019, would take up to 50 Vietnam veterans from Northeast Wisconsin back to Vietnam on a two-week tour.
Any active duty military serviceman or woman that served in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or Thailand between February 28, 1961 to May 7, 1975 is eligible to participate. Blue-water and brown-water navy vets serving during that time frame are also eligible.
Meanwhile, Old Glory will continue to operate its regular schedule of flights to Washington, D.C. and participation in the Washington flight will not affect eligibility for the flight to Vietnam.
For more information, you can visit their website at

Holocaust, Human Experiments, Agent Orange: Chapters in the History of Firms Set to Control Global Food Production


Bayer, Monsanto and BASF all have a sordid past with links to war crimes committed in Germany and Vietnam.
The deal between agribusiness giants Bayer and Monsanto has thrown the spotlight on the controversial history of these companies, as well as that of BASF, another German firm to which Bayer sold $9 billion of its agribusiness to. While Monsanto has a dark link to the Vietnam war, Bayer and BASF both emerged from I.G. Farben (IGF), a key collaborator of the Nazis.
IGF, a chemical and pharmaceutical conglomerate with a turnover of 1.2 billion reichsmarks as on 1926, was a major source of financial support to right wing parties including the NAZI party, which was struggling to capture political power, winning a meagre 3% vote share in 1928 elections.
Until the decisive year of 1933 when the Nazis seized power, the conglomerate was donating 400,000 Reichmarks every year to the far-right parties. By the end of that year, the NAZI party alone had received 3.5 million from IGF.
By Increasing the funding year on year leading up to the Second World War in 1939, when the party received 7.5 million marks in donations, the company had placed itself well to benefit from the conflict, from which IGF made a profit of 300 million Reichmarks, despite the extremely high taxes.
IGF recorded sales of 3.1 billion during the course of the war. The company’s products - produced using 35,000 inmates of Auschwitz as slave labour - were most procured by the NAZI government. One of those product was Zyklon B - the poison used in gas chambers.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Lawmakers Seek Help for Burn Pit Victims

The Veterans Affairs and Defense departments would have to provide more help to service members who became sick because of exposure to toxins released from burn pits in combat theaters, should a bill now pending before Congress become law.
The measure, H.R. 5671, would:
* Require the Defense Department (DoD) to keep record of service members who have been stationed near places where they may have been exposed to toxic airborne chemicals. The list should include anyone whose name appears on the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, in Periodic Health Assessments (PHAs), Separation History and Physical Examination (SHPE) and Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA).
* Anyone whose name appears on those lists should be enrolled in the Airborne Hazards and Open Pit Registry, unless they choose not to be.
* The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and DoD should share information about personnel appearing on the lists.
Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Brian Mast, R-Ga., both of whom are veterans who served in combat theaters since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, sponsored the legislation.

Justice Department approves Bayer-Monsanto merger in landmark settlement*

Federal antitrust regulators have granted agribusiness giants Bayer and Monsanto permission to merge after the two companies agreed to spin off $9 billion worth of assets, the largest such sale of corporate assets ever required by the Justice Department.
Under the proposed settlement filed Tuesday, Bayer will sell its seed and herbicide businesses to a third party, the German chemical company BASF. It also will sell its emerging digital farming business as well as a variety of intellectual property and R&D projects.
The targeted spinoffs are aimed at preventing Bayer and Monsanto from using their combined control over seeds and seed treatments to raise the price of agricultural products to farmers and consumers, Justice Department officials said. Just six companies, including Bayer and Monsanto, have historically dominated the global trade in seeds and agrochemicals.
The $66 billion deal already has received approval from regulators in the European Union, Russia and Brazil, making the U.S. approval one of the last major hurdles. Bayer said it expects to complete the merger by midsummer.
“Receipt of the DOJ’s approval brings us close to our goal of creating a leading company in agriculture,” Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann said in a statement.
U.S. antitrust officials investigated the Bayer-Monsanto deal for more than a year, ultimately concluding that it could result in increased costs for the country’s agricultural sector.
* during World War II Bayer manufactured Zyklon B. During Vietnam Monsanto manufactured Agent Orange.

Ex-soldier says he watched barrels of Agent Orange being buried at Gagetown base

Did the Canadian military actually track down all of its stocks of the dangerous defoliant?
Former military police officer Al White says he watched barrels of Agent Orange being buried at CFB Gagetown in 1985.
It is a 33-year-old mystery that has gnawed at retired sergeant Al White's conscience.
The now-former military police officer told CBC News that, before sunrise on a clear morning in the late spring of 1985, he was ordered to escort a Department of National Defence flatbed truck along an empty road at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick. The journey took just minutes and ended in shadows just off the road, where an excavator had dug a wide, fresh pit in the spongy soil.
On the flatbed were over 40 full or semi-full barrels in various conditions. Some were solid, others were dented, rusted or in various states of decay. Almost all of them were wrapped with an orange stripe.
"At the time, I didn't think much of it," White told CBC News. "I just did the task and it wasn't until some time later that it really, really hit home to me."
Very few words were exchanged between White, the truck driver and the operator of the excavator. The barrels were dumped into the pit and covered over.
What Al White said he witnessed that morning three decades back was the burial of leftover Agent Orange, the notorious chemical defoliant linked to various types of cancer that was used in secret spraying experiments by the U.S. at the Gagetown military base in New Brunswick — something which would blow up into a major public policy issue 20 years later.

DoD: At least 126 bases report water contaminants linked to cancer, birth defects

The water at or around at least 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants, the Pentagon has found.
In a March report provided to the House Armed Services Committee, the Pentagon for the first time publicly listed the full scope of the known contamination. The Defense Department identified 401 active and Base Closure and Realignment installations in the United States with at least one area where there was a known or suspected release of perfluorinated compounds.
These included 36 sites with drinking water contamination on-base, and more than 90 sites that reported either on-base or off-base drinking water or groundwater contamination, in which the water source tested above the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable levels of perfluorooctane sulfonate or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as PFOS and PFOAs.
The man-made chemicals, which can be used to make items heat or water resistant, are found in everyday household, food and clothing items, even take-out food wrappers.
At military bases, however, they are concentrated in the foam used to put out aircraft fires.

The Last Battle of the Vietnam War: Agent Orange and Its ‘Presumed Diseases’

Veterans and their survivors are still fighting the VA over their exposure to America’s notorious chemical weapon—and the latest lethal conditions they’re confronting.
Pegi Scarlett was a bit nervous in the moments leading up to her speech last November at a meeting of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C.
“It was kind of intimidating at first, with all the epidemiologists and physicians watching, but they gave me a very warm reception,” said Scarlett, 65. The gathering was part of the National Academies’ effort to determine if it should recommend any additions to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ list of “presumptive diseases” caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide used by the Department of Defense during the Vietnam War.
Her talk focused on her husband, John Scarlett, an Army Ranger and helicopter pilot in Vietnam who was among the 2.6 million U.S. personnel believed exposed to Agent Orange during the war. He died in November 2015.
His cause of death was glioblastoma, a lethal brain cancer that is not on the VA’s list of presumptive diseases, but is being diagnosed at an evidently accelerated rate in the past few years among Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange.
Scarlett, a cancer registrar with six grown children, traveled from her home near Sacramento, Calif., to the nation’s capital to give her impassioned presentation, which balanced memories of her husband with data she’d collected about his cancer. The speech elicited loud and long applause and left some NAS scientists in tears.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Passing Down Poison: Grandchildren of contaminated veterans showing birth defects

this story courtesy of Betty Mekdeci & Paul Sutton

I thought you might like to see this interview on the transgenerational effects of Agent Orange done by an investigative reporter from Channel 9, the NBC affiliate in Tampa.

Best regards, 
Betty Mekdeci
Executive Director
Birth Defect Research for Children

Birth defects and heart problems are showing up not only in the children, but the grandchildren of veterans who served in America's military during the Vietnam War. 
The question is whether Agent Orange, a powerful poison sprayed by the military to wipe out vegetation, is a contributing factor. 
Emma Ackerson, 9, of Holiday, looks like any other little girl playing her with dog.
But this list of Emma's medical problems keeps growing:
  • Connective tissue disorder, which is EDS ( Ehlers Danlos syndrome)
  • Hypermobility 
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Sleep apnea
  • Epilepsy (benign occipital epilepsy)
  • Orthostatic hypotension
  • Dysautonomia
  • Long QT syndrome
  • Joint pain
  • GI problems
  • Migraines
  • Acid reflux 
  • Arrhythmias
  • Balance problems 
  • Emma suffers headaches and stomach pain, as well as heart problems.

Service members believe suicides are linked to use of anti-malaria drug


Veterans allege the weekly anti-malarial drug they were ordered to take during deployments does not show up in their military medical records. Many say that has hindered their ability to get the help from the VA that they desperately need.
If you served in the United States military or traveled to a part of the world that's prone to malaria, you may have been prescribed a small white pill called Mefloquine, sold under the brand name, Lariam.
Many veterans, former Peace Corps volunteers and other world travelers now say that weekly anti-malarial pill ravaged their lives, causing psychiatric and physical damage that is getting progressively worse each year.
An Army veteran named Sean, who asked us to withhold his last name, said he took mefloquine while serving in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004. He was 21 years old and didn't consider questioning orders.
What Sean didn't expect was that weekly dosage over the course of his deployment wouldn't show up in his medical records. He said he's "100% sure" he took mefloquine.
That disconnect has left him frustrated and angry when he's sought VA benefits related to the depression, anxiety, insomnia and vertigo that plague his life now, at the age of 35.
"I’ve resubmitted claims multiple times to the VA and they’re saying, 'Oh, well, it’s not in your medical record,' said Sean.

Veterans fear Congress has forgotten about the military’s burn pit problems

WASHINGTON — For years, Veterans Affairs leaders and administration officials have promised they won’t let health issues surrounding burn pit exposure in Iraq and Afghanistan become another “Agent Orange” in the community.
Now, advocates and a handful of lawmakers are worried it already has.
“The level of awareness among members of Congress on the problems from burn pits is abysmally low,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii and an Army National Guard soldier who served in Iraq in 2004-2005. “Too few understand the urgency of the issue.”

Gabbard and Afghanistan war veteran Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., recently introduced new legislation dubbed the Burn Pits Accountability Act to require more in-depth monitoring of servicemembers’ health for signs of illnesses connected to toxic exposure in combat zones.

AUA 2018: The Impact of Agent Orange Exposure on Bladder Cancer

San Francisco, CA ( Agent Orange is a mixture of herbicides that were used during the Vietnam War to clear forest coverage that concealed opposition forces. Although early studies suggested that Agent Orange increases the risk of prostate cancer [1], more contemporary studies suggest that a correlation between Agent Orange exposure and risk of prostate cancer is not as concrete [2].  Less studied, is the potential impact of Agent Orange exposure and increased risk of bladder cancer. However, in 2014, the National Academy of Sciences reported that epidemiologic data was suggestive of an association between bladder cancer and Agent Orange exposure, based on evidence that higher levels of exposure are associated with an approximately 2-fold increase in death from bladder cancer (although as of 2016, it has since backed off of these concrete statements). To further assess a potential association between Agent Orange exposure and bladder cancer, Vikram Narayan, MD, and colleagues from the University of Minnesota presented results of their institutional study. As Vikram points out, there is little data regarding whether a perceived association between Agent Orange and bladder cancer is secondary to increased incidence, more aggressive disease or other factors, as well as taking into account prior/present tobacco use.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ailing 'Blue Water' Vets of Vietnam Near to Gaining VA Benefits

After months negotiating with Senate colleagues, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send to the full House a bill likely to become the vehicle to qualify 90,000 ailing sea service veterans for Agent Orange-related disability pay and health care from Department of Veterans Affairs.
These former naval warriors of the Vietnam War, called “Blue Water Navy Veterans,” have been pressuring Congress for decades to have their illnesses recognized as being caused, as likely as not, by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed on forests and jungle areas during that long war.
The argument is that surely clouds of the toxin also reached ships patrolling in territorial waters or contaminated water that, once desalinated, was used by Sailors and Marines for showering and other purposes while steaming off the coast.
Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or patrolled its inland waters, even for a day, have been eligible for VA compensation and care if diagnosed with one of 14 ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure.  But independent U.S. scientists who studied the issue concluded in 2011 that they can’t find enough information to determine if Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed.
 As a result, VA refuses to presume their illnesses, though on the Agent Orange presumptive list, were likely caused by service off of Vietnam.  A lone exception is allowed for Blue Water veterans with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Veterans Go Back to Court Over Burn Pits. Do They Have a Chance?

On May 9, a federal appeals court heard oral arguments in a case about an explosive issue among U.S. veterans: the widespread use of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the potential health consequences they suffered as a result.
The case, which dates back to 2008, consolidated dozens of lawsuits by hundreds of veterans and their families seeking to recover damages from the military contractor KBR Inc., but a trial court dismissed it in July 2017. It could be at a legal dead end unless the panel of judges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., overturns the dismissal.
The plaintiffs accuse KBR of negligence for exposing them to toxic emissions from open-air trash fires known as burn pits, which they say cause respiratory, neurological and other health problems. In tossing the case last year, the trial court accepted KBR’s argument that the American military made the decision to use burn pits to dispose of trash on bases, and that federal courts cannot second-guess the executive branch’s wartime decisions.
One plaintiff, Lauren Price, a Navy veteran from Pasco County, Fla., who developed constrictive bronchiolitis after working at a burn pit in Baghdad, said in an interview that she has already given up hope. “I’ve stopped paying attention,” she said. After 10 years of litigation, the case is still at the procedural starting gates, and unless the plaintiffs eke out a win on appeal, it will be one of the biggest setbacks yet for tens of thousands of affected veterans who have received zero recompense despite years of advocacy by lawyers and nonprofits.

No good deed goes unpunished

The first time Jim Pawlukiewicz applied to become a U.S. citizen, he was building quonset huts and pulling guard duty in Bien Hoa, Vietnam.
It was July 1967. Pawlukiewicz was a 21-year-old U.S. Army specialist with B Company, 34th Engineering Battalion.
He’d been drafted in 1966. Once he got to Vietnam, he learned there was a naturalization office in Guam. So he mailed in a request to U.S. immigration offices: could he take leave to become a citizen?
The letter back was his first no.
“Sorry, but you have to have six months residency in Guam before you can apply,” the government responded.
That was almost 51 years ago. His latest rejection came last year, when the Chicago immigration office denied his paperwork because he’d entered dates in the European, not American, format.
His sister Georgia Ackerman helped him with that most recent request. After it, too, was rejected, she wrote to Military Times, enraged.
“I just want to ensure that someone receives his application and reviews it according to the laws of the United States,” Ackerman said. “The man is 71 years old and has had strokes, heart attacks and his bones are falling apart. I just want to see him have a country, this country, before he dies.”

Workers in Puerto Rico Could Be Exposed to BPA and Other Endocrine Disruptors

BPA is just one of many endocrine disruptors that workers in some industries could encounter through dermal contact or due to inhalation exposure.
In early 2018, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published informational about bisphenol A (BPA) and occupational exposures. BPA is a synthetic compound that is widely used in the production of polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins, phenolic resins and some specialty waxes. These are found in industrial applications, consumer products and some food packaging.
In 2013 and 2014, NIOSH undertook a study to measure BPA exposure in U.S. manufacturing workers. The agency reports, “The NIOSH study included six companies that either made BPA, BPA-based resins, or made and used BPA-filled waxes.  A total of 78 workers participated in the study.  Over two consecutive work days, each participant provided seven urine samples.  BPA was measured in the samples.  On average, workers in the NIOSH study had BPA levels in their urine ~70 times higher than adults in the U.S. general population (based on data from the 2013-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a representative sample of the U.S general population).”

“Exposure to BPA is a health concern because it may mimic some of the hormone-effects of estrogen,” said Harry Pena, President of Zimmetry Environmental. “BPA is just one of many endocrine disruptors that workers in some industries could encounter through dermal contact or due to inhalation exposure. Other known or suspected endocrine disruptors include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), perchlorate, phthalates, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, DDT, fire retardants, arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury.”

Ding Dong Thomas Murphy Is Demoted Following IG Report Release

In an email to coworkers today, acting Under Secretary for Benefits (USB) Thomas Murphy announced he is no longer the acting USB, and no longer working from Washington DC in Central Office. The announcement comes one week after IG released a whitewashed report that implicates Murphy and his subordinates in a contract deal gone bad.
Instead, Murphy is taking a new position as Midwest Area Director out of St. Louis.
Yes, this is a demotion on its face, but there is more to the story.
It comes as no surprise that Murphy lost his spot since he was not selected as a nominee for confirmation to run Veterans Benefits Administration, but his punt out of Central Office may surprise some following the IG report release that confirms at least some allegations of wrongdoing under Murphy’s watch.
Insiders familiar with the move say, under anonymity, that Murphy orchestrated a job for himself to protect his retirement since he lacked the number of years necessary to earn such. That means, Murphy, a well known Agent Orange denier, will never been held accountable for his direct actions wrongly denying severely disabled veterans the benefits to which they are entitled.

Agent Orange During the Vietnam War: The Lingering Issue of Its Civilian and Military Health Impact

Agent Orange During the Vietnam War: The Lingering Issue of Its Civilian and Military Health Impact
Accepted: March 13, 2018               Published Online: May 09, 2018
Between 1961 and 1971, US and Republic of Vietnam forces sprayed more than 20.2 million gallons of military herbicides to defoliate forests and mangroves in what was then South Vietnam to deny cover to enemy troops and make bombing targets more visible. Relatively small quantities (2%) were used for defoliation of military base perimeters; 9% of the total was used to destroy “unfriendly” crops as a means of reducing enemy food supplies. The herbicides were also used in the United States, but at application rates at least an order of magnitude lower and with somewhat differing formulations.
The military herbicides were nicknamed in accordance with the colored stripes on their 55-gallon drums. Agent Orange was a mixture of butoxyethanol esters of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) and 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4,5-T). Agent Blue, which consisted of dimethylarsinic acid (salt of cacodylic acid), was used primarily for crop destruction. Agent White was a mixture of 2,4-D and picloram. The herbicides that contained 2,4,5-T were contaminated with dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin [TCDD]). The extent and implications of the TCDD content were not widely known or appreciated until well into the 1970s, when 2,4,5-T was banned from most US domestic uses owing to evidence of its teratogenicity.

USAID and Vietnam sign agreement on dioxin remediation project

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Air Defence – Air Force Service under the Vietnamese Defence Ministry signed an agreement on non-refundable aid for a project on dioxin remediation in the Bien Hoa airport in Hanoi.
Michael Greene, Mission Director for USAID in Vietnam, and Lt. Gen. Le Huy Vinh, Commander of the Air Defence – Air Force Service, signed the document to start making plans for the process for the project.
Bien Hoa is the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam. The assessment of Vietnam and the US on the dioxin reported that some 500,000 cu.m of dioxin-contaminated land in the airport needs to be treated. The successful dioxin decontamination in this area will contribute to reducing risks of dioxin exposure and affecting human health.
The project, estimated to cost USD 390 million, and the project will complete within 10 years. The US side vowed to collaborate with Vietnam and its Defence Ministry in addressing war consequences while continuing to foster bilateral economic, cultural and security relations.
The US has cooperated with Vietnam in dealing with humanitarian issues and war legacies, including removing post-war unexploded ordnances, identifying remains of servicemen missing in action and treating dioxin.
By the end of 2018, USAID and the Vietnamese Defence Ministry will complete a six-year project worth USD 110 million on dioxin decontamination in the Da Nang International Airport.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Happy Mother's Day to All Who Serve

What should men do about prostate cancer screening?

For years, men were urged to get a blood test looking for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which can be elevated by prostate cancer. Then, in 2012, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-sponsored but independent network of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine, said that PSA testing produced more harm than good. They stopped recommending it at all.
Now, that same group has finalized a tweak on those 2012 screening guidelines. Instead of bypassing PSA entirely, men ages 55 to 69 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits before making their own decision on whether or not to get screened.
What patients need to know about new recommendations for prostate cancer screening
The task force says the change was largely driven by a 2014 study in Europe (European Randomized Study of Screening for Prostate Cancer), according to a new statement and evidence review published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The European trial showed that a screening saved one prostate cancer deaths for every 1,000 men screened between ages 55 and 69. In four out of the seven countries in the European trial, screening also stopped three cases of prostate cancer from spreading for every 1,000 men screened.
Dr. Alex Krist, vice chairman of the USPSTF and a professor of family medicine and population health at Virginia Commonwealth University, says the “extended follow up of 10 plus years in these studies, which was not available in 2012, contributed heavily” to the decision to modify the recommendations.
The extended follow up showed some men’s lives would be saved if they chose to be screened between the ages of 55 to 69. Of note, the committee still finds screening for men over the age of 70 to be inappropriate -- the evidence still suggests more harm than benefit in this age group.

They argued for decades Agent Orange affected them at sea. Congress is finally listening

After months negotiating with Senate colleagues, the House Veterans Affairs Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to send to the full House a bill likely to become the vehicle to qualify 90,000 ailing sea service veterans for Agent Orange-related disability pay and health care from Department of Veterans Affairs.
These former naval warriors of the Vietnam War, called “Blue Water Navy Veterans,” have been pressuring Congress for decades to have their illnesses recognized as being caused, as likely as not, by exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed on forests and jungle areas during that long war.
The argument is that surely clouds of the toxin also reached ships patrolling in territorial waters or contaminated water that, once desalinated, was used by Sailors and Marines for showering and other purposes while steaming off the coast.
Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or patrolled its inland waters, even for a day, have been eligible for VA compensation and care if diagnosed with one of 14 ailments associated with Agent Orange exposure. But independent U.S. scientists who studied the issue concluded in 2011 that they can’t find enough information to determine if Blue Water Navy veterans were exposed.

As a result, VA refuses to presume their illnesses, though on the Agent Orange presumptive list, were likely caused by service off of Vietnam. A lone exception is allowed for Blue Water veterans with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House committee, predicts the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 (HR 299)will be signed into law this year. He credited the fact that he and hard-working committee staff, for the first time, found a way to cover the $1 billion cost without violating House budget rules against raising a department’s mandatory, or entitlement, spending.

Hasn't this been the plan? Finally awarded Agent Orange benefits, veteran succumbs to cancer the VA missed

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) - As his wife Sheila held Lonnie Kilpatrick's hand, his daughter Kassie recorded some of his last words. 
The Navy veteran said there is a reason for everything - his struggle with the VA, his impending death.
"Make something out of it, make it count," Lonnie said in a weak voice.
We met Lonnie in February, shortly after he learned Stage 4 kidney cancer had spread through his body.
"That hit me like a ton of bricks," he told us from his bed in Holiday in February.
For good reason. For four years, doctors at the VA at Bay Pines said his back pain was arthritis and disc related.
"Just couldn't get nobody to take it serious that, hey I've lost 50 pounds," explained Lonnie at the time.
The VA treated Lonnie for kidney cancer in 2013, pronounced him cancer-free, then missed its recurrence. 
"You know you're going to lose him and that could have been prevented if the VA had followed up," said daughter Keri Ackerson.
"I'm mad because this should never have happened, this should never happen to anybody," his wife Sheila stated.