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’

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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. 
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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.

7 stress resources Veterans can use right now

VA offers a variety of mental health resources for Veterans, family members, and friends
As a Veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that Veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.

VA Home Loan Limits Disappear, Fees Rise

If you’ve served in the military, this year ushers in some big home loan changes to put on your radar.
Veterans and active-duty service members will have more borrowing power but will pay higher fees for new VA home loans in 2020.
The changes are part of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, which became effective Jan. 1, 2020.  Besides extending disability benefits to more Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange, the new law eliminates VA loan limits for borrowers with full entitlement to VA loans. It also increases the VA funding fee for most borrowers. (The fee decreases slightly for National Guard and Reserve members.)
VA home loans are a benefit for current and veteran service members. They have competitive interest rates and usually no down payment requirement, among other advantages. VA loan limits are the maximum loan amount the Department of Veterans Affairs can guarantee without borrowers making a down payment. VA funding fees are one-time fees borrowers pay in lieu of mortgage insurance to help cover the government’s costs for backing the loans. If a borrower defaults, the VA repays the lender a portion of the loan.