Thursday, April 28, 2016

Veterans Groups Sue VA for Withholding Information

 Veterans Groups Sue VA for Withholding Information Demanded by Veterans Poisoned by Camp Lejeune’s Toxic Water
 VA’s Controversial “Subject Matter Expert” Program Keeps Public in the Dark

(Wash., D.C.)—Today Vietnam Veterans of America, along with The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, filed suit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to compel the Department of Veterans Affairs to produce records on the Camp Lejeune Subject Matter Expert (SME) program. The VA created the SME program in 2012 to evaluate disability compensation claims. Since that time, the public has filed numerous requests for information on the SME program, but VA has largely ignored such requests.
It is high time the federal government and all of its entities stop lying and withholding evidence on the toxic substances to which veterans and their families have been exposed. To have anonymous subject experts is not the American way, and in a democracy, this lack of transparency is not acceptable,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America.
Between 1953 and 1987, nearly one million veterans, their families, and civilian employees at Camp Lejeune, a Marine training base in North Carolina, were exposed to toxic drinking water in one of the worst contaminations in U.S. history. Many have since developed illnesses like kidney, bladder, and breast cancer, and many have lost their lives as a result. Thousands of veterans have applied for disability compensation for diseases related to their exposure to toxic water aboard Camp Lejeune. The VA has denied the vast majority of these claims.

Initiated in 2012, the SME program tasks an anonymous group of clinicians with issuing medical opinions on the disability compensation claims of Camp Lejeune veterans. Since the VA created the SME program, the grant rate for these claims plummeted from approximately 25 percent to 8 percent.
From the limited information publically available, veterans groups and medical professionals have identified concerns about the clinicians’ credentials, methods, and expertise. SME program clinicians have repeatedly cited scientific reports that VA officials have admitted are outdated. In at least one case, the VA relied on a report by an SME program clinician who cut and pasted a Wikipedia entry to provide a medical opinion on a rare type of cancer.
Veterans groups submitted a FOIA request to the VA in December 2015, seeking comprehensive records on the Camp Lejeune SME program, including policies, procedures, and objectives; fiscal impact; data and statistical information; and training records. The VA has not responded to this request.
Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, said, “the SME program has been using incorrect and outdated information. The alarming drop in the grant rate of Camp Lejeune claims deserves real, penetrating scrutiny.”
 “The VA claims it created the Camp Lejeune SME program to assist veterans, but it is adversarial and unjust. Everything we know about the program indicates it should be scrapped,” said retired Marine Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, founder of The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten, who lost his daughter at age nine to childhood leukemia linked to exposure to Camp Lejeune’s toxic water.
 “The VA’s lack of transparency is alarming. The qualifications and methodology of the SME clinicians are concerning.  Given that the VA has called this program a model for toxic exposure compensation claims in the future, veterans need to understand how this program works.” said Rory Minnis, a former Marine and law student intern at the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School. 

Senator Jerry Moran on S.901: The Toxic Exposure Research Act

On April 16, 2016, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS) made an announcement to VVA Chapter 317, Kansas City, "Faces of Agent Orange" Town Hall. Below is the transcript of his remarks concerning S. 901, the Toxic Exposure Research Act.

I have introduced, with the Democratic Senator from CT, the Toxic Exposure Research Act.
It is designed to make certain that veterans have access to their military records from the Department of Defense, from the VA. It is designed to make certain VA establishes Centers for Medical and Historical Research to determine the connection between the contact with those toxic substances and the consequences to future generations, to your children and grandchildren, and then to set the stage for benefits, particularly medical benefits, to help care for those who are affected by the toxic contact that occurred someplace in their family line.
And I have no doubt that each of you veterans all knew that they were sacrificing, coming in harm’s way, when serving our country, but I can’t imagine that a single veteran--any military man or woman--thought they were doing anything when they were serving their country that would have consequences to those that weren’t even born yet. We need to make certain that there is the opportunity for those family members to access the care that they are, should be entitled to, as children and grandchildren of those who served our country.
Here are the two pieces of good news that fit about what we are talking about today:
I am a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. We have the promise from the Veterans Affairs Committee Chair that our bill on the toxic chemicals will be heard this spring. We now have the Congressional Budget Office scoring, and it’s less than what was expected, which makes it easier for us to accomplish getting it passed this year.
Many of you, many people with VVA have been asking their Senators, their House Members, to sponsor this legislation, and the support is growing, and I thank you for that.
Secondly, on Thursday, two things happened: The appropriations bill for funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs now requires that they contract with the National Academy of Medicine to begin the study of what the studies should look like. While that sounds like it is a long time away, it is the first actual step in which we will have the parameters of what a study should look like. Funded by the American taxpayer and directed by the National Academy of Medicine, using VA dollars. In my view, the VA would never have provided those dollars, but for this now mandate.
And secondly, this legislation requires the VA to use the billions of dollars that Congress has appropriated for treatment of Hep C, and not to prioritize or not to cherry pick who is entitled to that care and treatment.
So this legislation, this appropriations bill will work its way through the Senate, through the House, be signed by the President--but it’s on its way, now, to becoming law, with the direction that we have the study on the toxic substances and their consequences on children and grandchildren, and secondly, the resources that we provided, the billions of dollars to the VA, for Hep C treatment be utilized.
Thank you very much for your service.

Armed with new research, Vietnam vets push VA to link bladder cancer to Agent Orange

Each time, even as he found additional doctors to vouch for the link between his cancer and his service, the VA rejected Eller’s claim, arguing there was no proof.
Alan Eller has spent more than a decade trying to convince the Department of Veterans Affairs that his bladder cancer was the result of exposure to Agent Orange almost 50 years ago in Vietnam.

The Army vet has filed three claims with the agency, most recently in 2014, since a doctor told him the cancer was likely tied to the toxic herbicide.
But a report last month by a prominent committee of scientists said there’s now research suggesting otherwise. As a result, the VA is studying whether it should reverse its position and add the condition to the list of illnesses it presumes to be linked to Agent Orange, which the U.S. sprayed across Vietnam during the war.
The VA has no legal obligation to do this and has previously declined to cover other conditions despite research supporting a connection. But if it does this time, the shift could mean thousands of dollars a year for some vets, and even more for those like Eller, who filed claims years ago. In such cases, the agency is required to pay disability benefits retroactively, dating back to the day a veteran first applied.
Eller, a retired welder from Indiana, could receive up to 13 years of back payments. Depending on how severe the VA rated his disability, that lump sum could reach six figures.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Eller, 69, who recalled nights in Vietnam spent sleeping in shallow tidal water that he believes was doused with Agent Orange. “I don’t have a lot of confidence in the VA.”

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Agent Orange links courtesy of George Claxton

Development of an in vitro test battery model based on liver and colon cancer cell lines to discriminate PCB mixtures by transcription factors gene expression analysis
Regulation of Arcuate Genes by Developmental Exposures to Endocrine-Disrupting Compounds in Female Rats.
Herbicides and congenital malformations: A review for the paediatrician
Effect of retinyl acetate on transglutaminase 2 activity in carcinogen treated rat liver.
Characterization of the contribution of buccal absorption to internal exposure to bisphenol A through the diet
Effects of sodium arsenate and arsenite on male reproductive functions in Wistar rats
Modification of association between prior lung disease and lung cancer by inhaled arsenic: A prospective occupational-based cohort study in Yunnan, China.
A strong dose-response relation between serum concentrations of persistent organic pollutants and diabetes: results from the National Health and Examination Survey 1999-2002.
Agent Orange Exposure Linked to Life-Threatening Prostate Cancer
Novel roles for AhR and ARNT in the regulation of alcohol dehydrogenases in human hepatic cells.
Occurrence of chlorinated and brominated dioxins/furans, PCBs, and brominated flame retardants in blood of German adults.
Associations Between Selected Xenobiotics and Antinuclear Antibodies in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004.
Maternal exposure to di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) induces combined anorectal and urogenital malformations in male rat offspring.
Dioxin Alters Development of Male Reproductive System
The combined effects of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and the phytoestrogen genistein on steroid hormone secretion, AhR and ERĪ² expression and the incidence of apoptosis in granulosa cells of medium porcine follicles.
Arsenic metabolism in children differs from that in adults.
Impact of dioxins on antipyrine metabolism in firefighters
Developmental dental toxicity of dioxin and related compounds--a review.
Chemical Brain Drain
Immunomodulation By Subchronic Low Dose 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-Dioxin in Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis in the Absence of Pertussis Toxin.

Klobuchar wants center to study military burn pits' effect on vets

Thousands of military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan were exposed to a variety of potentially harmful substances, including the smoke produced by the burning of waste on military bases.
Now U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is sponsoring legislation that would create a national center to study the effects of burn pits on veterans and members of the military.

The issue will take on increased importance as more veterans of recent wars show increased rates of cancer, asthma, emphysema, and even rare lung disorders. Exposure to dust and burn pits also has been shown to cause insomnia and high blood pressure.
Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, and U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., have introduced the Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act. It would create a center within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for the prevention, diagnosis, mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions relating to exposure to burn pits.
During the Mideast wars, the military disposed of item such as plastics, aerosol cans, electronic equipment, human waste, metal containers, tires, and batteries by throwing them into open pits, sometimes dousing them with jet fuel, and setting them ablaze. It was common for smoke from these open-air burn pits to waft through the entire base and into living areas.
The VA already has established a burn-pit registry to get a handle on the scope of the potential problem. The registry allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire.
Those eligible must have served in Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation New Dawn; in Djibouti, Africa, on or after Sept. 11, 2001; in Operations Desert Shield or Desert Storm; or in southwest Asia on or after Aug. 2, 1990.
As of three weeks ago, 65,320 veterans and service members had completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.

Report shows stronger link between Agent Orange exposure and some diseases

A newly released Institute of Medicine (IOM) report shows a heightened link between Agent Orange exposure and the development of bladder cancer and hypothyroidism.
The IOM committee revised the exposure connections from “inadequate or insufficient evidence” to “limited or suggestive evidence,” after reviewing reports on Korean War veterans who served in Vietnam and scrutinizing previously assembled evidence on these two conditions.
The report also notes that “there is no rational basis for an exclusion of those with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease.” This opens the door for VA to grant service-connected presumption to veterans exposed to Agent Orange who are diagnosed with Parkinsonism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms, in addition to Parkinson’s disease.