Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Plan for ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans benefits on the move again

For the second time in the last 12 months, House lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a measure to ease disability benefit rules for veterans who served on ships off the coasts of Vietnam and suffered serious illnesses they insist are connected to chemical defoliant exposure.
And, once again, advocates are left waiting to see if the Senate will follow suit.
The legislation — the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act — passed 410-0 with strong messages of support from both Democratic and Republican leadership. House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., said the move is needed to correct what he called years of mistakes in denying those veterans disability benefits for their injuries.
 “Congress has failed our blue water Navy veterans, plain and simple,” he said on the House floor before the vote. “Today, we will right this wrong … This bill is the quickest and clearest route to delivering benefits to those who served. They have waited long enough.”
Federal officials have until the end of April to formally decide whether to appeal a court ruling which could grant disability benefits to more than 90,000 veterans.
The measure affects about 90,000 veterans who served on ships during the Vietnam War but never set foot in the country. If they had, they would be eligible for presumptive benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a process which bypasses hard evidence connecting a veteran’s illness to their military service because of an established presumed connection between the two.
So while a veteran who served on the shoreline can receive disability payouts after contracting Parkinson’s disease or prostate cancer, a veteran who served on a ship a few miles away would have to provide specific scientific evidence that they were exposed to toxic chemicals while on duty.

House passes Blue Water Navy bill that could grant benefits to 90,000 veterans exposed to Agent Orange

Members of the House voted Tuesday to make permanent a court ruling that grants benefits to about 90,000 sailors who say they were exposed to toxic Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
Those sailors, the so-called “Blue Water” veterans, could get a second chance to finally receive the Department of Veterans Affairs benefits they’ve been denied for decades. Last year, a similar bill to grant presumptive benefits to those veterans passed the House unanimously but ended stalled in the Senate.
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act will “finally eliminate a 17-year barrier” that “denied access to VA benefits for the scourge of Agent Orange illnesses” and is “a long overdue justice for people who served in the Vietnam conflict,” Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said, adding that the House should “force the Senate to do the right thing and provide justice for those who served in that conflict and who are still suffering.”
 “Congress has failed our Blue Water Navy veterans -- plain and simple,” said House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Mark Takano. “It was unjust then and it is unjust now. But today we have an opportunity to right this wrong.
 “Congress didn't find the resolve to act until 1991 and it left out key groups exposed to agent orange ... effectively denying their suffering that was a direct result of their service. This bill is the quickest and surest way to deliver benefits to these veterans.”
Veterans who served on ships in the waters off the coast during the war “must provide evidence they were actually harmed by herbicides” under current policy, unlike their comrades who served on the ground. But it’s difficult to provide proof.
Ranking member Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., served near the Korean demilitarized zone. “I’ve no way to prove where I walked 40 years ago.”
The bill follows the Federal Circuit Court decision in Procopio v. Wilkie to reverse a 1997 VA decision which denied that Blue Water veterans were exposed to Agent Orange while serving offshore of Vietnam. The court decision means the VA should presume that veterans who served in the waters off the coast were exposed to Agent Orange at some point during their service.

Fifty years later, a daunting cleanup of Vietnam’s toxic legacy

In the thriving industrial city of Bien Hoa, about 20 miles east of Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, there is a large air base, just beyond a sweeping bend in the Dong Nai River. During the American war in Vietnam, it was said to be the busiest airport in the world. Since the war ended in 1975, a dense cluster of four residential neighborhoods has grown up around the base. Their total population is perhaps 111,000, while the base itself, now home to advanced long-range fighter-bombers of the Vietnam People’s Air Force, has another 1,200 permanent residents.
A small drainage canal, no more than 8 or 10 feet wide, snakes its way from the west end of the runway — an area known as Pacer Ivy — for half a mile or so through one of these densely packed neighborhoods, which is called Buu Long. On a sweltering afternoon last month, toward the end of the dry season, the canal was no more than a stagnant greenish-brown murk strewn with garbage and choked in places with water hyacinths. Nonetheless, a middle-aged woman who introduced herself as Mrs. Mai was washing her hands and feet in the filthy water. Nearby, a fisherman was sitting on a low cement wall near the mouth of the canal. Nothing was biting.
The problem for Buu Long, however, is what couldn’t be seen. The canal is heavily contaminated with the most toxic substance ever created by humans: dioxin, the unintended byproduct of the defoliant known as Agent Orange, for the color-coded band on the 55-gallon barrels in which it was stored before being loaded onto the lumbering C-123 aircraft at the Bien Hoa base and sprayed over vast areas of Vietnam. During the U.S. Air Force campaign known as Operation Ranch Hand, Agent Orange was used to strip bare the coastal mangroves of the Mekong Delta and the dense triple-canopy forests that concealed enemy fighters and supply lines.

Disband the Veterans Administration

The Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced its plan to support 500,000 eligible women with health benefits—an appropriate measure for these former service members. But the VA—inept, bloated, and incapable of properly organizing itself—is the wrong federal agency to deliver these much-needed services. Its repeated failures and scandals suggest that it should no longer be entrusted with the care of those who have served America in the armed forces.
Steve attended the United States
Naval Academy at Annapolis
Several years ago, headlines exposed stories of veterans dying due to delayed care. In 2015, the VA issued a report admitting that 307,000 veterans had died while waiting for the agency to process their enrollment requests. This followed stories of 40 veterans dying, with more than 1,400 more waiting for appointments, at VA health-care facilities in Phoenix. In an elaborate scheme, VA managers tried to cover up their malfeasance.
The VA’s track record on treatment, as shown not only by these recent scandals but by its response to Vietnam War veterans afflicted by the toxic herbicide Agent Orange, suggests a continued legacy of inadequate care, negligence, and incompetence. Two recent court decisions show that the VA is making matters even worse.
The first, from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, reversed a previous decision by the same court. In 2008, the appeals court had ruled that some 90,000 Navy sailors who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam but never actually set foot on land were ineligible for Agent Orange-related benefits. (The court eventually reversed itself.) The second decision, by a federal district judge in Los Angeles, dismissed a whistleblower’s charges that the private contractor responsible for reviewing veterans’ files had defrauded the government by doing a slapdash job.
The common denominator in both cases was the VA’s disinterest. The VA didn’t believe the “blue water” sailors should be eligible for the benefits, and it trotted out low-level bureaucrats to argue that the contractor had done an acceptable job. In both cases, it was clear that the VA did not prioritize the veterans’ best interests.
Sadly, this fits a pattern. It wasn’t until 1986, following class-action lawsuits, that the VA even admitted that Agent Orange caused problems, beyond acne. Since then, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, and numerous types of cancer have been linked to Agent Orange. Some 2.6 million service members were exposed to the defoliant, and to date, the government has paid more than $4.5 billion to veterans and their surviving family members.

VA’s improvements to Veteran community care under MISSION Act on track for June 6 implementation

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As the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s signing of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018 approaches on June 6, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making significant strides in implementing major improvements to community care for Veterans.
 “The Veteran is at the center of everything we do,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “Through the MISSION Act, Veterans will have more choices than ever in getting timely, high-quality care. Most important, Veterans will be able to decide what is important and best for them.”
The MISSION Act will strengthen VA’s health care system by improving both aspects of care delivery and empowering Veterans to find the balance in the system that is right for them,
A key aspect of the MISSION Act is the consolidation of VA’s community care programs, which will make community care work better for Veterans and their families, providers and VA employees. When this transition is complete, the following will occur:
Veterans will have more options for community care.
Eligibility criteria for community care will be expanded, including new access standards.
Scheduling appointments will be easier, and care coordination between VA and community providers will be better.
Eligible Veterans will have access to a network of walk-in and urgent care facilities for minor injuries and illnesses.
“Transitioning to the new eligibility criteria for community care should be seamless for Veterans,” Wilkie said. “Veterans will continue to talk to their care team or scheduler as they have been doing to get the care they need.”
VA also has been working closely with community providers to ensure Veterans have a positive experience when receiving community care. For example, VA has developed education and training materials to help community providers understand some of the unique challenges Veterans can face.
Going forward, community care will be easier to use, and Veterans will remain at the center of their VA health care decisions.
In addition to information VA has made available digitally, Veterans enrolled in VA health care can expect to receive a letter in the mail providing details on where to go for more information.
For more information about community care under the MISSION Act, visit https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/58621/new-eligibility-criteria-a-major-improvement-over-existing-rules/.

Monday, May 13, 2019

H.R. 299: Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019

READ ALL ABOUT IT!
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.

1.Short title
This Act may be cited as the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
2.Clarification of presumptions of exposure for veterans who served in vicinity of Republic of Vietnam
(a)In general
Chapter 11 of title 38, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 1116 the following new section:
1116A.
Presumptions of service connection for veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam
(a)
Service connection
For the purposes of section 1110 of this title, and subject to section 1113 of this title, a disease covered by section 1116 of this title becoming manifest as specified in that section in a veteran who, during active military, naval, or air service, served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam during the period beginning on January 9, 1962, and ending on May 7, 1975, shall be considered to have been incurred in or aggravated by such service, notwithstanding that there is no record of evidence of such disease during the period of such service.

Burn pits, the Agent Orange of our generation

Marine Cpl. Nicholas James Wrobel passed away due to respiratory and cardiac failure. He was 24 years old. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jessica Sweet died of acute myelogenous leukemia. She was 30 years old and left behind a husband and three young children. Army Col. David McCracken lost his life to Glioblastoma Multiforme brain cancer at age 46, leaving behind his wife and children.
All were exposed to the toxic fumes and chemicals released by burn pits while deployed.
While over 175,000 veterans have voluntarily registered their names in the Burn Pit Registry, the Department of Veterans Affairs has admitted there are 3.7 million service members who may be eligible due to their exposure to these same toxic burn pits.
As a soldier in the Hawai’i Army National Guard, I deployed twice to the Middle East. Like everyone else in our camp, I breathed in the toxins from burn pits every single day. Many service members developed respiratory illnesses that we commonly called "the crud" — a persistent hacking cough that never seemed to go away. While deployed, we dealt with the ever-present residual stench from the burn pit fires.
Burn pits have been used at U.S. military bases across the Middle East to burn trash, human waste, petroleum, rubber, and other debris, releasing hazardous smoke into the air. While initially thought of as a temporary measure until incinerators were installed, many burn pits continued to operate, with some still in use today.
Make no mistake: Burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation of veterans.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

AGENT ORANGE TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE

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






May 10, 2019
London, Kentucky
Contact: David Cowherd
270-312-0463

June 1, 2019
Billings, Montana
 (406) 272-578

June 8, 2019
Tucson, Arizona
Contact: George Ross
520-730-6069

June 10,  2019
Saint Marys, Georgia
Contact: Buddy Mcghin
912-322-1040

Some Vietnam veterans are just now experiencing the effect of Agent Orange

Orange should stand for something nice — sunsets, tangerines, Creamsicles. But when it's Agent Orange, the color means poison.
Agent Orange is the herbicide sprayed by the millions of gallons all over South Vietnam during the war from 1961-71. The operation was designed to remove the triple-canopy jungle and other vegetation the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops used for cover. The operation's motto: "Only you can prevent a forest."
The poison got its name from the stripes on the 55-gallon drums in which it was shipped, mostly from several major chemical companies, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto.
The Air Force dumped Agent Orange on South Vietnam for 10 years. That campaign exposed an estimated 2.8 million American troops to the deadly dioxin. Most were not affected while serving in-country. But after they came home — often decades later — tens of thousands of veterans paid a price with their health.
House Bill 326, "Victims of Agent Orange Relief Act of 2019," is now pending in Congress. It reads in part:
"Agent Orange exposure continues to negatively affect the lives of veterans of the United States Armed Forces, Vietnamese people, Vietnamese Americans and their children. The lives of many victims are cut short and others live with disease, disabilities and pain, often untreated or unrecognized."
The Department of Veterans Affairs has recognized at least 14 cancers and other diseases related to Agent Orange. The VA says veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits from these diseases. Court cases and congressional action since 1979 have ruled in favor of veterans afflicted by the herbicides showered over the war zone. In 1991 President George H.W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act, which ordered treatment for cancers resulting from wartime service.

House panel considers 'blue water' bill in wake of court ruling

WASHINGTON — Following a federal court decision that veterans who served offshore on ships during the Vietnam War should be eligible for Agent Orange benefits, lawmakers made their case Wednesday for why legislation is still needed to ensure it gets done.
A subcommittee of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs met to discuss the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 – the “quickest and clearest route” for providing benefits to so-called “blue water” Navy veterans, argued Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled 9-2 in January that blue water Navy veterans are eligible for benefits. The decision could pave the way for disability compensation for tens of thousands of veterans who served aboard aircraft carriers, destroyers and other ships but had been deemed ineligible for the same disability benefits as others who served on the ground and inland waterways.
After asking for an extension last month, the Department of Justice now has about a month to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
 “[The ruling] was a huge step forward, but we need to do more,” Takano said. “We need to ensure blue water veterans are protected in the event [it] is appealed to the Supreme Court and overturned.”
The legislation was the first that Takano introduced this year as the new chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

Udall Fights For Action To Help New Mexico Veterans Exposed To Burn Pits In Iraq And Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, D.C. ― At two events Tuesday on Capitol Hill, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) continued his push to improve care for veterans affected by exposure to toxic fumes from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan: during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, and at the 2019 Congressional Burn Pits Briefing.
During the hearing, Udall questioned Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie on his commitment to continuing burn pit exposure research and urged Wilkie to recognize burn pit exposure as a presumed service-connected condition, a standard that would sufficiently acknowledge the negative effects of burn pits and would make it easier for veterans to receive care.
 “Last year’s appropriation of $27 million supports a partnership between the VA and [Department of Energy] for Big Data Science. And much of the work is being done by researchers at New Mexico’s own Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. I would encourage you to continue and increase your work with the national labs. Do you support making the Big Data Science program an annual appropriation? To expand the program to benefit more veterans? For instance, expand data analysis of veterans who were exposed to burn pits?,” Udall asked Wilkie. 
Wilkie responded that he “would not see what happened to veterans from Vietnam and Agent Orange happen again,” referring to the veterans exposed to Agent Orange who had to endure decades of delay before finally receiving VA care and benefits. Wilkie committed to “doing everything [VA] can so we don’t see a repeat of what happened with Agent Orange.”

'Alarming' levels of brominated dioxins found in recycled plastic products

A global study of consumer products made from recycled plastic has found "alarming" levels of brominated dioxins and flame retardants in samples taken from emerging countries, as well as Canada, the EU and Japan.
The International POPs Elimination Network (Ipen) and Czech NGO Arnika analysed 13 samples including a hair clip, key fob and Rubik's-like cube puzzles for brominated flame retardants (PBDE), which are banned or regulated under the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
The results were published as the conference of the parties of the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions takes place from 29 April to 10 May to consider proposals to strengthen global policies on POPs and waste.
Dioxins measured in samples of children’s toys and hair accessories were at levels comparable to those found in hazardous wastes, including ash from waste incinerators, the study revealed.
Brominated dioxins are extremely toxic in small amounts and form unintentionally during the production of brominated flame retardants, it said.
Additionally, when plastics with brominated flame retardants are recycled and heated to reform new plastic products, more brominated and chlorinated dioxins are formed, it added.
The study found dioxin and PBDE levels in all of the items sampled, with half of the products exceeding the proposed chlorinated dioxin hazardous waste limit. More than half of the samples measured levels of PBDEs that meet current regulatory proposals of 1,000ppm.

Elaine Luria leads first veterans’ subcommittee hearing

In a history-making moment on Wednesday, House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) Chairwoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) led her panel during its first legislative hearing on bills that would help veterans.
A 20-year Navy veteran who retired at the rank of Commander, Chairwoman Luria is the first-ever woman veteran from a military service branch to serve on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (HVAC), and the first to lead an HVAC Subcommittee.
 “What an amazing opportunity to come full-circle from a Naval Academy graduate to 20 years in the Navy to leading a congressional panel assisting fellow veterans,” Chairwoman Luria said. “Today’s hearing is the first of many times this subcommittee will move the ball forward for America’s veterans.”
Today’s DAMA hearing focused on legislation related to veterans, including Chairwoman Luria’s own VA Website Accessibility Act of 2019 and Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act – both bipartisan. Another bill discussed at the hearing was the Blue Water Navy Veterans Act of 2019, a bipartisan bill cosponsored by Chairwoman Luria.

Monday, April 29, 2019

GALLERY: 50th Anniversary of sinking of destroyer USS Frank Evans off coast of Vietnam

USS Frank E. Evans (DD-754), an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, was named in honor of Brigadier General Frank Evans, USMC, a leader of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. She served in late World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War before being cut in half in a collision with HMAS Melbourne in 1969.
During the Tet Offensive, on 3 February 1968, Frank E. Evans provided naval gunfire support to the 101st Airborne Division near Phan Thiết against the 840th VC Battalion. Evans also spent an additional 14 days in 1969 in the Vietnam war zone.
At around 3 a.m. on 3 June 1969, between Vietnam and Spratly Island, Frank E. Evans was operating with the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy in company with Melbourne which was in the process of going to flying stations and all ships in the formation were running without lights. Melbourne radioed Evans, then to port of the carrier, to take up the rescue destroyer position. The logical movement would be to turn to port and make a circle taking up station on the carrier's port quarter. However, since the conning officer on Evans misunderstood the formation's base course and believed they were starboard of Melbourne, they turned to starboard, cutting across the carrier's bow twice in the process. Frank E. Evans was struck at a point around 92 feet from her bow on her port side and was cut in two. Her bow drifted off to the port side of Melbourne and sank in less than five minutes taking 73 of her crew with it. One body was recovered from the water, making a total of 74 dead. The stern scraped along the starboard side of Melbourne and lines were able to be attached by the crew of Melbourne. Around 60-100 men were also rescued from the water.

At the time of the collision the commanding officer of Frank E. Evans was asleep in his quarters having left instructions to be awakened if there were to be any changes in the formation. Neither the officer of the deck nor the junior officer of the deck notified him when the station change was ordered. The bridge crew also did not contact the combat information center to request clarification of the positions and movements of the surrounding ships. The collision occurred at Coordinates: 8°59.2′N 110°47.7′E.
USS Frank E. Evans was decommissioned at Subic Bay and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 July 1969. The stern section was sunk as a target in Subic Bay on 10 October 1969.

Burial held for Navy petty officer who was MIA in Vietnam for decades

A Navy petty officer who was MIA after he was killed in a plane crash in Vietnam 52 years ago has been laid to rest in California with full military honors.
Raul Guerra's remains were found in 2007 but the Pentagon needed 12 more years to positively identify them--a wait that consumed a friend who grew up with Guerra and who earned a Purple Heart in the Marines in Vietnam five months before Guerra was killed.
"It was not just a friendship, it was a brotherhood,” Randy Valencia told KTLA-TV. “We were brothers and I think any brother would go look for his brother. This was my brother."
A large crowd attended Guerra’s burial Thursday in Whittier following a memorial service. Attendees included members of the Montebello Police Department, which issued a news release afterward with the headline, "Petty Officer Raul Guerra Comes Home."

Glyphosate found in pregnant women

Carey Gillam in her book, "White Wash, The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science," writes that "It is undeniable that we've allowed our food, our water, our soil, our very selves to become dangerously doused with chemicals."
Her work focuses on the Monsanto Company. Monsanto gave us DDT, PCB's and Agent Orange. All three products were promoted and defended by Monsanto and U.S. government agencies. All three products were eventually banned because of their damage to human life and the environment. They now offer us a range of weed poison products known as Roundup, with its chief ingredient glyphosate.
In the Northshire, it's used on our lawns and gardens. Perhaps it's used on our town parks and school playgrounds.
In the year 2000, Monsanto introduced glyphosate-tolerant soybean, corn, canola, beet, alfalfa and other crop seeds. These seeds contain the weed poison. The plants that grow from these seeds contain the weed poison. Monsanto acknowledges this and maintains that the levels found in food products are safe. The question is how much residue is found in the breakfast cornflakes our children eat or the corn chips adults eat. We don't know. For the past 20 years the Federal Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have "steadfastly avoided testing for glyphosate residues in the American food supply." The U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2014 sharply rebuked the FDA for not telling the public of their skipping over glyphosate testing. It further criticizes FDA's capability to do any accurate pesticide testing, "FDA's ability to reliably identify specific commodities that may be at high risk of violating pesticide residue tolerances is limited."
Focusing on pregnant women, fetuses and infants: What do we know? Multiple studies suggest pesticides are harming children's brains and bodies. Research shows that children of pregnant women with pesticides in their urine and blood samples suffer IQ and neurobehavioral development issues as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder diagnoses.

EPA Takes Important Step Under PFAS Action Plan



Agency Asks for Public Input on Draft Interim Recommendations for Addressing Groundwater
Contaminated with PFOA and PFOS
WASHINGTON – (April 25, 2019)Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft interim guidance for addressing groundwater contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and/or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) for public review and comment.
This is a key component of the agency’s PFAS Action Plan. These draft recommendations will help protect human health in communities across the country by providing clear and consistent guidance on addressing PFOA and PFOS in groundwater under federal cleanup programs. This information has been requested by other federal agencies and the states and could be used by other federal, state and tribal cleanup programs.
 “Today, we are delivering on one of our most important commitments under the PFAS Action Plan,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This interim guidance will support actions to protect the health of communities impacted by groundwater that contains PFOA and PFOS above the 70 parts per trillion level and is a potential source of drinking water. This is a critical tool for our state, tribal, and local partners to use to address these chemicals.”
EPA developed this guidance based on the agency’s current scientific understanding of PFAS toxicity, including the agency’s PFOA and PFOS health advisories. The recommendations may be revised as new information becomes available.
EPA has opened a docket for a 45-day public comment period. The draft guidance describes EPA’s interim recommendations for screening levels and preliminary remediation goals (PRGs) to inform final cleanup levels for PFOA and/or PFOS contamination of groundwater that is a current or potential source of drinking water.
To view the draft guidance and to learn how to submit comments, visit: https://www.epa.gov/pfas.

Ask the VA: Should I be screened for lung cancer?

LUNG CANCER is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It begins when abnormal cells in the lung grow out of control. Unfortunately, many times lung cancer does not show symptoms until it has spread to other parts of the body.
However, the most common type — non-small cell lung cancer — can sometimes be cured if it is found early enough.
The more you smoke and the longer you smoke, the higher your risk for lung cancer. You should consider being screened for lung cancer if you have all three of these risk factors:
• You are 55–80 years old
• You are a current smoker or a former smoker who quit less than 15 years ago
• You have a smoking history of at least 30 pack-years (this means 1 pack per day for 30 years or 2 packs a day for 15 years, etc.).
Exposure to Agent Orange is also identified as a risk for lung cancer.
What is screening?
• Screening is looking for a disease before a person shows any symptoms. It helps find lung cancer in an early, more treatable stage.
• Based on the Patient and Physician NLST Study Guide published on the cancer.gov website at http://ow.ly/WOQ250rCqKT, if a group of 1,000 people were screened once a year for three years, three fewer people in 1,000 would die of lung cancer after six years. This means that, instead of 21 people, 18 people per 1,000 would die of lung cancer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

VA ensures Veterans have same-day access to emergency mental health care

VA ensures Veterans have same-day access to emergency mental health care

WASHINGTON — As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide the best mental health care access possible, VA is reminding Veterans that it offers all Veterans same-day access to emergency mental health care at any VA health care facility across the country.

 “Providing same-day 24/7 access to mental health crisis intervention and support for Veterans, service members and their families is our top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s important that all Veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.”

VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the national leader in making high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources available to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.

Additionally, VA has developed the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which reflects the department’s vision for a coordinated effort to prevent suicide among all service members and Veterans. This strategy maintains VA’s focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also adopting a broad public health approach to suicide prevention.

VA has supported numerous Veterans and has the capacity to assist more. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, 1.7 million Veterans received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health services. These patients received more than 84,000 psychiatric hospital stays, about 41,700 residential stays and more than 21 million outpatient encounters.

Nationally, in the first quarter of FY 2019, 90% of new patients completed an appointment in a mental health clinic within 30 days of scheduling an appointment, and 96.8% of established patients completed a mental health appointment within 30 days of the day they requested. For FY 2018, 48% of initial, in-person Primary Care — Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter. During the first quarter of FY 2019, 51% of initial, in-person PC-MHI encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter.

Veterans in crisis – or those concerned about one – should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.

Supreme Court delays final ruing on ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans benefits

The Supreme Court this week granted a 30-day extension to Department of Justice officials contemplating an appeal of a lower court ruling in January which extended presumptive benefits to tens of thousands of Navy veterans who have claimed exposure to toxic chemical defoliants during the Vietnam War.
But advocates say they are not concerned by the move, calling it a typical legal maneuver and not a serious threat to getting benefits to the group of so-called “blue water” veterans.
 “This just seems to be going through the motions,” said John Wells, retired Navy commander and the executive director Military-Veterans Advocacy, which has lobbied on the issue for years. “It’s not a setback for us. Veterans Affairs Secretary (Robert) Wilkie has told us this was not initiated by his department.”
Will the benefits for ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans be settled soon?
Lawmakers are planning a flurry of moves to address the issue of the Vietnam veterans benefits in coming weeks.
In January, a federal court ruled that VA officials for years has used faulty reasoning to deny disability benefits to veterans who served in ships off the waters of Vietnam.
VA officials had argued that for years that existing law established only that troops who served on the ground on on ships close to shore were entitled to the presumption of exposure to chemical defoliants like Agent Orange, speeding the process for their disability benefits.

Costs of Expanding Agent Orange Vet Benefits Perplexing Congress

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Lawmakers and veterans advocates are split on how much to worry about the costs of expanding eligibility for disability benefits for some Vietnam-era veterans in the wake of a recent federal court decision.
The trigger was a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision (Procopio v. Wilkie, Fed. Cir., 913 F.3d 1371, 1/29/19) in January that said veterans who served on deep water ships off the coast of Vietnam are entitled to a presumption of benefits under the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4). The decision gave a win to the former members of the Navy who had fought for years to rectify a Department of Veterans Affairs decision limiting the presumption standard to those who had “boots on the ground.”
The Justice Department has until the end of this month to a make final decision about whether to seek a review of Procopio v. Wilkie by the U.S. Supreme Court, but it appears increasingly likely the decision will stand after VA Secretary Robert Wilkie recommended to DOJ to not challenge it.
The decision will have implications for lawmakers who have been trying to resolve the issue for the veterans, often referred to as the Blue Water Navy for their service aboard coastal water ships as opposed to murky, inland water ways. While the court ruled the veterans had been wrongly denied benefits due them, funding the expansion of services needed to include about 95,000 newly eligible vets could be expensive and could also affect the chances of other exposed veterans being made eligible for similar treatment.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has recommended the government not challenge a federal court decision expanding eligibility for Agent Orange-related benefits to Vietnam-era service members who served on coastal ships.
“They are going to need some funding,” Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), Chairman of the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee, said in an interview.

USAID launches latest clean-up for Vietnam War-era

The US launched on Saturday a $183 million clean-up at a former Vietnam storage site for Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used in their bitter war which years later is still blamed for severe birth defects, cancers and disabilities.
Located outside Ho Chi Minh City, Bien Hoa airbase — the latest site scheduled for rehabilitation after Danang airbase’s clean-up last year — was one of the main storage grounds for Agent Orange and only hastily cleared by soldiers near the war’s end more than four decades ago.
US forces sprayed 80 million litres (21 million gallons) of Agent Orange over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 in a desperate bid to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.
The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into ground water and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese — from enlarged heads to deformed limbs.
At Bien Hoa, more than 500,000 cubic metres of dioxin had contaminated the soil and sediment, making it the “largest remaining hotspot” in Vietnam, said a statement from the US development agency USAID, which kicked off a 10-year remediation effort on Saturday.
The dioxin amounts in Bien Hoa are four times more than the volume cleaned up at Danang airport, a six-year $110 million effort which was completed in November.
 “The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic,” said the US ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, at Saturday morning’s launch attended by Vietnamese military officials and US senators.

US-Vietnam Relations in the Headlines with First Indo-Pacific Commander Visit

Last week, Philip Davidson, the commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, embarked on his first visit to Vietnam in his current capacity. Though the headlines focused on the development itself, its significance should be understood in the
broader context of U.S.-Vietnam defense ties, which have continued to deepen during the Trump administration despite lingering concerns.
As I have observed before in these pages, over the decades, U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation has slowly grown to encompass areas including maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping. This realm of the relationship has deepened further across the board under the Trump administration, even amid some lingering concerns about wider aspects of the administration’s Asia policy and some challenges Vietnam has been facing in terms of its own domestic and foreign policy.
That has continued on into 2019 as well. Despite some lingering challenges and limitations in the defense relationship, there have been developments to reinforce this aspect of ties, with one recent example on the capacity-building side being the delivery of another six Metal Shark patrol vessels to the Vietnamese Coast Guard publicly announced earlier this month. Both sides are also  considering initiatives to boost defense ties still further, including another U.S. aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam and high-level visits by Vietnamese officials to the United States.

Scientists Find Hidden Dioxins In African E-Waste Hubs

Electronic waste (e-waste) is a source of harmful dioxins in Africa, according to research by Japanese scientists. They published their results in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. E-waste refers to end-of-life products such as communication devices, consumer electronics and home appliances. Due to the presence of toxic substances such as heavy metals and many various plastic additives in e-waste, the discarded materials are considered hazardous and must be handled properly. Yet, a large volume of e-waste has been recycled inappropriately and treated informally in Asian and African developing countries. Primitive methods such as circuit board heating and open burning of wires have thus led to serious environmental pollution, caused by the emission of not only contaminants contained in e-waste, but also unintentionally-formed secondary toxic chemicals. In this study, researchers led by Professor Tatsuya Kunisue of Ehime University, Japan, found dioxins—a toxic substance generated during informal processing of e-waste—in soils from the Agbogbloshie e-waste site in Ghana. The researchers used analytical methods based on two-dimensional gas chromatography and time-of-flight mass spectrometry to profile halogenated contaminants in the soils collected near e-waste burning and dismantling areas. They identified polybrominated and mixed halogenated dibenzofurans (PBDFs and PXDFs) as the major dioxin. PBDFs were generated from a group of flame retardants commonly found in e-waste plastics. On the other hand, PXDFs were mainly produced from PBDFs through successive bromine-to-chlorine exchange, said the researchers. High concentrations of PXDFs in e-waste burning areas indicate that these ‘hidden’ dioxins may contribute substantially to the total toxicity of the e-waste-derived dioxin mixture, and need to be included in future environmental and human exposure risk assessment. 
Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at:

Monday, April 22, 2019

AGENT ORANGE TOWN HALL MEETING SCHEDULE

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






April 26- 27, 2019
Deadwood, South Dakota
Contact: Jack Dean 605-393-0444
Martin Anderson 605-645-0055
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

May 6, 2019
Bismarck, North Dakota
Contact: Larry Larson 701-220-5096
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

May 7, 2019
Pewaukee, Wisconsin
Contact: Pat Furno
920-474-4017

May 10, 2019
London, Kentucky
Contact: David Cowherd
270-312-0463

June 1, 2019
Billings, Montana
 (406) 272-578

June 8, 2019
Tucson, Arizona
Contact: George Ross
520-730-6069

Thursday, April 18, 2019

New legislation would recognize nine more diseases caused by Agent Orange

WASHINGTON — A group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would add nine more diseases to a list of conditions presumed to be caused by the chemical herbicide Agent Orange, giving veterans who suffer from them a fast-track to
Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation and health care.
The Keeping Our Promises Act, introduced last week, adds prostate cancer, bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension, stroke, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, AL amyoloidosis, ischemic heart disease and Parkinson-like syndromes to a list of diseases presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.
Researchers with the National Academy of Medicine released findings in November that there was “suggestive” evidence that eight of the diseases could be caused by Agent Orange. For hypertension, researchers found that “sufficient” evidence exists.
 “American heroes affected by Agent Orange deserve the peace of mind knowing that the federal government recognizes the existing link between their exposure and illness,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., one of eight lawmakers who banded together to introduce the legislation.
VA experts have begun a “formal, deliberative review” of the National Academy of Medicine’s latest report, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said Tuesday. The review is expected to be complete in the summer, at which time the agency will make recommendations about presumptive conditions, he said.
During a Senate hearing March 26, Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, guessed the review would be complete within 90 days.
 “We’re working our way through that right now,” Stone said of the national academy report.

US delegation visits dioxin detoxification project in Da Nang

Da Nang (VNA) – A delegation of the United States legislative assistants led by Terra Lynn Sabag, Deputy Chief of Staff for US Congressman Rick Larsen, visited the location of a dioxin remediation project in Da Nang airport in the central city of the same name on April 17.
Major General Bui Anh Chung, Deputy Commander of the Air Defence-Air Force Command, informed his guests on the results of the project.
The project was launched in June 2011, with core activities comprising of clearing of bombs and explosives.
The six-year project to remediate the environmental pollution at the airport was jointly implemented by the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence and the US International Development Agency (USAID) with a non-refundable aid of 110 million USD funded by the US Government.
After the second phase wrapped up in November last year, it successfully detoxified over 90,000 cubic metres of toxic sediments by the thermal treatment method, while isolating other 50,000 cubic metres of low-contaminated sediments.