Monday, July 15, 2019

First Post - July 15, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
by Jim Belshaw

Dayna and Keeyan's story is brought to you by The Missouri Vietnam Veterans Foundation.
Dayna Dupuis Theriot writes a letter filled with questions, not the least of which is to whom she should send it for answers. She scours the Internet looking for such answers and finds only tantalizing clues, or more to the point, one clue, one connector between her son and the various abnormalities that have been visited upon him. The clue repeatedly shows itself, but never to the degree that she can say it is the answer with any certainty.
“Every time I put in one of Keeyan’s abnormalities with that information about my dad, Agent Orange in the first thing that would pop up,” she said.
With the exception of a too small body, his physical appearance gives no indication that her young son knows firsthand the medical mysteries that Dayna includes in her letter:
“Esophageal Atresia/stricture
“Dyslexia and learning disabilities
“Speech and hearing problems
“Asthma and allergies so severe that Keeyan is on Xolair injections (normally for people who are 12 years of age or older according to the Xolair Web site)
“Illecolitis (a form of Crohn’s disease)
“Premature Ventricular Contractions (heart disease).”
Her father, a Vietnam veteran who served in the Army, is under treatment for PTSD, but has never been diagnosed with a disease connected to Agent Orange. Nonetheless, pointing to the presence of Agent Orange in her Internet research, Dayna finds yet another clue hard to pin down .
“My father was in an area that was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange,” she said. “He’s been through a lot. I don’t know how he would handle it if we found out this kind of thing was transferred from his body to us. It would have a powerful emotional effect on him. I would hate for him to blame himself. What I’m doing now is just looking for answers. You don’t know who else is out there with the same problems.”
Dip in anywhere in her letter and “powerful emotional effect” becomes understatement.
“My son, Keeyan, was born August 2, 2000, weighting only 4 lbs., 14 oz.,” she writes. “He had problems before coming home with his sugar levels and body temperature. We stayed in NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) for five days before allowing us to go home. He then came home to vomiting, choking, and almost losing him in our home.
“He was checked by his pediatrician to discover his esophagus was strictured. It was narrowed so severely that it only allowed a few drops in at a time and not even his own mucus could be digested. It is similar to Esophageal Atresia. He was admitted and the surgeon dilated the esophagus. It lasted two weeks before collapsing again. So in September 2000, only 4 weeks old, a thoracotomy was done. They would cut out the narrowed part and resection the damaged esophagus.
As her letter continues, it takes on a peculiar phenomenon of language, one in which mothers become conversant in a medical language usually reserved only for specialists, men and women who have spent the greater part of their lives studying such things. It falls to mothers to understand medical terms and procedures that would leave most people scratching their heads.
This is not the case with the mothers of children like Keeyan Theriot. They understand the complications because the complications become the stuff of daily life.
“After the procedure was done, he assured us that Keeyan would be fine,” she writes. “He then began vomiting, choking, and the esophagus was so irritated that it began to bleed. We began PH probe studies to find out what was going on. The studies showed reflux and it was really bad. So they put him on a drug given to patients with esophageal cancer to be able to tolerate feedings. It didn’t help …
“We went to see a Pediatric Surgeon for Rare Anomalies. He gave us a few options … He mentioned doing a fundoplication/nissen so he would not be able to vomit. The procedure was done at age 4 1/2 … only to be discouraged by vomiting and bleeding …"
Some of the questions Dayna asks are the same questions asked by the wives of other Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange:
+If the children of women veterans are determined to suffer from such service connected disabilities, why are the children of male veterans excluded? (Dayna's son, as well as the children of other women, were born with conditions that are on the presumptive list for children of women veterans.)
+Studies show more defects in women than men. Why?
+There are cases of second and third generations, but no proven studies. Why?
+Are there more studies planned for future generations?
+In the small study of 24 Vietnam veterans, they all had some type of chromosomal changes. Why was the study stopped?
It is a proven fact, Dayna points out, that more children of Vietnam veterans suffer learning disabilities, health issues, asthma/allergies, birth defects, and other health issues. “They all seem familiar to me,” she says. Kids are also born with rare disorders that may show up later.
“It’s been rough,” she said. “You always have in the back of your mind that (answers) would leave you with some closure and you would be done with this. I mean, you have to live with it, but at least you know why and you say, OK, this is the way life is going to be. We’re going to have to live with it, like it or not. This has been my life for the last eight years. I have no idea how I get through this. It takes a lot.”

This article was Published in The Fresno Bee online on Saturday, Jun. 27, 2009

by Jim Doyle

On June 2, the Ford Foundation released the results of a lengthy study on the effects of Agent Orange/Dioxin, and confirmed what Vietnam veterans have known for years: This stuff will kill you, or worse, pass to your children and grandchildren and cause a range of disabilities and diseases that will profoundly affect their lives.
Every good parent does their best to assure a better life for their children, irrespective of time and place. Many Vietnam veterans, however, have unintentionally left a disturbing legacy -- birth defects or damaged genes that carry the potential risk of birth defects in succeeding generations.
This troubling inheritance is directly linked to the harm caused as a result of our exposure to Dioxin, an unintended by product of the combination of 2-4-5-T and 2,4,D that created the herbicide more commonly known as Agent Orange.
Over a period of nearly 10 years, about 21 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed over more than 10 million acres in Vietnam. The VA presumes that veterans who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. It was in the air and in the water. Dioxin was one of the more prevalent culprits at Times Beach and Love Canal.
Agent Orange was composed primarily of two commonly used commercial weed killers, the combination of which creates the chemical 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), known to be toxic in humans. One of these ingredients (2,4,5,T was banned by the World Health Organization in 1970. TCDD accumulates in human fatty tissue, where it is neither readily metabolized nor excreted.
Over time, the toxin accumulates and the effects can remain. In April 1970, the federal government found evidence that TCDD had caused birth defects in laboratory mice, but it was still used in Vietnam for nearly eight more months.
Children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans suffer from a wide spectrum of conditions including Achondroplasia, a type of dwarfism to Williams Syndrome, a rare disorder caused by "erasure" of about 26 genes from a specific chromosome that can cause mental retardation, a distinctive facial appearance and cardiovascular problems for starters.
Cleft lip and palate, congenital heart disease, fused digits, hip dysplasia, neural tube defects and undescended testicles -- the list goes on.
Who drafted these kids?
Physical, mental and emotional disabilities in our children, and now a growing number of anecdotal reports of these same birth defects turning up in our grandchildren haunt Vietnam veteran parents.
These are the result of wounds that will never be acknowledged by a Purple Heart medal, wounding yet another generation.
When will the casualties of the Vietnam War end? After 30 years of research, the evidence is firmly on the side of Vietnam veterans, both male and female. Despite this evidentiary flood, Mom and Dad are still running the gauntlet of rules, regulations, administrative decisions, legal opinions, forms, physical examinations, evaluations and plain old indifference in an attempt to get treatment and compensation, not only for themselves but for their children.
Again it must be asked, who drafted these kids?
After more than 30 years, isn't it long past time for this issue to be settled?
The Ford Foundation report calls for improved diagnosis and treatment, and continued study of the environmental and health effects of Agent Orange. It also appeals for expanded care, not only for veterans but for their children suffering next-generation effects from their parents' toxic exposures.
In the face of the growing scientific evidence and the conclusions of the foundation study report the government still refuses to fully acknowledge the friendly fire toll of Agent Orange, now visited upon another generation.
Vietnam veteran moms and dads must focus on what will be there for their children after the flag on their casket has been presented.
The reality is that there are hundreds of thousands of Vietnam veterans who endure daily struggles with diseases and conditions that are a direct result of their exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals used in Vietnam. There is little, if any, serious dispute of that fact. Millions of Vietnamese also suffer the same illnesses and die the same agonized death, and their children too.
Just as Traumatic Brain Injury has become the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so to has the long-festering wound of Agent Orange become the signature wound for Vietnam veterans.
Before his death in January 2000, Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., commander of U.S. naval forces in Vietnam and later Chief of Naval Operations, fought to force those in power to take responsibility for their actions and admit that Agent Orange killed more than vegetation.
Zumwalt ordered the spraying of Agent Orange in the Mekong Delta and it ultimately lead to the cancer that killed his Navy lieutenant son, Elmo Zumwalt III at 42. Grandson Elmo IV was born in 1977 with a severe learning disability.
For Admiral Zumwalt, it was simple.
When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, a World War II veteran whose son served in Vietnam and died from cancer, recuses himself from Agent Orange cases, there is a reason.
Vietnam veterans are not asking for a handout, they are just asking for some truth. Oh, and a return on the investment they made in freedom four decades ago. There can be no recession in that account.

Read the Ford Foundation Report on Agent Orange at:

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

by Mokie Porter

Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C.the Ford Foundation, announced that it is funding and launching of a full-scale, public-relations campaign to win the sympathy of the American people for the plight of Agent Orange victims in Vietnam
The Ford Foundation and the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin are hoping to mobilize resources and raise awareness for the continuing environmental health consequences of dioxin contamination in Vietnam resulting from the use of A/O, with the end goal of gaining the support of Congress, American business, and the American people to direct U.S. dollars to Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. When representatives of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) asked at the June 2nd meeting whether the condition of American veterans, their children, and grandchildren would also be a subject of the public relations campaign, the answer from the chair of the Working Group, came back "We have given you the report."
The June 1, 2009, report, "U.S. Vietnam Veterans and Agent Orange: Understanding the Impact 40 Years Later," which was done by the National Organization on Disability with funding from the Ford Foundation, concludes that it is not "too late to correct the lapses in the nation's treatment of veterans who were exposed to dioxin during the Vietnam War." It goes on to state that "One lesson of the Agent Orange experience has been that the consequences of such chemicals are rarely easy to predict, and that the burdens they impose may well be borne for generations." for report and VVA reactions. 
The report includes five detailed recommendations for greater clarity and justice: (1) Outreach to All Affected Veterans and their Families; (2) Outreach to Health Practitioners and Disability-Related Service Agencies; (3) Medical Care for Affected Children and Grandchildren; (4) A Fresh Approach to Research; and (5) Direct Service to Veterans and their Families, in Their Communities.
If the Ford Foundation's publicity campaign will focus on the plight of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but not American victims of Agent Orange, then veterans need to launch our own grassroots publicity campaign to gain the support of Congress, American business, and the American people for the unfinished Agent Orange agenda for American veterans and their families.
The Task Ahead: Don't Mourn, Organize and Publicize in Your Own Communities 
This is not just a VVA issue.VVA members, chapters, and state councils need to reach out and work with other veterans organizations in their communities and to be a force multiplier. Many of our members, of course, are members of other veterans organizations, so this will help. 
The brunt of the fallout of this one-sided, public-awareness campaign will rest on our members at the grassroots, in chapters and state councils, where the network exists for our veteran families. We cannot allow those veterans outside the VA/VSO network to find out about their A/O exposure from the perspective of the Vietnamese victims, as they watch the Ford Foundation media campaign unfold in print and on television.
While, at this point, we know very little about the when and where of the Ford Foundation media campaign, we expect that it will begin this summer and continue through the year. We anticipate a multi-media barrage, with Ford's efforts directed toward the documentary film industry, the print media, radio, television, celebrities, etc. We have not located the budget for this endeavor yet, but expect that, minimally, it will be in the range of six figures.
This is not about animosity toward Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, but it is a response to the telling of only one side of the story by the Ford Foundation media campaign. That's not the right approach to take and may well create a great deal of pain in those veterans, whose "welcome home" nearly forty years ago, was a slap in the face, or disdain and distance, and who will now, once more, be reminded of the esteem in which their government holds them, as they watch while the Ford Foundation media campaign focuses on the suffering of their former enemy.
What do we need to create awareness? We need real stories about real people to convince the American people and Congress that our A/O problems are real.
We already have two excellent stories, though still in the rough draft stage. More will be needed. If each state would identify at least one family with a child or grandchild affected by A/O, willing to share their story, we will begin to have ammunition to use locally and nationally with the media and with legislators. 
One idea that has been suggested is holding veterans health forums at the chapter and state council levels. That's a good way to get local media attention, and a forum to discuss the issue of A/O, as well as all the host of illnesses and maladies associated with military service. It would likely be useful to have a nuts-and-bolts, how-to plan for this type of health forum.
What we need is something that could be shared with other states and chapters, like a "checklist for organizers of local health forums," or a document that has tips for putting on a "high-interest, high attendance, high media coverage veterans health forum in your community.
Ideas other than a veterans health forum will likely emerge, and a forum for the sharing of these ideas, info, intel, and good stories will be needed, if we are to sustain a vital campaign. What works in one area may not work in another area. Local initiative, local creativity, and local enthusiasm and energy will be essential.
This is not just about Vietnam/Agent Orange alone; it is about all toxic exposures in all theaters of our recent wars whether in Thailand, on Eglin Air Force Base, Guam, Puerto Rico, Texas, the Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.--the larger lesson continues to be this: The cost of war doesn't end when the guns are silent, in fact it takes a generational toll so we, as a nation, must be willing to pay the price.
(See VVA web page for report and VVA reactions. The report is also available at

Saturday, July 13, 2019

VA MISSION Act: Answers to the top five questions about urgent care

Urgent care is one of the new benefits offered as part of the VA MISSION Act that gives Veterans greater choice in their health care. The benefit is offered in addition to the opportunity to receive care from a VA provider, as VA also offers same-day services. We are working to ensure Veterans understand how to use the new urgent care benefit as part of VA’s comprehensive benefits package. In this article, we answer some common questions about the new urgent care benefit.
  1. What is urgent care? Urgent care is a type of walk-in health care for situations where you need help but don’t have an emergency, such as colds, ear infections, minor injuries, pink eye, skin infections, and strep throat.
  2. Why are there different urgent care locations? There are two types of urgent care network locations: Retail and Urgent.
  • Retail locations such as CVS or Walgreens are places where you can get care for minor ailments like a sore throat or earache.
  • Urgent locations provide more comprehensive walk-in care for illnesses or injuries that are not life-threatening, like splinting, casting, lacerations, or wound treatment.
Both retail and urgent locations are staffed with healthcare professionals who are licensed and credentialed.
  1. Are there urgent care providers near me? VA launched the urgent care benefit on June 6, 2019, and we are working to expand our network of urgent care providers, adding more every week. Urgent care providers are vetted and must meet strict standards of care and other requirements before they are added to VA’s network. To find a location, use the VA facility locator at Select the link entitled “Find VA approved urgent care locations and pharmacies near you”. If you arrive at an urgent care network location and have difficulty receiving care, call 866-620-2071 for assistance. More information.
  2. How do I get prescription medication with the urgent care benefit? You can get up to a 14-day supply of prescription medication through VA, a VA-contracted pharmacy, or a non-contracted pharmacy. If you choose to fill an urgent care prescription at a non-contracted pharmacy, you will be required to pay for the prescription when you pick it up and then file a claim for reimbursement at your local VA medical facility. Prescription medication for longer than a 14-day supply must be filled by a VA pharmacy. More information.
  3. Do I have to make copayments for urgent care? Copayments for urgent care depend on your assigned priority group and the number of times you visit any urgent care provider in a calendar year. Urgent care copayments are not charged when you receive care from an urgent care provider, but are billed separately by VA. More information.
For additional information about the VA MISSION Act, visit 

from The Virginia Pilot: Editorial: Delays of vets' benefits a national disgrace

THE LATEST DELAY in providing disability benefits for “blue water” Navy veterans, so called because they served in the waters around Vietnam, seems unnecessary and cruel after decades of inaction, a court victory and a long overdue act of Congress.
Just when these veterans, who suffer health problems related to exposure to Agent Orange, thought they had won their long struggle to get the same benefits as veterans who had boots on the ground in Vietnam, the Department of Veterans Affairs said it won’t start processing their claims until next year.
It is abhorrent that veterans who served on ships off the coast of Vietnam were so long denied eligibility for Agent Orange-related benefits. But Congress finally passed a bill ordering the VA to treat the blue water veterans equally, and President Donald Trump signed the bill into law.
Now comes this unconscionable and unnecessary new delay.
A lot of wrongs are involved, starting with the United States using Agent Orange to clear Vietnamese jungles without understanding its effects on U.S. troops. Those include sometimes fatal illnesses such as cancer, respiratory ailments, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and leukemia, and spina bifida in children born to affected parents.
As evidence of the link between Agent Orange exposure and veterans’ illnesses grew, Congress passed a 1991 law mandating that such problems be treated as the result of service in war, with appropriate benefits.
But the VA used a loophole in the law to exclude the thousands of sailors who were on ships just off Vietnam, and Marines on board the ships.

Marines stage awareness campaign to reach those sickened by Camp Lejeune toxic water

Former Marines on Wednesday staged a campaign in front of the Salem VA Medical Center to let other veterans know that their illnesses might be related to their time at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
Congress in 2012 passed the Camp Lejeune Families Act, which provides medical treatment for qualifying veterans who were on active duty at the base for at least 30 days between 1953 and 1987, and for their families. The Department of Veterans Affairs presumes that 15 medical conditions are related to exposure to toxins in well water at the base.
Curtis Crawford, 56, of Troutville said the Camp Lejeune Toxic Water Survivors want the list of conditions expanded, and they want the VA to do more to reach exposed veterans.
 “It’s destroyed my life. I’ve lost everything. I’ve lost my home, my business, a little bit of my dignity, but I’m getting that back,” Crawford said. “Nobody knows to what level this is. There were over 900,000 Marines, family members, Navy and Army personnel that were exposed.”
He and William Armentrout, 62, of Covington sat with signs at the entrance to the medical center under what little shade was offered mid-afternoon. They had been joined by others earlier in the day, and figured they had shared information with 20 to 30 veterans.
Crawford said he searched for years to determine why he has a number of autoimmune diseases and neurobehavioral disorders. He believes they are connected to the 45 days in 1981 he was at Camp Lejeune. But as a reservist he said he isn’t entitled to care at the VA. He’s also been denied disability benefits.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Navy and Coast Guard Ships Associated with Service in Vietnam and Exposure to Herbicide Agents

This ships list is intended to provide VA regional offices with a resource for determining whether a particular US Navy or Coast Guard Veteran of the Vietnam era is eligible for the presumption of Agent Orange herbicide exposure based on operations of the Veteran’s ship.
According to 38 CFR § 3.307(a)(6)(iii), eligibility for the presumption of Agent Orange exposure requires that a Veteran’s military service involved “duty or visitation in the Republic of Vietnam” between January 9, 1962 and May 7, 1975.  This includes service within the country of Vietnam itself or aboard a ship that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam.  However, this does not include service aboard a large ocean-going ship that operated only on the offshore waters of Vietnam, unless evidence shows that a Veteran went ashore.  Inland waterways include rivers, canals, estuaries, and deltas.  They do not include open deep-water bays and harbors such as those at Da Nang Harbor, Qui Nhon Bay Harbor, Nha Trang Harbor, Cam Ranh Bay Harbor, Vung Tau Harbor, or Ganh Rai Bay.  These are considered to be part of the offshore waters of Vietnam because of their deep-water anchorage capabilities and open access to the South China Sea.
In order to promote consistent application of the term “inland waterways”, VA has determined that Ganh Rai Bay and Qui Nhon Bay Harbor are no longer considered to be inland waterways, but rather are considered open water bays.  This is a change from previous policy.  As of February 2, 2016, new ships will not be added to the list based on operations in those locations and no additional dates for operations in those locations will be added to those ships already on the list. Veterans who served aboard ships already on the list for those locations will retain the presumption of Agent Orange exposure.  New Veteran claimants who were aboard ships in those locations, during the dates already on the list, will also qualify for the presumption of exposure.  This presumption will extend to all future disability claims from these Veterans.  However, Veterans who were aboard ships in those locations, during new dates not currently on the list, will not qualify for the presumption.  Likewise, Veterans aboard new ships in those locations will not qualify for the presumption of exposure.

VA extends Agent Orange presumption to ‘Blue Water Navy’ Veterans

Eligible Veterans may now be entitled to disability compensation benefits
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is preparing to process Agent Orange exposure claims for “Blue Water Navy” Veterans who served offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975.
These Veterans may be eligible for presumption of herbicide exposure through Public Law 116-23, Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which was signed into law June 25, 2019, and goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020. They may also qualify for a presumption of service connection if they have a disease that is recognized as being associated with herbicide exposure.
The bipartisan Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act gives VA until Jan. 1, 2020, to begin deciding Blue Water Navy related claims. By staying claims decisions until that date, VA is complying with the law that Congress wrote and passed.
“VA is dedicated to ensuring that all Veterans receive the benefits they have earned,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We are working to ensure that we have the proper resources in place to meet the needs of our Blue Water Veteran community and minimize the impact on all Veterans filing for disability compensation.”

Friday, July 5, 2019

Farmers Are Losing Everything After “Forever Chemicals” Turned Up In Their Food

“Forever chemicals” linked to cancer are turning up in farm produce across the country, leading farms to lay off workers, incinerate cranberry harvests, kill cows, and dump thousands of gallons of dairy milk.
Such long-lived "fluorinated" compounds have been measured in the drinking water in over 600 locations in 43 states, near factories or military bases that use them in firefighting foams. Best known as PFAS chemicals (short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), they line numerous waterproof consumer goods, from hiking shoes to pizza boxes.
Now their emergence in farm produce has spurred state and federal agencies to ramp up efforts to test for the chemicals in a wider variety of foods, and to fund studies to track how the chemicals enter the food supply.
In June, the FDA announced the results of its first tests for PFAS compounds in supermarket staples, including cooked meat, fruit, and iced chocolate cake. The health agency said it did not see a “food safety risk” in its sampling and did not find PFAS chemicals in most foods. But it did report PFAS in milk and produce that had been farmed near polluted locations. While researchers at the National Institutes of Health and CDC are still studying the health effects of the chemicals, some are known to hinder growth and learning in children, lower chances of pregnancy, and increase the risk of cancer.

MU Veterans Clinic enlists law students to secure benefits

The University of Missouri Veterans Clinic is staffed by MU Law School students and overseen by professional lawyers. They specialize in navigating the VA benefits system on behalf of veterans and their families. It started in 2014 and has assisted more than 600 veterans and their families and helped train nearly 100 law students in veterans benefits law. They have secured more than $2 million in retroactive benefits and more than $1 million in annualized monthly compensation payments.
 “I think it’s phenomenal what they do,” Pracht said. “There are so many veterans who are not getting a fair shake. They’re doing this on their own time. That’s the type of dedication and selfless service that is really, really hard to find.”

Secretary Wilkie has officially stayed all Blue Water Navy and Korea DMZ cases until January 1, 2020

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – President Trump signed into law, a bill that now makes tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans eligible for health care and disability benefits.
The American Victory served in Vietnam. It converted sea water to fresh for crew’s consumption.
The law mandates veterans who served off the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia and those who served in the Korean DMZ between 1967 and 71 are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they develop certain diseases.
Screw you! Wilkie to BWN Vets
But VA Secretary Robert Wilkie has ordered a stay on any claims decisions for these veterans until at least January 1, 2020. Wilkie’s order is contrary to a Federal Court of Appeals decision earlier this year granting Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans presumptive status.
 “I’m ecstatic,” Navy veteran Mike Kvintus said of the president signing what’s commonly called the Blue Water Navy bill. “This will affect all the Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans any veteran, Coast Guard, Marine, Air Force or Army who was on board any of the naval ships off South Vietnam.”
Kvintus, the National Vice Commander of the Blue Water Navy Association says he is frustrated that Secretary Wilkie ordered stays on the claims.
In 2002, the VA decided presumptive status should only be provided to military personnel who were boots on the ground in Vietnam. That excluded approximately 90,000 Blue Water Navy Veterans. For more than a decade the VA opposed efforts to provide presumptive status to Blue Water Navy Veterans.
Mike Kvintus was on the destroyer U.S.S. Buchanan. It anchored in Da Nang harbor when the military sprayed the area with Agent Orange.
The military sprayed millions of gallons of the toxic herbicide on Vietnam. Mixed with petroleum, it floated into rivers, harbors and offshore.
The Buchanan, like other ships, turned salt water into fresh. An Australian Navy study showed that the distillation process only enhanced the Agent Orange if the sea water was already contaminated.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

“A Lifeline A Foot Short” - NVLSP Statement on Signage of H.R. 299

“A Lifeline A Foot Short”
NVLSP Statement on Signage of H.R. 299, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, Into Law
WASHINGTON -The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) issued the following statement regarding President Trump’s signing of H.R.299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, into law.
 “The signing of H.R. 299 into law is long overdue recognition of the suffering Blue Water Vietnam Veterans have endured for our country and its connection to Agent Orange exposure,” said Bart Stichman, NVLSP Executive Director. “But while H.R. 299 commendably gives these veterans and their survivors the right to retroactive benefits, it unfortunately fails to require that the VA automatically identify the thousands of veterans and survivors who are entitled to retroactive benefits back to the date their prior claim was filed.”
 “The fruits of H.R. 299 will only be received if veterans and their survivors find out about their rights to retroactive benefits through VA outreach and then affirmatively file a new claim,” said Stichman. “Obviously, only a percentage of those entitled will benefit. Thus, Congress has unfortunately thrown thousands of disabled veterans and their survivors a lifeline that is a foot short.”
H.R. 299 follows the recent Procopio v. Wilkie decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which invalidated the VA rule denying the presumption of Agent Orange exposure to all veterans who served in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam.
Courtesy of Carol Olszanecki, Blue Water Navy widow via Paul Sutton

Monday, July 1, 2019


The National Birth Defect Registry is a comprehensive data collection project designed to help answer parents’ question “why my child”?  The Registry was designed with a team of prominent scientists.  Data are collected through an on-line portal that gathers information about all kinds of birth defects, both structural and functional.  The questionnaire also asks about maternal and paternal health, genetic and exposure histories and has two special sections that collect on military exposures in Vietnam and during the Gulf War.
More than a dozen veterans advocacy groups will join forces to track and highlight toxic exposure illnesses among former military members in an attempt to push for quicker action on what they see as a looming health crisis.
The Toxic Exposures in the American Military coalition, announced this week, will coordinate efforts from groups like Wounded Warrior Project, Vietnam Veterans of America, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veteran Warriors Inc., and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.
The focus will be on issues related to exposures in the recent wars, although the groups have also advocated on illnesses related to chemical poisoning in the ranks from earlier periods.

No Decision Yet From VA on New Agent Orange Presumptive Diseases

The VA has not announced any decision on whether it will provide disability compensation for four diseases linked to exposure to Agent Orange by a scientific panel, breaking a pledge to make a decision by late June.
Despite a promise in March from a Veterans Health Administration official that VA would decide within 90 days whether to add four health conditions -- bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson's like symptoms -- to a list of diseases presumed related to herbicide exposure, a VA spokesman said last week that none is forthcoming.
"We have no announcements on Agent Orange presumptive conditions at this time," a VA spokeswoman said Wednesday, three months after a hearing in which a VA official told a senator the decision was pending.
During a Senate Veterans Affairs hearing March 26, Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said it was his "hope within the next 90 days that we'll have some decisions made."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

House Veterans Affairs Committee statement on passage of H.R. 299

ChairmanTakano, Ranking Member Roe Statement on Passage of Historic Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs Chairman Mark Takano and Ranking Member Dr. Phil Roe issued the following statement after the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, H.R. 299, was officially signed into law:
"Today, we are proud to say that the tens of thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans can rest easy tonight knowing that the benefits that they earned while serving off the coasts of Vietnam will be guaranteed. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 is finally law and is the culmination of a decades-long bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to properly recognize these veterans' claims and grant them the justice they have waited for. This day would not be possible without the leadership and unwavering commitment of our House and Senate colleagues, countless veteran voices, and the Veterans Service Organizations behind them including the Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, The American Legion, AMVETS, Fleet Reserve Association, Military Officers Association of America, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and Paralyzed Veterans of America. We are so grateful to each of them and look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that every one of those who have bravely fought for our country is afforded the care, benefits, and services that they deserve."
The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 will extend benefits to servicemembers that served in the territorial waters off the coast of Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange. This was the first bill Chairman Takano introduced this Congress after a similar bill was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives last Congress but stalled in the Senate. This legislation will ensure tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans finally get the benefits they've earned and deserve.

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill signed into law

President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law late Tuesday, a move that will fast-track disability compensation for personnel with medical conditions related to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
The enactment follows a decades-long fight by sailors, Marines and others who served off the coast of Vietnam. The law means they will now get the same presumption as ground troops that certain diseases are connected to Agent Orange exposure.
According to Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs, an estimated 90,000 veterans may be eligible for benefits under the law.
The legislation, H.R. 299, extends disability compensation to personnel who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Vietnam and Cambodia, along a line of demarcation spelled out in the law.
Those eligible include veterans with one or more of the presumptive diseases whose claims were previously denied. It also includes those with new claims.
The bill also covers veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971, as well as children with spina bifida born to veterans who served in Thailand between January 1962 and May 1975.
While most veterans service organizations, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America, supported the bill, another group objected.
Military-Veterans Advocacy, a group that brought a lawsuit against the federal government for denying benefits to Blue Water veterans, said Wednesday that the law's wording may negatively affect up to 55,000 of the 90,000 veterans who served offshore.
John Wells, a retired Navy commander with Military-Veterans Advocacy, said the area noted in the bill may exclude some sailors whose ships were offshore, but outside the territorial seas.
"This includes a number of carrier sailors who were exposed [to Agent Orange runoff] by the surging waters of the Mekong River that discharged into the South China Sea," Wells said in a statement released Wednesday.

New Information on the Parkinson's-Gut Connection

A few years ago, we told you about a study funded by The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) that linked alterations in gut bacteria to Parkinson's disease (PD). MJFF has continued to support research in this field, and, just a few months ago, we provided an update on research linking alpha-synuclein in the gut to Parkinson's symptoms.
A recently published study has revealed differences in gut bacteria in those with Parkinson's disease based on their medications and geographic locations, adding to our growing knowledge on this connection.
The Gut-Brain Pathway
Thousands of bacteria live in the gut, and they help digest food, make vitamins and support immune function. Gut cells are connected to the brain through certain nerves and via this link, researchers believe changes in the gut could potentially effect changes in the brain. In fact, alpha-synuclein, the sticky protein that clumps in the brains of those with PD, also is present in the gut of people with PD. And, one of the earliest symptoms to emerge in many people with Parkinson's is constipation. A greater understanding of gut bacterial changes may shed light on new ways to diagnose Parkinson's and manage symptoms throughout the course of disease.

Wounded by Chemical Weapons in Iraq, Veterans Fight a Lonely Battle for Help

On Dec. 2, 2005, three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters hovered over the northern end of Camp Taji, Iraq, as a nine-man pararescue team on the ground moved toward rows of identical white warehouses during a training exercise. One of the pararescuemen doubled over and vomited, then fell to one knee. Two airmen moved to assist the man, dragging him up by his armpits.
In one of the helicopters, a flight engineer, Staff Sgt. Annette Nellis, started coughing. Her skin began feeling itchy all over. Bile shot up from her stomach into her mouth. Just minutes into the operation, an aerial machine-gunner in another Pave Hawk who was also suddenly experiencing unusual symptoms called in a Code Four — the signal that a helicopter had been hit by a chemical-weapon agent. The pilot pushed into a sharp dive to the ground. The other two Pave Hawks from the 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron landed in quick succession, loaded the remaining six airmen as quickly as they could and departed Taji, which before 1991 was a major chemical-weapons storage area. Nellis felt her upper respiratory tract closing up, making it difficult to breathe.
The team’s arrival at Balad Air Base north of Baghdad marked the start of years of medical problems and military negligence for Nellis and three other members of the combat search-and-rescue team. Today they belong to a cohort of American service members who were exposed to chemical agents or suffered exposure symptoms while deployed to Iraq after the 2003 invasion. The New York Times first reported on these chemical-warfare casualties in a 2014 investigation that showed how the military failed to follow its own medical processes or to maintain records for most of the exposed troops.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Growing trend shows patients turning to marijuana to deal with PTSD

The purpose of the day is to bring issues related to Post-Traumatic Stress disorder to light.
One of the big local proponents behind getting the message out is a local marijuana dispensary.
Nevada's cannabis industry has its roots in medical marijuana, and as the budding industry continues to bloom, some dispensaries are noticing a growing trend of patients who are turning to the plant to help deal with post-traumatic stress.
"My friends were all going on this adventure that I kind of wanted to join on," said Matt Koetting.
Koetting's adventure turned into an 11-year career in the Marine Corps, but he was severely hurt halfway through his service, and it has had lingering effects.
"I have a traumatic brain injury," said Koetting. "Frontal lobe, I have reconstructive elbows, broken back, glaucoma in my right eye; a few other things. I'm diagnosed with post-traumatic stress."
Koetting owns a business that provides security guards, all Military veterans, to several dispensaries around the valley. While neither he nor his employees use cannabis due to restrictions around being licensed to carry a firearm, he's become more of an advocate for its use to help treat some of the ailments for which he sees his fellow veterans coming to the dispensaries.
"It's exciting to watch as well, too, because it seems like it's helping people," Koetting said. "It seems like it's helping guys that I know."

H.R. 2359, the Whole Veteran Act

HR 2359, the Whole Veteran Act, would require VA to report on access and availability of several complementary and integrative medicine practices, including: massage; chiropractic services; acupuncture; meditation; yoga, Tai Chi or Oi sang; and Whole Health group services.

From Galápagos to Guam: US Military Bases are a Threat to Local Communities

This month I got two of the most distressing pieces of news I could imagine. The first was a headline: US to use Galápagos island as a military airfield. The second came from my grandmother: two of our family friends are in the end stages of Agent Orange poisoning.
I’m from Guam; one of the countless islands of the Pacific used by the United States military as a base. At just 8 miles wide and 30 miles long, about a third of our island is covered by military installations with more build-up expected. My family and my community know all too well what being used as an airfield means. 52,000 veterans have organized into the group Agent Orange Survivors of Guam to lobby for benefits related to their exposure to the infamous herbicide while serving in the Pacific.

Senators fight to add 'Lost 74' sailors to Vietnam memorial

The effort to add 74 more names to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall got one step closer in the Senate on Wednesday, even as the federal bureaucracy pushed back against the idea.
The bipartisan U.S.S. Frank E. Evans Act got its first major Senate hearing yesterday as senators on the National Parks Subcommittee made the case for why the names of the “Lost 74” sailors, who perished when their ship sank more than 100 miles outside the official Vietnam War theater in June 1969, should be added.
The destroyer participated in numerous combat support tours during the Vietnam War. Following one, the ship was sent to the South China Sea to participate in a Southeast Asia Treaty Organization allied exercise, where a training accident in the middle of the night resulted in the ship being cut in half by the Australian HMAS Melbourne. Seventy-four sailors died, and only one body was recovered.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


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

August 7, 2019
Jacksonville, Florida
Contact: Char Miller

October 19, 2019
Portland, Oregon
Contact: Steve Carr


Forty years later, taxpayers still are on the hook for the U.S. role in the Vietnam war, with Congress doling out more than $400 million in the last two and a half decades, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
And it may be more decades yet before the funding stops, according to the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan service for members of Congress.
CRS says the problem is all the unexploded ordnance that remains in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
 “Over the past 25 years the United States has provided a total of over $400 million in assistance for UXO clearance and related activities in those three countries through the Department of Defense, Department of State, and United States Agency for International Development, as well as funding for treatment of victims through USAID and the Leahy War Victims fund,” the service reported this week.
“Many observers believe it may still take decades to clear the affected areas.”

Friday, June 14, 2019

Hundreds of Vietnam veterans who died because of Agent Orange exposure will be memorialized Saturday

Thousands of Vietnam veterans have died of complications from exposure to the toxic herbicide Agent Orange since the war ended.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) "In Memory" program honors those veterans and others who died since returning home from the war but are not eligible for inscription on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall.
Each year, the VVMF hosts an "In Memory" ceremony for those veterans, inducting them into the program and reading their names on the East Knoll of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
This year, 534 veterans whose lives were cut short because of their service in Vietnam will be honored. To see a list of their names, click here. More than 400 of those 534 honored this year died because of Agent Orange exposure.
 “There are more than 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; names of men and women who died on the battlefield of the Vietnam War. Those men and women are honored on a daily basis by everyone who sees The Wall. There are many thousands more who died as a result of the Vietnam War, but their deaths do not fit the Department of Defense criteria for inclusion on The Wall," said Jim Knotts, president, and CEO of VVMF.
"VVMF’s 'In Memory' program honors those veterans, many of whom came home to fight a whole new battle and never fully recovered either physically or emotionally. It is our duty to make sure their sacrifice is never forgotten."