Tuesday, February 18, 2020

A Legal Lion Lays Down His Gavel With a Ruling of ‘Love, Not Hate’

After 53 years as a federal judge in Brooklyn, Jack B. Weinstein is retiring. He still has a stubborn belief in the American future.
For more than half a century, Judge Jack B. Weinstein was the quintessential activist jurist, using his longtime perch on the federal bench in Brooklyn to champion causes like gun control and school desegregation. In his career — one of the longest in American legal history — he carved out a niche as both a liberal hero and, not surprisingly, a bane for conservatives. 
Last week, at age 98, Judge Weinstein announced his retirement, saying he no longer had the stamina to perform his daily duties. In an interview with The New York Times, he looked back over a tenure so packed with accolades that his résumé now runs to more than 70 pages. He said his unremitting hope and faith in the judicial system remained intact even in the current polarized political climate.
 “I’m convinced our country is bound to equalize, democratize and to save with love, not hate,” he said.
Born in Kansas in 1921, Judge Weinstein earned his law degree in 1948 from Columbia University after playing bit parts on Broadway and serving as a submarine officer in the Pacific theater during World War II.
In his early years as a lawyer, he helped write legal briefs in the landmark civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education. After he was named to the bench in 1967 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, he presided over groundbreaking mass tort cases involving the use of asbestos and the Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange.
At the height of his career, Judge Weinstein, who is known for his impressive eyebrows and his iconoclastic temperament, handled several high-profile Mafia cases, including the prosecution of Vincent Gigante, known as the Chin, the former boss of the Genovese crime family. A stickler for propriety, Judge Weinstein once ordered the mob don, famous for dressing in his bathrobe, to shower and spruce up when he came to court.

Senators want defense secretary’s support in adding “Lost 74” sailors to Vietnam Memorial

A group of senators asked the secretary of defense to meet with them as part of their bipartisan effort to add the names of the “Lost 74” sailors to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
The USS Frank E. Evans, a naval destroyer that had just completed a combat tour off Vietnam’s coast and was scheduled to return, sank during a training exercise in June 1969. Seventy-four sailors drowned, and only one body was recovered. For decades, survivors and families have fought to add the names of the perished sailors to the iconic granite wall in Washington, D.C. But the Pentagon opposes the effort since the incident occurred over 100 miles outside the designated Vietnam War theater.
But a dozen senators from both parties sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday asking to meet with him to end the Pentagon’s resistance.
 “The Defense Department has a mixed, if not negative, record with regards to honoring the names of those who died in the sinking of the USS Frank E. Evans by adding them to the Vietnam Memorial Wall,” GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, who helped lead the effort as a congressman and now as a freshman senator, told the Washington Examiner. “Bureaucrats and middlemen have stood in the way, offering excuses each time. We hope to personally convey the Lost 74’s case to Secretary Esper and gain his support.”
The letter to Esper was signed by six Republican senators — Cramer, Susan Collins of Maine, Steve Daines of Montana, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Michael Rounds of South Dakota, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. Six Democrats signed on as well: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Doug Jones of Alabama, and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
 “We write to request a meeting with you to discuss adding the names of the 74 sailors lost aboard the USS Frank E. Evans on June 3, 1969 to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The legacy of these brave Americans, the ‘Lost 74,’ should no longer go unrecognized due to an arbitrary line on a map,” the group told Esper. “Last year marked 50 years since we lost these 74 sailors. Honoring the sacrifice of these 74 sailors alongside the nearly 60,000 other service members who died in Vietnam is long overdue.”

Thursday, February 13, 2020

February 13, 1995, Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi

VA’s Dr. Paul Lawrence discusses benefits for Navy vets exposed to Agent Orange

After a long argument, Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs opted to grant benefits to Navy veterans whose ship duties during the Vietnam War might have exposed them to agent orange. The job of administering benefits fell to the Veterans Benefits Administration. Visiting Federal Drive with Tom Temin in studio to explain a program that got underway last month, the VA undersecretary for veterans benefits, Dr. Paul Lawrence.
Interview Transcript:
Dr. Paul Lawrence: The president, on June 25th of last year signed the Blue Water Navy Act Vietnam Veterans Act to provide Agent Orange benefits to those folks who had been in the blue waters 12 nautical miles off the shore of Vietnam during the conflict. So if you’ve been exposed to Agent Orange and you have some of the conditions, now you can have access to both health care and benefits. So it resolves a long running dispute. What exactly was the Republic of Vietnam? The interesting thing about this law was once it was signed, the Secretary was allowed to stay it, pause it for six months while we got ready so that we could be ready on January 1st. There was a great deal of concern that wouldn’t be ready. But we were ready and we began granting on January 1st. We’ve been doing that now for a little more than six weeks. We’ve gotten about 18,000 claims. We’ve granted about 1000. You know, survivors benefits is real important. As you could imagine, a lot of veterans from Vietnam are older. They may have passed, for conditions perhaps. Their families can apply for benefits.
Tom Temin: I want to get to some of the issues concerned with how long ago that was. But before we do, is this anyone who can prove they were in the Blue Water Navy in ships that carried this material back and forth? Is that all that’s needed to be able to get these benefits.
Dr. Paul Lawrence: We will find your ship, so the veterans don’t have to prove they were there. They have to have the conditions, and they’re listed on our website VA.gov, search blue water. You can find the conditions. If you have conditions and you were in service off there, your record shows us where you were. We’ll find the ship you were on.  It’s not so much your ships carry the Agent Orange, it is that it made its way into the water, then the water made its way onto the ships. That’s the thinking.

Tom Temin:  I guess which can happen in literal waters. Things splash.

Legal Win Is Too Late for Many Who Got Cancer After Nuclear Clean-Up

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — On Christmas Eve, Victor Skaar mailed a stack of letters to Air Force veterans he had served with in Palomares, Spain, scrawling a simple headline at the top of each one: “Great News!”
Mr. Skaar, a retired chief master sergeant, was one of 1,600 troops scrambled by the Air Force in 1966 to clean up a classified nuclear disaster by collecting debris and shoveling up plutonium-laced soil. Many were later stricken with cancer and other ailments, and tried without success to get the federal government to take responsibility and pay for their medical care.
He wanted to spread the word about an encouraging development: A lawsuit he had filed against the Department of Veterans Affairs had been certified as a class action, meaning that there was finally a chance to set the plutonium case straight, not just for him but for everyone who was there.
But his letters soon began trickling back to him: Undeliverable. No forwarding address. One brought a reply from a widow. Each one in his mailbox made his heart sink.
 “For many of them, it’s too late,” he said of his comrades. “They’re gone.”
As one of the first cases ever granted class-action status by the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the Skaar lawsuit represents a major step forward for veterans with long-term health issues linked to toxic exposure in the service. 

Veteran groups to Trump: Make VA 'immediately' provide benefits for additional Agent Orange-linked diseases

Thousands of veterans have died or suffered from illnesses likely caused or worsened by Agent Orange exposure.
Now, after multiple delays from the Department of Veterans Affairs, veteran service organizations (VSOs) are calling on President Donald Trump to put an end to the wait.
"The continued delayed action by VA is causing additional suffering for Vietnam veterans and their families. We urge you to take action and to end the wait, needless suffering and disappointment for an entire generation of veterans," VSOs, including Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Military Officers Association of America, Fleet reserve Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America and AMVETS, wrote in a letter to the president Monday.
Last year and again just last month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said he planned to delay his decision on adding four illnesses to the list of diseases VA covers related to exposure to the toxic herbicide.  The U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of multiple herbicides over Vietnam from 1961 to 1971, including Agent Orange.
Wilkie said he and other VA leaders disagreed with scientists' findings that link Agent Orange exposure to bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms. He plans to wait for two more VA studies to conclude and publish before making a decision, pushing things until late 2020, at the earliest.
Expanding the list of health conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange exposure could provide disability pay and health benefits to more than 83,000 veterans, to the tune of  $15.2 billion, according to VA. 

Rise in sulfur dioxide could be sign of mass cremations in Wuhan

Publicly available satellite images from NASA's Fire Information for Rescue Management System (FIRMS) show dramatically increased open-air fires during the period of the Wuhan virus outbreak from Jan. 11 to Feb. 11, versus the month of October, 2019.
The image below shows open-air fires in Wuhan (LAT 30.5, LON 114.6) in October 2019, which precedes the earliest reported cases of the disease. In this image, a few scattered fires in dark blue signifying a "fire radiative power" (FRP) of 1 and light blue, signifying an FRP of 5 can be seen.
A staffer from a funeral home in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, claims that the number of bodies she and her co-workers have had to transport and cremate each day is four to five times higher than the usual amount. Based on the account of the Wuhan funeral home staffer, the daily average number of bodies suspected of being coronavirus victims is estimated at 225, or 4,725 bodies, at a single Wuhan funeral home since Jan. 22.
There currently are eight registered funeral homes in Wuhan. If the account of the funeral home staffer is true, this would mean there are 1,628 deaths per day in the city and 34,200 over the past 21 days.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Wars continue to poison

In a recent Chronicle article, “The Poison of war,” I covered the impact of Agent Orange exposure to our veterans during the Vietnam War. It was tremendous to have so many people contact me about the information I provided on our suffering and
America’s delays in responding to our illnesses and those of family members. Nearly all of whom spoke or wrote to me said they had no idea the impact of the poisoning to our military personnel and their families by Agent Orange.
During those conversations, I asked quite a few of them if they knew about the problems of burn pit exposures during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom impacting the health of veterans serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nearly every single person did not know about it, or knew very little. Therefore, I decided to write this article to inform everyone about burn pits and how they are impacting the health of today’s veterans.
What is a burn pit? Military sites used open-air fires to destroy their trash at locations in Iraq and Afghanistan, causing smoke and fumes to be inhaled by military personnel in the area at the large pits run by U.S. military and civilian contractors. Joint Base Balad, the largest U.S. base in Iraq and one of hundreds of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq where trash was burned in open pits for years, had a burn pit operation burning nearly 200 tons of waste per day. The base was churning out three times more garbage than Juneau, Alaska, which had a comparable population. JP4 jet fuel was a favorite trash igniter and it released clouds of benzene, a known carcinogen, while the smoke contamination consisted of plastics, batteries, appliances, medicine, and dead animals.

Senator quizzes VA about delaying Agent Orange decision

WASHINGTON — Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, urged a top Department of Veterans Affairs health official Wednesday to fast-track benefits for Vietnam War veterans suffering from multiple diseases thought to be caused by the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
After years of indecision, the agency is still wavering on whether to add bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, hypertension and Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the list of conditions presumed to be caused by Agent Orange. Being on the presumptive list lowers the burden of proof for veterans who suffer from the diseases to receive VA benefits.
Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said in March that he would make a recommendation about the diseases to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie within 90 days. As of Wednesday, Wilkie had not yet decided whether to act on them.
 “We have not forgotten,” Brown said. “We find the department’s response deficient. The science is there, and veterans deserve their benefits. You need to move on that.”

‘Ready to help:’ VA asks sick veterans from toxic ‘black goo’ base to come forward

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie acknowledged publicly Wednesday that service members who deployed to a Uzbekistan base used after the 9/11 attacks may have been exposed to toxic substances, asking for them to come forward to get help.
 “Several years ago our soldiers, sailors, airmen in particular started seeing ‘black goo’ come up from the ground. We are working with the Department of Defense to get to the bottom of that,” said Wilkie, who was speaking at the National Press Club and took questions from reporters.
In December, McClatchy exclusively reported that the Pentagon knew about contamination at the Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan base, known as “K2,” before it deployed thousands of forces there. The Pentagon used K2 to launch airstrikes and support operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. Beyond the black goo, which may have been fuels and other solvents, McClatchy also uncovered documents showing that the Pentagon knew the base had been contaminated by enriched uranium and chemical weapons remnants.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

New list of Agent Orange test and storage sites omits more than 40 previously identified locations

The Department of Defense has released a new list of locations outside Vietnam where herbicides like Agent Orange were tested and stored, a compilation that could provide some veterans proof of exposure needed to support their VA disability claims.
But the list, published Jan. 27 by the Department of Veterans Affairs, omits more than 40 locations previously noted as exposure sites by DoD in 2018 — deletions that could undermine other veterans’ pending claims.
The new DoD list contains nearly 150 testing and storage locations, with updates that include specific dates of release or containment, as well as 26 additions, including places like Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and Johnston Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean.
But it deletes or alters at least 50 previously identified locations, removing some dates and omitting testing sites like Hawaii, where the DoD previously said field tests were conducted, Puerto Rico, where herbicides were sprayed in forests between 1956 and 1967, and locations in Korea where components were stored.
And while the new list contains six locations in Thailand, it adds a new clarification to those locations’ descriptions: “No herbicide was sprayed in Thailand.”

SDIT Father’s Day 2020

Registration Closes – March 31, 2020

EXCLUSIVE: Families and workers affected by Agent Orange herbicides seek compensation

Please note, this story contains the names and images of people who have died.
A compensation scheme is being requested from the Western Australian Government today for families affected by workers exposed to Agent Orange herbicides used by the Agricultural Protection Board (APB) in the 1970s and 1980s.
The National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project (NSPTRP) launched the campaign this morning, calling for the McGowan Government to set up a dedicated fund for families, spouses and individuals still caring for those who were exposed to the herbicide as well as relatives of deceased former workers.
 “We are dealing with people affected by the herbicides. The Geoff Gallop Government acknowledged that there was increased likelihood of cancers to exposed APB workers from the Agent Orange akin herbicides,” said Megan Krakouer, Director of the NSPTRP.

Strides in Vietnam – US relations

NDO – Although 25 years is not a long time in the history of the bilateral diplomatic relationship, Vietnam and the US have gained substantial results in cooperation, which have impressed the international community. Overcoming the difficult times after the war, the two countries have become reliable partners based on equality and mutual respect.
Vietnam and the US are implementing activities to celebrate the 25th founding anniversary of diplomatic relations (1995-2020). At the launching ceremony recently held in Washington DC, Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Ha Kim Ngoc stressed that, 25 years after the establishment of diplomatic ties and seven years after the establishment of their comprehensive partnership, Vietnam-US relations have seen robust development in many key areas of cooperation, ranging from politics-diplomacy, economy-trade-investment, science-technology, education-training, and settlement of post-war consequences to defence-security, locality-to-locality relations, and people-to-people exchanges.
Leaders of the two countries have regularly exchanged visits with commitments to respect each other’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and political regimes. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc was the first leader of an ASEAN country to visit the US after US President Donald Trump took office, while President Trump was the first US President to visit Vietnam twice during his tenure.

VA Eliminates Max Loan Limits For Veterans

VA loans are a godsend for veterans looking to buy a house. Between not having to pay a down payment, the low interest rates, and the lack of mortgage interest, these loans offer just about the best terms around. The one downside to VA loans has been the loan limits. But that’s no longer a problem.
As of January 1, 2020, the VA has removed the maximum limit on home prices as part of The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act. Previously, the limit, which was set by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and which was subject to an annual adjustment, was $484,350 for most of the country. That meant that if a home was over the limit, the buyer was subject to a down payment. That cash down payment had to be “enough to cover 25% of the difference between the purchase price and the FHA limit,” said Military.com.
With the limit removed, military buyers can now purchase a home at any price without having to come up with a down payment. “This is good news for borrowers in high-priced metros,” said The Mortgage Reports. “Previously, veterans buying in areas like New York, Los Angeles, D.C., and Seattle, were at risk of exceeding zero-down VA loan limits.”
However, because the VA doesn’t lend the funds itself, there still may be a limit imposed by the lending institution. “The lender may still issue a cap and deny a large loan. But the denial won’t be due to VA home loan rules.”

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa

Some of you have noticed that AOZ is back on the air after several weeks of running dark.
Some others of you are wondering why in the Hell you received an email from the Agent Orange Zone.
My sincere apologies to all of you.
In the transition, to the new look,the mail list fell into the SNAFU basket.
To the first group, stick around, I’m making some changes after nearly 11 years with the same marquee. As you can probably tell, the new look is “in progress.” Please bear with me.
To those in the second group, please UNSUBSCRIBE if you like, no offense taken. 
If you like what you see, or you have a friend or neighbor who is a Vietnam Veteran who is ill, or whose grandchildren are sick, please forward this to him or her.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding.


Two extremely important VA Forms (VBA-21-0845-ARE.pdf and VA 40-1007.pdf), that all veterans should fill in and submit to VA, asap.

If you don't, your beneficiary will not be able to talk to the VA - (Authorization to Disclose Personal Information to a Third Party).

And, secondly, the APPLICATION FOR PRE-NEED DETERMINATION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR BURIAL IN A VA NATIONAL CEMETERY. This will save your survivors some of the red tape/hassle.

What are the obstacles to Bayer settling Roundup lawsuits?

(Reuters) - Bayer AG is in mediation to potentially settle thousands of U.S. lawsuits claiming that the company’s Roundup weed killer causes cancer, but some legal experts said the cases raises novel questions that may prevent an easy settlement.
More than 42,700 plaintiffs claim Roundup causes a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Bayer to date has lost three U.S. jury trials in the Roundup litigation. The company is appealing or has vowed to appeal the decisions, saying Roundup and its active ingredient glyphosate are not carcinogenic
Legal experts outlined several obstacles the parties may face on the path towards settlement.
Settlements involving drugs, medical devices or consumer goods often result in the addition of a warning label, a recall or the outright discontinuance of a product. Those steps generally close the door to future lawsuits, making settlement costs and risks predictable.
Bayer has never publicly considered pulling Roundup off the market. The company in June announced a $5.6 billion investment to research and develop a glyphosate alternative.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

VA disputes science panel’s findings on proposed Agent Orange diseases; decision not expected until late 2020

Under pressure from Congress to determine whether to add four diseases to the list of Agent Orange-related conditions, Department of Veterans Affairs officials have disputed a scientific panel’s findings and said they will wait for additional research to conclude before making what could be a $15.2 billion decision.
In a report sent to the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees on Monday, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said VA experts “noted significant concerns and limitations” with several National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, or NASEM, reports concluding that there is suggestive or sufficient evidence linking development of bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s-like tremors and hypertension to exposure to herbicides for defoliation in the Vietnam War.
According to Wilkie, NASEM did not identify any “definitive causal links” between Agent Orange and the diseases, and at least two — hypertension and bladder cancer — have other risk factors besides herbicide exposure, such as age, diet and tobacco use, that can contribute to their development.
White House responsible for delayed decision on new Agent Orange diseases, documents show
Internal documents reveal the disagreements within the Trump administration over adding new Agent Orange-connected diseases.
Also, Wilkie said, members of the NASEM panel, in drawing their conclusions, relied heavily on studies of Army Chemical Corps members “with known high occupational exposure” that don’t necessarily reflect the experience of most U.S. troops in Vietnam.
Given the concerns and the cost, which according to VA could run between $11.2 billion and $15.2 billion, depending on interpretations of a court ruling, VA is waiting for the results of its own studies, expected later this year, to announce any decision, the report says.

VA releases updated DOD list identifying Agent Orange sites outside of Vietnam

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has released an updated Department of Defense (DOD) list of locations outside of Vietnam where tactical herbicides were used, tested or stored by the United States military.
 “This update was necessary to improve accuracy and communication of information,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “VA depends on DOD to provide information regarding in-service environmental exposure for disability claims based on exposure to herbicides outside of Vietnam.”
Thorough review
DOD conducted a thorough review of research, reports and government publications in response to a November 2018 Government Accountability Office report.
 “DOD will continue to be responsive to the needs of our interagency partners in all matters related to taking care of both current and former service members,” said Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper. “The updated list includes Agents Orange, Pink, Green, Purple, Blue and White, and other chemicals and will be updated as verifiable information becomes available.”
Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during service may be eligible for a variety of VA benefits, including an Agent Orange Registry health exam, health care and disability compensation for diseases associated with exposure. Their dependents and survivors also may be eligible for benefits.

Korean immigrants who fought with U.S. in Vietnam would get healthcare under new bill

Jason Hong was just 23 when he left his home in South Korea to join some 325,000 Korean soldiers who would fight as allies alongside American troops throughout the Vietnam War.
By the time Hong and other members of his Blue Dragon infantry marine division left the battlefield, in 1969, his hearing was damaged by two years of listening to bombs explode a heartbeat away. And those hearing problems have only worsened now that Hong is a 75-year-old American citizen living in Cerritos.
Half a century later, Hong could get help with the treatments and pricey hearing devices he needs if a new federal bill championed by congress members from Southern California becomes law. U.S. House Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Yorba Linda, on Thursday introduced his Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue for Relief Act, also called the Korean American VALOR Act.
The bill would give the estimated 3,000 Korean immigrants who fought in the Vietnam War and have become naturalized U.S. citizens access to the same medical care that other American veterans receive through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Thailand veterans contend they are scientific evidence VA claims it needs to grant benefits

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A top VA official in the Tampa Bay area told 8 On Your Side this week the Department of Veterans Affairs has come a long way.
Margarita Devlin, principal deputy undersecretary for veterans benefits contends there is no longer a huge back-log of veterans waiting for their claims to be processed and completed.
However, claims languish for veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War and were exposed to a dangerous herbicide known as Agent Orange.
Most U.S. bombing missions over North Vietnam originated in Thailand.
Tampa Veterans like Dan Tolly and Paul Devane supported the war effort from Thai bases.
At Korat, Paul remembers the toxic herbicide Agent Orange landed on him as he worked near the flight line.
 “It just floats onto you and you can feel it when it hits your skin because it is an oily substance you can’t wipe it off,” Paul explained.
Dan Tolly’s missile shop at Ubon was close to the heavily sprayed perimeter.
 “It was like less than a hundred feet away,” Dan remembered.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Thousands of Korean-American veterans could get VA care under new bill

WASHINGTON — Thousands of Korean-American veterans could be eligible for health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs if a new bill introduced in the House granting them federal care is approved.
The Korean American Vietnam Allies Long Overdue for Relief Act, introduced last week by Rep. Gil Cisneros, D-Calif., would entitle roughly 3,000 Korean American veterans, who are naturalized citizens, access to health care through the VA. So far, only naturalized foreign troops from World War I and World War II have been allowed to receive care at VA facilities, according to the department. 
 “Korean American Vietnam Veterans may have served under a different flag during the Vietnam War, but they served with the same duty, honor, and valor as our United States service members,” Cisneros, who serves on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in a statement.
Korean Americans suffered from the same injuries as American troops in the Vietnam War, including post-traumatic stress disorder and exposure to the chemical herbicide Agent Orange.
However, despite becoming naturalized citizens, they are not recognized as U.S. veterans because they served in the Korean military during the war. Additionally, since South Korea considers them foreign nationals, their access to benefits in that country is limited.

Trump says he doesn’t consider brain injuries sustained by US troops during Iran missile barrage ‘serious’

President Trump said Wednesday that he didn’t consider the traumatic brain injuries reported by U.S. troops following an Iranian rocket attack to be serious.
On Friday, more than a week after Pentagon officials reported no injuries in a rocket attack on an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops, reports surfaced that 11 service members had been flown out of the country to treat persistent symptoms of traumatic brain injury. Tuesday, military officials acknowledged even more troops were being evaluated for injuries.
 “I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things,” he told a reporter during a press conference at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. “But I would say, and I can report, that it is not very serious.”
Officials clarified Friday that they were unaware of the concussions until Thursday evening, and that they would be updating reporting procedures for possible TBIs.
The Defense Department has been grappling with the issue of TBI throughout the Global War on Terror, as the sometimes invisible injury can be hard to detect, service members can be reluctant to report their suffering and the long-term damage can wreak havoc on mental and behavioral health.
Concussion, or mild traumatic brain injury, TBI, has been the most common serious injury to U.S. military personnel since 2000, with more than 408,000 cases diagnosed.
While most people who suffer concussion recover within seven to 10 days with appropriate treatment, severe or multiple concussions can have lingering and even lasting or progressive effects such as degeneration or brain changes that put aging veterans at risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions, according to researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System. 

Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act claims now being determined

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will begin deciding claims for the  Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 at 12:01 a.m., Philippine Standard Time, Jan. 1, 2020, as the the Philippines is the farthest east VA regional benefits office.
The Act extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, that include toxins such as Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
Signed into law Jun. 25, the law specifically affects Blue Water Navy (BWN) Veterans who served no more than 12 nautical miles offshore of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 6, 1962 and May 7, 1975, as well as Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between Jan. 1, 1967 and Aug. 31, 1971. These Veterans can now apply for disability compensation and other benefits if they have since developed one of 14 conditions that are presumed to be related to exposure to herbicides. Veterans do not need to prove that they were exposed to herbicides. The specific conditions can be found by searching the term “Agent Orange” on www.va.gov.
 “For six months, VA worked diligently to gather and digitize records from the National Archives and Records Administration to support faster claims decisions,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “These efforts will positively impact the claims process for Veterans filing for these benefits.”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


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Jon Stewart joins the fight to help veterans exposed to toxic chemicals from cremation pits

Comedian Jon Stewart has teamed up with veteran groups to ensure that service members infected with combustion pit toxins receive the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
“Frankly, this isn’t just about fire pits – it’s about the way we go to war as a country,” said Stewart when he visited Washington, DC on January 17. “We always have money to make war. We always have to.” Have money to care for what happens to people who are selfless and patriotic enough to wage these wars for us.
Stewart traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with MOAA and other veteran groups that make up the toxic exposures in the American military coalition, a MOAA press release said.
Formerly prevalent in the United States, cremation pits are believed to have led to cancer, skin and respiratory problems among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As of January 6, a total of 192,000 veterans and service members reported health issues that they believed to be related to their operations by participating in the Ministry of Veterans Airborne Hazard Register and Open Pit.
 “We want to make sure we do it wisely,” said Stewart on January 17. “We won’t take a lot of pictures with that.” After all that you’ve given, you should do the last thing you should do is fight the country that you’ve given so much to. That makes no sense.”
Stewart has long been a lawyer for troops, police officers, firefighters, and others who have become ill as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals. Last year, he helped shame Congress to permanently re-authorize the Victims Compensation Fund on September 11th. He pays claims to first-aiders who have become ill or have died as a result of their work at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
At the January 17 meeting, Stewart thanked the Vietnam veterans present for the fighting to ensure that the troops exposed to Agent Orange were finally receiving related disease care.
 “They were the pioneers of the idea that chemicals and toxicity … had a terrible impact on everyone who fought there,” said Stewart. “And you had to fight and keep fighting so that the next generations didn’t have to do that.”

Friday, January 17, 2020


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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The greater threat to military veterans: An invisible enemy or broken promises?

Right now, there’s a soldier or Marine who deployed to Iraq as the new year rolled in and tensions escalated between the U.S. and Iran. That service member was trained to dismount and return fire during convoy ambushes, take cover during airstrikes, and detect improvised explosives during patrols. He can confidently engage the enemy at any phase within the continuum of combat, from indirect fire to a knife fight.
No enemy is too formidable to defeat, at least in his mind. But he’s wrong.
There’s one enemy he faces that he is not trained to fight, much less defeat. An enemy that respects no battle positions, needs no grid coordinates to strike, and avoids no confrontation or foe. In fact, this particular enemy is a byproduct of America’s edge in manpower and technological superiority. A veritable product of the environment in which fighting occurs. One that has killed more Americans by the droves than any other enemy since the dawn of modern-day warfare. That enemy is toxic environmental exposure.
Toxic environmental exposure, within the context of this commentary, does not refer to every possible hazard or contaminant that a service member might encounter. Some are unavoidable occupational risks that are incidental to military service. High intensity noise, inoculations for certain geographically concentrated diseases such as malaria, natural airborne particles like sand and dust, and extreme heat and cold, just to name a few. As if those weren’t bad enough, however, some toxic exposures are of the self-inflicted variety. Evils with downstream consequences, necessitated by a perceived, more immediate greater good. In other words, a “win now, pay later” problem, where the “pay” part often comes with conditions, after the fact, that beg the questions of who ultimately wins in the end and whether it was worth the cost.
Case in point, once military generals figured out that removing foliage in the jungles of Vietnam would make it easier to spot enemy troop movements and positions from the air, a dioxin called Agent Orange was widely used to kill the foliage and, in turn, detect and hit a more visible enemy. But it would also kill an estimated 2.8 million U.S. veterans from diseases as a result of handling, breathing, and unwittingly consuming the dioxin. It would take the government decades to finally own up to the problem, when Congress passed and President George H. W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act of 1991. This federal law required the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to award benefits to veterans who were diagnosed with certain diseases and served on active duty in the Republic of Vietnam during the recognized war time period.

Burn pit legislation passed by Congress could lead to improved accountability, better care for vets exposed to hazards

WASHINGTON — Veterans and lawmakers have been sounding the alarm for years that burn pits could be this generation’s Agent Orange, with potential health consequences for troops and the threat of delayed care and denied disability claims by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
This year, some lawmakers are looking into legislation to declare that veterans who served in certain locations were exposed, paving the way for easier VA disability claims. And the Pentagon has been tasked to close remaining pits and provide a comprehensive list of the sites used by the military.
It can be difficult to definitively link diseases to the military dump areas piled high with everything from plastics and medicine to scrapped equipment and human waste.
Reid Guffey, 33, an Iraq War veteran, just finished chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer after three tours overseas. For one tour, the Marine had to sleep near a burn pit at al Asad Air Base in Anbar province. When he left the military, he said his VA disability rating wasn’t high enough to cover his cancer treatments.
 “I definitely have questions, I can’t say one way or another. But burn pits are definitely a concern of mine,” Guffey said. “I started doing research and saw other guys were getting sick.”
Veteran advocacy groups and some lawmakers have attributed cancers, respiratory diseases and other health issues to exposure to burn pits in combat zones, the Middle East and Africa.
 “It’s unfortunate and you want to blame somebody, but at the end of the day ... it’s life,” Guffey said. “But if something is going on that’s causing this, we need to stop it now. It seems a lot of people aren’t accepting the blame.”
There’s an information gap regarding how much exposure it takes to cause long-term health damage, which illnesses are related and which service members were exposed.
 “The difficulty in getting these conditions recognized is ... how do you know the service is related to the illness?” House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. said.
The Defense Department banned most burn pits in combat zones amid a whirlwind of lawsuits and claims from post-9/11 veterans that they were getting sick at a young age. The military today mostly uses clean-burning incinerators downrange. But the Pentagon policy makes allowances in areas where burn pits are the only feasible way of getting rid of waste.

Environment pollutants: A major cause of emerging infertility cases

Reproductive system is sensitive to variations in the environments. According to medical researches, metals and chemicals in the air, water, food and health harm fertility in many ways. The toxicants lead to inexorable reduction in sperm count in men while women undergo worse anovulation, loss of fetal capability and impaired implantation.
In the recent decades, the cases of infertility have amplified. Some report says environment pollutants adversely influence the mammalian fertility, semen quality and fertilization success rates in vitro fertilization (IVF). Humans are often exposed to a wide range of chemicals in their everyday environments. This deliberately impacts the fertility rate.
Infertility is said when the female is unable to conceive even after trying unprotected sex for 1 year. Infertility is a major concern today. We can see numerous cases of infertility these days. Even the artificial reproduction system is wedged these days, environment pollutants being one of the major reasons for this.
Impact of pollutants
Exposure to air pollutants such as particulate matter, ozone, sulphur dioxide, other volatile organic compounds leads to several health concerns, including reproductive system. These pollutants are negatively associated with the sperm quality of male. The reduced sperm quality further leads to less fertility.
In females, exposure to these pollutants leads to preterm birth or decreased fecundability. It also leads to endocrine disruption and impairing fertility.
Particular matter is one of the main pollutants that affect air quality. Particular matter has been found to be significantly associated with reduced fertility rates, reduced live birth and increased risk of miscarriage in IVF.
Exposure to dioxin
Talking broadly, contamination to health hazards in the environment causes major disorders in human reproductive system. Dioxin exposure leads to abnormal spermiograms in male. Maternal disclosure to dioxins is also associated with reduced fetal growth. This exposure is also associated with other negative reproductive factors in men and women with relative consistency.

Friday, January 10, 2020

New interactive map helps ‘blue water’ Vietnam veterans locate ship positions

A new interactive map could help ill Vietnam veterans who served on U.S. ships during the war determine whether they could be eligible for Agent Orange-related benefits.
A retired Navy chief radioman has teamed with a Florida-based law firm to make the map available to “blue water” Vietnam veterans, their widows and anyone interested in seeing where Navy and Coast Guard vessels served offshore during the decade-long conflict.
The information, said Ed Ball, director of research for Military Veterans Advocacy Inc., could be useful for determining whether a ship served in the waters designated by the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019.
The law, signed June 25 by President Donald Trump, allows former service members who served on a ship that operated within 12 nautical miles of a line of demarcation established by law and have an illness presumed related to herbicide exposure apply for health benefits and disability compensation.
Ball told Military Times he has worked on the map for four years, poring over Navy ship logs and plotting the vessels’ coordinates along with the dates the ships sailed within the designated zone.
By clicking through the map, for example, veterans can learn that the aircraft carrier America served within the limits in December 1972 near Da Nang. The Coast Guard high endurance cutter Bering Strait crossed into the designated waters once in 1968 and three times in 1970.
“Over 1,700 deck logs have been plotted to date, and we continue to add new information from the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association master list of deck logs,” Ball said.
The map is hosted by the disability law firm Hill & Ponton. Numerous law firms vie to assist veterans in drafting and filing disability claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs; many veterans service organizations provide similar assistance free of charge.
Matthew Hill, managing partner at the firm said Hill & Ponton decided to support Ball’s efforts to assist veterans.
 “Improving transparency and simplifying access to this data is essential as we support the Vietnam veterans … now suffering the effects” of Agent Orange exposure, Hill said in a release.