Sunday, September 26, 2010

Panel may rethink Agent Orange law
By DAVID ROGERS | 9/24/10 12:33 AM EDT

With costs mounting, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee is laying the groundwork for a second look at the landmark 1991 Agent Orange law that has governed nearly two-decades of disability claims related to the herbicide widely used in the Vietnam War.

That was the consistent theme of a hearing Thursday that featured testimony by Cabinet secretaries past and present about living under the law’s limits and navigating through the often vague scientific standards for judging what diseases qualify as service-connected claims.

Veterans Affairs Secy. Eric Shinseki strongly defended his controversial decision last year to add ischemic heart disease but allowed too that having just 60 days to reach a conclusion –as prescribed by the Agent Orange law— was “a bit constraining….a little challenging.”

Former VA Secretary Anthony Principi, whose decision to add type 2 diabetes in 2001 has since led to an explosion is claims, was more blunt, saying he had desperately wanted clearer scientific evidence to help him sort through confounding life style factors, like diet or smoking, which might contribute to an illness.

“It’s a greater challenge for secretaries, when you're dealing with the diabetes, the prostate cancer, because we know if we live long enough, we're going to die of prostate cancer, as well as heart disease,” Principi said. “And those confounding factors really make it very, very difficult for us”

Indeed, Agent Orange claims are a world turned-upside-down from decades ago when returning soldiers had to fight to get attention to deadly lymphomas linked to the herbicide. Now the more common frailties of men in their sixties—prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease—lead the list, and VA estimates that one out of every four surviving Vietnam veterans could soon be collecting payments for one Agent Orange claim or another.

The hearing brought some touching moments. Shinseki, who served himself in Vietnam, repeatedly referred to the infantry soldiers then as “the youngsters.”

Read more:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Different/New Tune?

Senator Burr Statement on Veterans Affairs’ Committee Hearing and His Meeting with Secretary Shinseki

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) released the following statement regarding this morning’s hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and his meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki regarding the care for American veterans exposed to Agent Orange:

“Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Secretary Shinseki to talk about VA’s implementation of coverage for veterans exposed to Agent Orange. I let him know that I asked Senator Isakson to serve as Acting Ranking Member for today’s Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, but we did speak for close to an hour about VA policy concerning the expansion of coverage for Vietnam veterans. I expressed my concerns to him regarding VA’s ability to implement the upcoming changes and process these claims. The Secretary addressed my concerns and answered all of my questions satisfactorily. At the end of our discussion I was convinced that he and his agency are prepared to handle these needed changes.”

Beware the Senator Who Speaks With Forked Tongue

By John Weiss , Vietnam Veterans of America Rhode Island State Council

Morning of 23 September 2010

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, the leading Republican on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said yesterday, as reported by the Associated Press, that he has “concerns about a proposal to spend billions of dollars on disability compensation for Vietnam veterans who get heart disease and wants to make sure that science supports the expansion of benefits.”

The “proposal” Burr is referring to is a decision by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, based on the recent National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine committee report, “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2008.”

A little history is in order: From 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam and elsewhere to defoliate the jungle canopy, to destroy crops, and to clear the perimeters of U.S. bases. These herbicides were sprayed from fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, trucks, and backpack sprayers. The drums that stored these chemicals were often recycled and put to various other uses, sometimes to collect rain water, to serve as barbecue grill, etc. Nearly three million veterans served in Southeast Asia .

Contained in these herbicides was dioxin, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-paradioxin—one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man.

On August 31, 2010, in the Federal Register, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the final rules amending the adjudication regulations concerning presumptive service connection, concluding that there was a positive association between exposure in Vietnam to certain herbicides and the subsequent development of three diseases: hairy cell leukemia & B-cell leukemias; Parkinson’s disease; and ischemic heart disease.

And for the first time in history, on September 23, Burr and his colleagues will call into question the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as outlined in the Agent Orange Act of 1991.

Recognizing that Burr was voted into the House of Representatives in 1994, it is obvious that he was not involved with the passage of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4), which passed the House and the Senate without a single nay vote. In fact, today, 19 years later, there are only 36 members of Congress still serving who voted for passage of this act in 1991.

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 acknowledges the culpability of toxic exposures in health conditions that manifested years after a veteran’s service. Included in the law is the authority for the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to, on a biannual basis, provide a review of all scientific studies and research on the association between dioxin and specific diseases; and include recommendations for future research.

The act further grants the Secretary of the VA the authority to determine if a presumption of service connection is warranted for any of the health conditions addressed in the report.

If Sen. Burr is uncomfortable with the Secretary’s determinations based on the National Academy of Sciences recommendations, perhaps he would be more comfortable with the finding of the U.S. Air Force Ranch Hand Study, conducted by the U.S. Air Force on those who participated in the aerial spraying program, as sited in the 1992 testimony of Dr. Barry L. Johnson, Assistant Surgeon General, before the House Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations:

A recent study on the health status of Vietnam veterans who participated in Operation Ranch Hand did not find any signs of liver disease, but did report increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol in the blood (a second report does not support these increases). In addition, an increase in body fat, diabetes, and blood pressure were also noted. These effects were strongly associated with TCDD levels in the serum. Ranch Hand veterans also had changes in blood (increased white blood cells, platelet, IgA, and sedimentation rates) which suggest a chronic inflammatory response, although no immunologic system diseases were identified. These immune system changes were also strongly associated with serum TCDD levels. These results differ from those reported in previous analyses of the Ranch Hand group in 1982 and 1985. The earlier analyses did not include an assessment of serum TCDD levels. A physical examination of Ranch Hand veterans is currently under way.

There is no doubt, that Burr, though too young to have faced conscription during the Vietnam Conflict, views himself as a supporter of those who served.

In fact, seven months ago, it was Sen. Burr who introduced a resolution recognizing March 30 as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” Proclaimed Burr, “There’s no question that our troops served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War, and these veterans deserve our recognition and gratitude. Unfortunately, when these service members returned home, they were caught in the crossfire of public debate about our nation's involvement in the war.”

Today, Vietnam veterans are again caught in the “crossfire of public debate,” as Burr and others balk at the price of providing for the continuing cost of care for those whom he and others recognize “served our country bravely and faithfully during the Vietnam War.”

Words of praise and gratitude do not cost anything. Veterans’ compensation for service-related health conditions do. Sen. Burr, which is it?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The True Cost(s) of the Blue Water Navy bills

from Paul Sutton and our friends at the Blue Water Navy Association

DVA did not acknowledge the need to remove sailors who have been given full presumption of exposure under the new Policy 211, for inland water service. In this program, any Blue Water Navy or Coast Guard vessel with any service on the rivers of Vietnam gained their entire crew the same benefits for herbicide as if they had “boots on ground.” These sailors need to be subtracted from any headcount that tallies the costs of HR-2254 and S-1939. Without counting any additional ships added after the first June (which should be a very significant number), we conclude about 22,500 fall into this new category.

It also appears that DVA could have counted full crews on each deployment of a ship serving offshore Vietnam, when in fact many of these were sailors previously counted and returned to Vietnam.

At any rate, the numbers, starting with head count then and now, and given as well over $10B over 10 years, were terribly wrong. BWN has prepared a spreadsheet that offers a more reasonable accounting. We note these numbers do not contain the costs for back-pay, DIC, or DVA overhead (which should appear in other operating costs). But our very liberal line items leave plenty of ‘fluff’ to these costs. If one were to triple our bottom line for the year 2020, one would still be 1/3 or less of the DVA’s projected costs.

Please see THE TRUE COST of The Agent Act of 2010 at for a spreadsheet showing BWN total costs; an explanation sheet that gives a line item justification for our chosen values; and a downloadable spreadsheet for those who wish to change the variables to see the impact on related project costs. We feel certain these clarifications will show the costs of HR-2254 and S-1939 in a more favorable, practical, and affordable light.

Monday, September 13, 2010

VA is a national disgrace: “They are routinely denying our military veterans benefits that we have earned on the battlefield”
- Houston has highest appeals rate in the U.S. as benefits claims set records -

Borrowing for war and not paying the servicemembers who fight

By Lindsey Wise at the Houston Chronicle

Despite an influx of funds and staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the backlog of claims for benefits continues to grow at a record pace in Houston and nationwide.

VA received 1 million claims in 2009 for the first time in the department’s 80-year history. In Houston, the situation has worsened since the Houston Chronicle first reported on the local impact of the backlog more than a year ago.

The number of veterans waiting for the Houston VA Regional Office to process their disability compensation claims jumped from about 19,000 this time last year to nearly 24,000, an increase of 25 percent.

Almost half of those claims have been pending for more than four months, compared to 37 percent nationwide.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Weight Loss Can Release the Toxins From Body Tissues

By John Gever, Senior Editor, MedPage Today
Published: September 09, 2010
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and
Dorothy Caputo, MA, RN, BC-ADM, CDE, Nurse Planner Earn CME/CE credit
for reading medical news
Action Points

* Point out that observational, cross-sectional studies cannot determine causality.

* Note also that the study did not examine whether there were deleterious health consequences due to changes in serum levels of organic pollutants that apparently were released from fat cells as a result of weight loss.

Environmental pollutants trapped in fat cells could be released back into circulation when people shed a lot of weight, researchers said.

According to data collected from among 1,099 adult participants age ≥40 in the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), serum concentrations of six persistent organic pollutants were significantly correlated with weight change, according to Duk-Hee Lee, MD, PhD, of Kyungpook National University in Daegu, Korea, and colleagues.

Adjusted correlation coefficients for 10-year weight changes ranged from -0.16 to -0.23 for the six pollutants, with slightly smaller coefficients found for one-year weight changes, the researchers reported online in the International Journal of Obesity.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

VA streamlines Agent Orange claims
Brad Mayes, Director, Boston Regional Office, VA

Many service members who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange while in Vietnam still live with its after-effects. That's why Veterans Affairs decided to streamline and speed up the process of settling claims of illness related to Agent Orange.

Brad Mayes, former Director of VA's Compensation and Pension Service, told Federal News Radio through the Federal Register, VA is "adding three new diseases to the list of conditions that are presumed to be service-connected as a result to exposure to the herbicide that we commonly refer to as Agent Orange."

According to a VA press release, those diseases are Parkinson's disease and ischemic heart disease and they are expanding chronic lymphocytic leukemia to include all chronic B cell leukemias, such as hairy cell leukemia. With this addition, 14 diseases now qualify for benefits for exposure to Agent Orange.

"In a nutshell," said Mayes, "what this regulation will do is make it easier for veterans to establish that these diseases are related to exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange."


Agent Orange Poisoning in Australian Veterans: They Suffer Too
Dr. Phillip Leveque

I hope the American System is more realistic about the hideous danger of Dioxins. It is unfortunate that Dioxins have no immediate or acute toxicity but a particular Australian writer we recently published is correct; it is almost certainly the most deadly chemical produced by man.
VC Base Camp
'VC Base Camp' Courtesy:

(MOLALLA, Ore.) - is very fortunate to have an Australian Veteran post this article for us and American Vietnam Veterans. It is one of the most educational but concise reviews I have seen on the subject.

I may have had among the first patients poisoned by the Dioxins in 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T in the world but I did not know it or about the Dioxins at the time.

In 1952 the Bonneville Power Company (BPC) was spraying 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T as a brush killer on the power line right-of-ways and the workman sprayers were getting pneumonia like illnesses. At the time, I had just obtained my M.S. in Chemistry and I was a Pharmacology/Toxicology graduate student in Oregon Medical School. I was possibly the best-trained Toxicologist in the U.S. at that time. I was taken on a grand tour of many BPC sites and spoke to many of the men and their clothes were soaked by the spray and they were coughing and spitting. I wrote a rather scathing report for BPC and their supervisor became unglued and asked my chairman “why does this young punk think that weed killers are harmful to people”. My boss told him, “he is possibly the only person in the U.S. who knows it”. I don’t think they made any changes and I’ll bet those guys died of their exposure.


Veterans May Receive More Disability Pay Linked to Agent Orange
Dallas, TX: In what might be welcome news to veterans who receive VA disability benefits, the list of conditions approved for benefits is about to get longer. The change concerns VA benefits and how they are given to veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The Department of Veterans Affairs says it will add more health problems to the list of conditions that can be linked to Agent Orange exposure—thereby allowing veterans who have these conditions and who were exposed to Agent Orange to be eligible for veterans' disability benefits.

Veterans May Receive More Disability Pay Linked to Agent OrangeThe Washington Post reported on 9/01/10 that approximately 270,000 Vietnam War veterans are being compensated for diabetes because they were exposed to Agent Orange.

According to the Washington Post, A 1991 federal law concerning Agent Orange states that officials should find a link between the chemical agent and a disease "if the credible evidence for the association is equal to or outweighs the credible evidence against association." Essentially, if more evidence suggests that Agent Orange is associated with a disease than that it is not associated with the disease, officials should find that Agent Orange is linked to the disease.

Agent Orange has already been linked to various cancers, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. New conditions that could be connected to Agent Orange include heart disease, Parkinson's disease, certain types of leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Meanwhile, families of soldiers who died have filed a lawsuit against Prudential Insurance Co. of America, alleging the company illegally profited off the dead soldiers' insurance benefits. According to the 8/13/10 edition of the New York Times, the lawsuit alleges Prudential kept life insurance benefits in the company's general account—thereby earning interest for itself—rather than handing those benefits over to the families immediately. Furthermore, when the money was given to the families, it was given with an interest rate of between 0.5 and 1.5 percent, while Prudential is alleged to have made between five percent and six percent off the funds.

Prudential has not commented on the lawsuit. A spokesperson said that accounts are readily available to the beneficiary and interest rates are similar to those in other banking arrangements.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating how Prudential handles benefits for soldiers' families.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

America has a cow over Alan Simpson's candor on deficits

By Dana Milbank
Sunday, September 5, 2010

There was a time, not too long ago, when a politician could talk about tits in public.

In 1992, Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, complained in a speech to the National Conference of State Legislatures about how Social Security, veterans benefits and other programs had made America "like a milk cow with 250 million tits." As best I can tell, the remark drew no attention or complaint.

Dear Mr. Milbank
By John Cory, Reader Supported News

05 September 10

I read your column today and was saddened by your defense of Alan Simpson and your belief that Vets and veteran’s benefits are “special interest groups … the real sucklings at the public teat …” I must have missed that in my Vietnam combat brochure.
I don’t know much about you, Mr. Milbank. I’m not a big reader of The Washington Post,but I did see a couple of YouTube videos that you and another fellow made in your smoking jackets and wingback chairs, ala Masterpiece Theatre. It wasn’t very funny, and neither is your article on behalf of the miserly skinflint.
You obviously agree with Simpson’s declaration, “The irony that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess.”
Translation: we don’t make war like we used to – too many survivors nowadays.
Of course, if you want to avoid the debt of paying veterans for their service to the country, maybe you all should stop making so many of them by waging endless dishonest wars. Just a thought.
I noticed you pointed out that Simpson was an Army veteran. Yes, he was. Maybe you read this People Magazine profile from 1991? He tells how he had problems. “They made me assistant adjutant of a regiment and I didn’t even know what I was doing …” Plagued by anxiety, high blood pressure and suffering a mild depression, Simpson was transferred to the infantry where he recovered by “being out in the woods and shooting again.” Of course that was 1955 Germany and no one was shooting back. And what lessons did Alan Simpson learn? Here are his words, “I couldn’t administer my way out of a paper bag. I could never be a governor or a President.”
And this is the guy you think is “spot on”? The guy you describe as, “The folksy and salty Simpson … has long been one of my favorites in politics.” Seriously? Wow.
Let me introduce you to a couple of other special interest “sucklings,” Mr. Milbank.
My old high school chum, Jim West was as gentle a soul, as you could ever know. But the Big Green changed him in ways that shocked even me when I first saw him on the Psych Ward at the VA Hospital where I worked after the war. On good days, Jim’s eyes danced with life and dreams and that warm easy smile. Other days his eyes were vacant as he sat still as stone, lost on a trail he humped out of nowhere toward somewhere but it never led anywhere.
I took Jim to the VA disability office to fight for his PTSD claim. But in those early days, PTSD was just a bunch of hippie Vietnam Vet crap to scam the government cause hippie vets were a bunch of babies who didn’t want to work for a living. I remember the man who looked us square in the eye and said, “That’s the trouble with you vets today, you want something for nothing. Get over it. Get a job. Move on.”
That VA “counselor” was not there the day we found Jim in his freezing cold apartment. Windows open to the winter. Jim crumpled on the floor. Alone. Suicide. A simple note: “Today, I’m not crazy anymore.”
When I suffered my first attack of peripheral neuropathy, the VA doctors spent two weeks drawing lines on my body – feeling side, numb side – and puzzling over cause. When I ended up bleeding from orifices you’re not supposed to bleed from the VA doctors once again were puzzled. No answers. Kind of crazy.
And then I learned about Paul Reutershan, who spent the last year of his life advocating for veterans, spreading the word about Agent Orange, battling for his band of brothers against Dow Chemical and the VA for care and disability benefits. He was 28 years old when he died in 1978. In his appearance on the Today Show earlier that year, Paul uttered those chilling words, “I died in Vietnam, but I didn’t even know it.”
When I sought help from the VA I was set aside and told it was no big deal. I got sprayed with a harmless chemical. Nothing to worry about. Call again if your symptoms reappear. Bye-bye. Don’t ask for money.
Years of Dow Chemical hiding data, fighting to keep its studies secret, and the federal government covering up the revelation that it had knowingly sprayed troops with a carcinogenic agent that could and would have long-term health issues for Vietnam Vets took years and decades to gain recognition and validation. Agent Orange is deadly and debilitating with a vast array of symptoms and diseases. My friends and brothers are dying long, lingering, painful deaths from service to their country – but perhaps it is not their country any longer.
If Alan Simpson and you, Mr. Milbank, think we Vietnam Vets are adding to the deficit of America then maybe America suffers a more serious deficit than money.
I made a new friend recently, an Iraq Veteran who has been battling the VA for disability benefits. She lost an eye and suffers TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) but she tells me the VA ratings system has the same attitude of the VA from my day. Veterans are trying to get something for nothing.
Support The Troops! – Until they come home. Then sweep them under the rug because as we all know – old soldiers never die, they just cost a lot.
Vietnam Vets battled, begged, and raised hell for recognition and treatment of PTSD and the lethal legacy of Agent Orange. We fought to be treated as equals to those WWII vets who used the VA and often received better care and higher preference than we did. We fought for our country only to spend forty years fighting for our rights and benefits at home. Be all you can be – but do it for free.
The new generation of constant unremitting war, repeated deployment and multiple tours of war and more war are going to come home to a country that was willing to enrich the defense industry, the chemical companies, write blank checks for bombs and drones and huge embassies and bases and no-bid contracts for corporations but cannot spare a dime for a veteran.
The coming wave of PTSD and TBI disabilities are the signature of Iraq and Afghanistan. The hundred-year war doesn’t stop in your head just because the bullets stop flying. The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Riots become habit. Close your eyes and watch your worst nightmares become midnight entertainment. Watch family become strangers. Watch friends shrivel and fade away from chemicals or depleted uranium or a dozen other unknown secrets of war.
Mr. Milbank, I hope you do something journalistic and investigate before you next endorse a miserly, arrogant man who sees himself as above “the lesser people” and more patriotic than “suckling” veterans. Or not.
Slogans are good. Snarky old guys are fun. I get it.
Not to worry, my friend Jim West never suckled on the teat of government. Neither did Paul Reutershan. They had the decency to pass over without becoming a financial burden on “good” government.
Patriotism on the cheap is cost effective.
Support The Troops – buy a Welcome Home greeting card.
Paul Reutershan died for the sins of war but he never forgot his brothers.
He never left a man behind.
How about you, Mr. Milbank?
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

US Veterans getting better compensation for Agent Orange exposure
Saturday, 04 September 2010 13:03
by Stephen Pate

The Royal Canadian Legion has become concerned about the budget allocated for Agent Orange compensation.

Letter to the Editor, Daily Gleaner – It would seem that the allocated funds, which have not all been spent through the ex-gratia payments made by the federal government as compensation for exposure to the chemical, will lapse with no benefits for veterans.

The legion was at the forefront in advocating for this compensation and applauded the federal government for its initiative on this issue.

But it was concerned on two fronts – the period of eligibility was much too restrictive, and the criteria to allocate these payments was much broader than the test applied to compensate veterans through the disability benefit system where the cause must be proven rather than inferred.

Regardless of our concerns on these issues, we considered this a good first step.

But we have lately reviewed our stance on this issue because the budget allocated was only partially spent, and that which is left over will not be used to fund benefits for veterans that can prove the damage caused by contact with this chemical.

In addition, the legion has since become aware that the United States Veterans Administration (USVA) is providing much broader disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to this chemical than Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).


VA Readies to Pay Claims for New Agent Orange Presumptives
By Tom Philpott
Special to Stars and Stripes

The Department of Veterans Affairs published its final regulation Aug. 31 for compensating Vietnam veterans with ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease or B-cell leukemia, or their surviving spouses.

Veterans diagnosed with these diseases only will have to show they stepped foot in Vietnam sometime from Jan. 9, 1962 through May 7, 1975, to qualify for service-connected disability ratings and compensation.

The first batch of payments will be made immediately after Oct. 30, when a required 60-day review period for Congress will expire.

As many as 93,000 veterans and survivors who filed claims previously for these conditions are in line for retroactive payments. Another 60,000 claims have been filed since Oct. 13, when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced that these diseases would be added to the list of ailments VA presumes are caused by wartime exposure to Agent Orange. VA projects that at least 150,000 more claims will be filed over the next 12 to 18 months.

In publishing the regulation, VA revealed that the price tag for adding these diseases to its Agent Orange presumptive list could be at least 50 percent higher, over the next 10 years, than the $42.2 billion VA uses.

VA calculated the lower estimate by applying incident rates for these diseases in the general population to the Vietnam veteran population. But Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), chairman of the veterans’ affairs committee, noted that Vietnam veterans are older. At his request, VA “age-adjusted” the incidence rate for heart disease alone and the cost jumped by $24 billion.

That figure would be even higher but VA officials, using newer data, lowered the average expected disability rating for heart disease from 60 percent down to 50 percent for Akaka’s age-adjusted calculation.

The resulting 10-year estimate of nearly $67 billion also doesn’t reflect the higher incidence of disease expected among Vietnam veterans due to Agent Orange. Still, VA officials said they remain satisfied with their original estimate of $42.2 billion.

The Akaka’s higher cost projection is sure to be raised at a Sept. 23 hearing where his committee will examine how the Agent Orange Act is being applied, and whether a finding by scientists of “limited or suggestive association” between these diseases and herbicide exposure is sufficient evidence to award disability compensation to any ailing Vietnam veteran.

To stop payments, both the Senate and House in this election year would have to pass a joint resolution to block the regulation. President Obama then would have to sign the resolution, after his own Office of Management and Budget spent the past two months studying the VA rule before finally approving it. So VA officials are preparing to make payments.

Here’s a rundown of how payments will be handled for categories of veterans and survivors. This information came from an interview Sept. 1 with Thomas Pamperin, associate deputy under secretary for policy and program management for the Veterans Benefit Administration, and Diana Rubens, associate deputy under secretary for field operations.

RETROACTIVE PAY – Because of a 25-year-old court ruling, Nehmer v. Department of Veterans Affairs, VA must review claims previously filed for these diseases and make payments retroactive to the claim date, or to the date of the Nehmer ruling, Sept. 25, 1985, whichever is later.

The 93,000 veterans and survivors so far identified as having filed a claim for one of these diseases don’t need to file another, said Pamperin. “We are going to review those cases on our own…back to the earliest date they claimed that disability — but not earlier than Nehmer — and will award benefits from that date.”

If the veteran is deceased, VA will award back pay to the surviving spouse. If no surviving spouse is found, the National Veterans Legal Services Program, which litigated the Nehmer decision, will help to identify someone else who might be eligible for the benefits.

Besides disability pay, back payments could include Dependency and Indemnity Compensation for the widow, enhanced burial benefits if a veteran’s death was due to a service-connected condition, and 36-months of education benefit to a spouse or a child, no matter what age the child is today, if the veteran was 100-percent disabled at time of death.

If veterans or survivors are worried the VA will not identified them as eligible for retroactive payments, they can file a new claim, Pamperin said.

“We are doing a data run against our corporate record, and some of these corporate records are limited to six diagnostic codes. So we’ve done the best we can with the resources we have to identify people,” he said.

Diana Rubens said 1000 staffers at 13 regional officers, including 326 specially-trained rating specialists, are working only on Nehmer claims, which can involve complex calculations and long searches for next of kin.

RECENT CLAIMS – 60,000 veterans and survivors who have filed claims for the three diseases since last October also will receive Nehmer protection in that payment will be made back to the date of the claim.

Every VA service center and regional office is working to develop and process these claims for payment sometime after Oct. 30.

“Our goal is to spend the next couple of months setting up as many claims as possible for payments as quickly as possible,” Rubens said.

FUTURE CLAIMS – If veterans or survivors planning to submit a new Agent Orange claim can show they had one of these diseases diagnosed on or before Aug. 31 this year, and if they file their claim before Aug. 30, 2011, it will be payable back to Aug. 31, 2010, the date the regulation took effect. Otherwise, payment date will be the date an approved claim was filed.

Pamperin advises veterans to gather medical records from private doctors so VA won’t need to schedule new exams to confirm their diseases.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Vietnam Veteran Responds: Sen. Simpson, Don’t Blame Vietnam Veterans for Our Nation’s “Fiscal Mess”

It's Time for All State Council President's To Join John's Call To Action!

September 3, 2010

By John Weiss, President
Rhode Island State Council, Vietnam Veterans of America
(Providence)--We hear that some in Congress are calling on America’s Vietnam veterans to slow down the Agent Orange “gravy train”—this because the price tag for caring for our war-related health problems is one that some would like not to pay.
One former senator is even going so far as to implicitly question our patriotism. Sen. Simpson heaps praise on Vietnam veterans for having “saved this country.” This strange and long-overdue recognition, however, is merely his preface to the admonishment that follows: “The veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess.”
Sen. Simpson’s remarks are directed at an AP news story reporting that diabetes is the most frequently compensated disease among Vietnam veterans.
I sincerely hope that Sen. Simpson is not calling on Vietnam veterans to sit back and allow Congress to turn their backs on our sick brother and sisters, thus allowing our “leaders” to renege on Lincoln’s promise, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan”?
When our leaders send the nation’s sons and daughters off to war, they must be prepared to pay the full price—and in this case, the price for one of the longest, most divisive wars in our modern history is high, that we don’t deny.
Though we Vietnam veterans are aging, our short-term memories have yet to fail:
We remember, not so long ago, when our Congress voted for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), authorizing the Department of the Treasury to purchase or insure troubled assets as a way to save the financial institutions And we also remember when certain CEOs of these same financial institutions, bailed out by U.S. taxpayer dollars, continued to pay themselves excessive bonuses, with U.S. taxpayer dollars. We wondered then what was happening to our country. And now we know.
The projected cost of TARP continues to fluctuate over time, depending on the source. According to a report issued in March 2010, by the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the TARP program over the next ten years is estimated at $109 billion. In August 2010, however, the Treasury Department estimated that TARP program would cost $105 billion.
The ten-year projected cost of caring for our veterans suffering from the contested Agent Orange-related war wounds, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is $42.2 billion.

Let’s ask the American people where they would rather their tax dollars go.

We stand with our fellow citizens in every community, all across our great nation.
We stand with our newest generation of veterans and with all veterans. Our fight is their fight. They are us, and we are them. And years down the road, how we prevail in Congress today will foreshadow how they will prevail as they age and become us.
We support our newest generation of warriors for they are our sons and daughters, those whom we honor when they go off to battle and those whom we honor when they come home—you see, warriors are generation bound.
A strong country relies on a strong defense. And we are your defenders. So when you deliberate, remember that our country’s future relies, not on those corporate lobbyists who flash through Congress’s halls, but on us, its citizens. And if nothing else, come election time, we will be leading our families to the polls.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mrs. Kelley - From: Glenda Kelley (on behalf of Charles)

blogger's note: perhaps our participation in the economic ruin of our country isn't quite as malicious as seen by Senator Simpson...

I think this was the part that angered me the most. Who do they think ordered the spraying of all the chemicals that were used, the same government that was told by all the scientists "do not do this" not only did they do it but mixed it in quantities far and above the recommended usage. The "miracle" turning into milk and honey is almost laughable. My husband was an engineer. He made lots more money working than he will ever make in disability payments from the VA. Do they really think these men wouldn't rather be physically fit and able to work and play and travel or maybe just live to see their 65th birthday. Yes heart disease can be a condition of old age but many of these men have been suffering from it for 20 yrs or more ...just because it is just now being recognized does not mean its because they are now old. In the ranch hand transcripts it was noted that they were not seeing increases in cancer because the men were dying of heart disease before the cancers had a chance to develop.

We need to do something before these people spread enough of these lies to kill any chances we have of getting what all our Vietnam Veterans (by land and sea) deserve.

Come up with a plan and count the Kelley's in.

via Paul Sutton

Thursday, September 2, 2010

VVA to Simpson: Don’t Target Benefits Veterans Have Earned

August 2, 2010
No. 10-20
Contact: Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – “Former Senator Alan Simpson seems to have jumped from the verbal frying pan into the fire with his latest comments on government excess, this time targeting how ‘the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess,’” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA).
Simpson, the Republican co-chair of the President’s Deficit Commission, who at one time chaired the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, complained in an interview that veterans receiving disability payments for illnesses associated with their exposure to Agent Orange during their service in the Vietnam War run “contrary to efforts to control federal spending.” His comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though, the AP report noted, decades of research have failed to find more than a possible link between diabetes mellitus and the defoliant Agent Orange.
“The system doesn’t ‘automatically award’ disability benefits to veterans,” Rowan said. “The VA has, far too often, been the adversary rather than the advocate for the veterans it serves. If an in-country veteran, who is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange, to dioxin, one of the most toxic substances known, is afflicted with one of the maladies deemed service-connected by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, that veteran has earned whatever benefits he or she is awarded.
“While we agree with Senator Simpson that ‘common sense is the most uncommon thing in Washington,’ we would respectfully suggest that there are more than a few worthy targets for his ire. When the US Government sends its sons and daughters off to war, it must be prepared to pay the full price.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Orange crush

Slow down the Agent Orange gravy train
Date published: 8/29/2010

Read original ==>> - Orange crush - page 1 FLS

NO ONE DOES door-to-door collecting for child molesters. The biggest sucker would not lose a penny to a scam touting kitten torture. To pry the marks from their money it is shrewd to invoke the worthiest objects of benevolence: "the children," "our senior citizens," and, in the case of tens of billions of dollars in Agent Orange boodle about to be hauled as if by boxcar from the U.S. Treasury, "America's veterans."

To be sure, American military members who suffer wounds and illnesses during, or due to, their service deserve the nation's best ministrations. And Vietnam veterans pose a unique compensatory challenge to a decent nation because of the indecency many encountered: Spit, sneers, and (worst of all) stony indifference are poor substitutes for the cheers and confetti that greeted returning World War II soldiers, or the spontaneous thank-yous and orchestrated welcomes accorded U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But no upright Vietnam vet expects to profit from another injustice--the governmental "miracle" of turning Agent Orange into bottomless casks of milk and honey for aging survivors of the Indochina war.

The two page article closes with:

The VA is poised to approve Orange benefits for three more diseases--B-cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease, and coronary heart disease, one of the most common age-related illnesses, now affecting about 18 million Americans. The VA puts payments for these ills at $42 billion over a decade. Given that Vietnam veterans are mainly past 60, however, the heart-disease-driven tab could hit $150 billion over 10 years.

Mr. Webb has set a Sept. 23 Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to probe the latest batch of NAS evidence. Let Congress be diligent. Vietnam veterans, who served faithfully in a good cause, deserve the nation's honor; they will deserve it even more if they refuse to be used to speed the nation's ruin.

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Read original ==>> - Orange crush - page 1 FLS

Agent Orange cases may cost billions more

This commentary appeared in The Washington Post, Wednesday, September 1, 2010
By Mike Baker
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Because of a possible link to Agent Orange, about 270,000 Vietnam War veterans - more than a quarter of the 1 million receiving disability checks - are being compensated for diabetes, according to Department of Veterans Affairs records.

More Vietnam veterans are being compensated for diabetes than for any other malady, including post-traumatic stress disorder, hearing loss or general wounds.

Tens of thousands of other claims for common ailments of age - erectile dysfunction among them - are getting paid as well because of a possible link, direct or indirect, to Agent Orange.

And taxpayers may soon be responsible for even more: VA said Monday that it will add heart disease, Parkinson's disease and certain types of leukemia to the list of conditions that might be connected to Agent Orange. The agency estimates that the new rules, which will go into effect in two months unless Congress intervenes, will cost $42 billion over the next 10 years.

this commentary closes with...

Agent Orange was a dioxin-laden defoliant that was sprayed over jungles to strip the Viet Cong of cover. American forces often got a soaking, too, and Agent Orange was later conclusively linked to several horrific health ailments, including cancers. So Congress and VA set up a system to automatically award benefits to veterans, who needed only to prove that they were in Vietnam at any time during a 13-year period and later got one of the illnesses connected to Agent Orange.

The VA, interpreting that 1991 law and studies that indicated potential associations, has over time added ailments that have no strong scientific link to Agent Orange. The nonprofit Institute of Medicine's biennial scientific analysis of available research, to which the VA looks for guidance, has repeatedly found only the possibility of a link between Agent Orange and diabetes, and that even a chance of a correlation is outweighed by factors such as family history, physical inactivity and obesity.

- Associated Press


In Iraq address, Obama gives nod to veteran health care

Posted by Meredith Melnick
In his Oval Office address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama announced the end of combat operations in Iraq — and with it a return to challenges at home, especially those faced by veterans. Obama pointed to his Post-9/11 GI Bill — which came into effect in August 2009 and has since helped 300,000 veterans achieve a college education — as evidence of his commitment to veteran well-being. Further, referring to post-traumatic stress disorder as a "signature wound of today's wars," Obama highlighted the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (CVOHSA), passed in May, which is designed to improve health care for returning veterans. But what does the bill really say? Below, five ways that CVOHSA should help veterans and their families:

Increase commitment to veterans of previous wars, especially those exposed to Agent Orange

Despite the controversy over the automatic funding of Agent Orange claims by Vietnam War veterans, even claims for disabilities that are not linked to the herbicide by clinical data (a review of the policy is slated for Sept. 23), the authors of CVOHSA evidently did not want to leave Vietnam-era veterans out — or Gulf War vets either. Gulf War vets and Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange will have increased access to services, including VA hospital care, medical services and nursing home care, for any disability.

Read more:

Aging vets' costs concern Obama's deficit co-chair

Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The system that automatically awards disability benefits to some veterans because of concerns about Agent Orange seems contrary to efforts to control federal spending, the Republican co-chairman of President Barack Obama's deficit commission said Tuesday.

Former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson's comments came a day after The Associated Press reported that diabetes has become the most frequently compensated ailment among Vietnam veterans, even though decades of research has failed to find more than a possible link between the defoliant Agent Orange and diabetes.

"The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess," said Simpson, an Army veteran who was once chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also allowed Vietnam veterans to get money for ailments such as lung cancer and prostate cancer, and the agency finalized a proposal Tuesday to grant payments for heart disease - the nation's leading cause of death.

Simpson declined to say whether the issue would become part of his work on Obama's panel examining the nation's debt. He looked to Congress to make a change.


Veterans 1, KBR 0

It is time once again to tune in to the latest epsiode, oops, I mean development, of the long running farce, oops, I mean legal case, involving KBR and Oregon National Guard soldiers.

Yeterday there was significant pro-veteran ruling in the Oregon KBR Qarmat Ali litigation.

I have previously written about this and open air burn pits KBR ran on dozens of U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan in February, April and June.

In a 29-page ruling the federal district court in Oregon considered the motion by KBR and co-defendants Overseas Administration Services, Ltd. and Service Employees International, Inc. to dismiss the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and rejected it.

U.S. Magistate Judge Paul Papak wrote that on March 3, 2003 - before combat operations began in Iraq - the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers entered into a "Restore Iraqi Oil" (RIO) contract) with KBR. Under it, KBR and its subsidiaries agreed to provide services to the U.S. military in connection with efforts to restore the infrastructure underlying the Iraqi oil industry. Also under the RIO contract, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued various "task orders" for KBR to perform. Combat operations in Iraq began on March 19, 2003. On March 20, 2003, the Corps of Engineers issued "Task Order 3," which governed the services to be provided by KBR and its subsidiaries at Qarmat Ali and other facilities. Under Task Order 3, the U.S. military would declare a given worksite to be "benign" before KBR would begin operations there.