Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bad News, Good News

The Bad News: The rascals in congress did not pass the Toxic Exposure Research Act before they went on a 5-week recess.
The Good News: They are in their home districts where we can all take the opportunity to participate in the process. 
Take the time now to organize a presence at every public gathering where your legislator appears. Their meeting schedule should be on their web site.

If the information is not available on-line, call or visit their local office.
Face to face meetings produces results. If your legislator has already signed on as a co-sponsor, urge them in the strongest possible language to push for a vote on H.R. 1769.
If they have not signed on, ask them why not. Confront them with the facts, don’t let them use weasel words to squirm out of support.
They will have a harder time denying you when you ask the question in a public forum.
Make sure you have a body at every public meeting and become a frequent presence in their local office.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Dioxins: A killer additive in our food

Reports show that as many as 80,000 different chemicals are bombarding us in one way or another every single day.
For my money, one of the most treacherous of them all is dioxin, the name given to a group of persistent, very toxic chemicals.
“Dioxins” collectively refers to hundreds of chemical compounds that share certain structures and biological characteristics. Dioxins mainly enter the food chain as byproducts of industrial processes. To a lesser extent, they also come from natural processes such as volcanoes and forest fires. They contaminate land and sea, are consumed in feed, move up the food chain, and end up in the fatty parts of meat, dairy products and seafood.
Dioxins accumulate in fatty tissues in the human body, and increase the risk of human cancer more than any other industrial chemical.
Over the past century humans have introduced a large number of chemical substances into the environment. Some are the waste from industrial and agricultural processes. Some have been designed as structural materials and others have been designed to perform various functions such as healing the sick or killing pests and weeds. Obviously some chemicals are useful, but many are toxic and their harm to the environment and our health far outweighs their benefit to society.
Cancer is caused by changes in a cell’s DNA, its genetic blueprint. Some of these changes may be inherited from our parents, while others may be caused by outside exposures, which are often referred to as environmental factors.
Substances and exposures that can lead to cancer are called carcinogens. Some carcinogens do not affect DNA directly, but lead to cancer in other ways. For example, they may cause cells to divide at a faster than normal rate, which could increase the chances that DNA changes will occur.

VA Is Lying To Put Up Mystery Billboard

The good folks over at VA Is Lying just gave me a heads up that a new sign will go up in a mystery location in response to continued failures and dysfunction.
For the past year, a Facebook group called VA Is Lying has self-funded controversial billboards across the country that said, “VA Is Lying, Veterans Are Dying!” VA employees were deeply embarrassed about the signs, but the agency was impotent to fight against the matter.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

VA Advisory Group: Critics Wrong to Ignore MyVA Reforms

Veteran service organizations echo a similar message, noting, for example, that key parts of Trump’s 10-point plan to improve VA healthcare, unveiled Monday in Virginia Beach, were embraced months ago by VA and are being implemented or awaiting new authorities or funding from Congress.
In an era of bitter partisanship, politicians can shine no light on achievements by the opposition party, even on issues critical to veterans. The risk of such strategy, the MyVA Advisory Committee suggests, is that politics will steal momentum from real reforms, and return VA to crisis mode, even as candidates vow that their highest priority is to help veterans.
MyVA Advisory Committee is a dozen leaders and subject matter experts on veteran issues, business and higher education. The twelve were appointed in March 2015 to advise VA on implementing Secretary Bob McDonald’s “MyVA initiatives” with its goal to create “a high-performing and customer-focused culture” across VA. Though McDonald appointed them, MyVA committee members operate independent of VA, tracking and evaluating progress for improving access to benefits and quality care.

Given the drumbeat of criticism still being leveled at VA, and a feint by the congressionally chartered Commission on Care to propose dismantling VA healthcare and have veterans rely solely on for-profit care, the advisory committee released a preliminary report card on MyVA three months early.
Its members unanimously agreed “the change we have witnessed over the past 15-months – at all levels of the Department – is unprecedented.” Though significant challenges remain to modernize VA, the committee said, the transformation underway “is right, appropriate and does set a course for long-term reform and excellence across the department.”
The committee “strongly urges those who would…politicize the ongoing reform at VA to consider first…the debt of honor that’s been earned” by veterans and “how a grateful nation best pays on that debt.”
The committee chair is retired Army Major Gen. Josue (Joe) Robles, Jr., former president and chief executive officer of USAA, an insurance and investment association for military and veterans. Its vice chair is Air Force veteran Michael Haynie, vice chancellor at Syracuse University and executive director of its Institute for Veterans and Military Families.

High levels of dioxins found in Salem's Willamette Slough

State environmental regulators have found high levels of dioxins in sediment in the Willamette Slough in Salem, and warn that eating fish caught in the area could be unsafe.
The city of Salem, which owns the parks bordering the slough, posted signs Tuesday warning against eating fish caught there.
The contamination may have come from the former Boise Cascade pulp and paper mill, which operated between 1962 and 1982 and used a chlorine bleaching process, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday.
The “screening level” for dioxins in sediment is 0.001 parts per trillion, said Mike Kucinski, DEQ Western Region cleanup manager.
Samples from the slough came in between 5.5 and 67.9 parts per trillion.
“That does point to it being potentially problematic for people eating fish out there,” said Travis Williams, executive director of Willamette Riverkeeper. “I haven’t seen a lot of this contamination definitively described in the Willamette River above the Portland Harbor.”
It also could pose problems for wildlife, including a heron rookery close by, he said.
DEQ has been working with the company to clean up the site for more than a decade.
The dioxin testing was funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency State and Tribal Response Grant. It began in April, and the final report was completed June 29.
DEQ will work with Boise Cascade over the next few months to complete further sediment and fish tissue studies, Kucinski said.  If unsafe levels of dioxin are found in fish tissue, the Oregon Health Authority may issue a consumption advisory.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Park renews call for national unity in face of N.K. security threats

President Park Geun-hye on Monday renewed her call for national unity, urging citizens to join forces to ensure "watertight security" in the face of military threats posed by North Korea.
In a video message to a ceremony marking Agent Orange Day, Park also expressed her appreciation to South Korea's Vietnam War veterans, many of whom have suffered from various illnesses due to their exposure to Agent Orange -- one of the defoliants that the U.S. military used to clear jungles and destroy communist forces during the 1960-75 conflict.
"We can make Pyongyang renounce its nuclear program and induce a chance in the country, only through building watertight security by putting together the strength of our people, and enforcing consistent and strict sanctions in tandem with the international community," the president stressed said.
"What matters more than anything else is the united minds of the people," she added.
Commenting on the victims of Agent Orange, the chief executive stressed their sacrifices and dedication have become the "foundation for the development of today's Republic of Korea."
"I hope that all of you, who have contributed to the development of the nation with strong patriotism, can put yourselves at the forefront of the efforts to forge national unity and establish a robust security," she said. (Yonhap)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Beginning in 1991, as required by public law, VA contracted with the
Health and Medicine Division (HMD) (formally known as the Institute of
Medicine) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to review scientific and medical information related to the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides.
HMD released the first report of its findings, entitled “Veterans and Agent Orange,” in 1994 and was required to release updated reports every two years through 2016.
For every biennial update, HMD was charged to determine 1) whether
there was a statistical association between specific diseases and exposure to herbicides used during the conflict in Vietnam, 2) whether there was an increased risk of disease among individuals exposed to herbicides during service in Vietnam, and 3) whether there was evidence of a causal relationship between herbicide exposure and a disease.

Deep Brain Stimulation surgery: A life-changing miracle for those suffering with tremors

My husband, Robert “Bob” Dakin was diagnosed with Essential Tremors about 30 years ago. About 10 years ago the VA diagnosed the tremors as being caused by his exposure to Agent Orange while stationed in Vietnam. Agent Orange basically messed up his nervous system.
Mayo Clinic’s definition for essential tremor is a nervous system (neurological) disorder that causes involuntary and rhythmic shaking. It can affect almost any part of your body, but the trembling occurs most often in your hands — especially when you do simple tasks, such as drinking from a glass or tying shoelaces.
Essential tremor typically worsens over time and can be severe in some people. Sometimes essential tremors are confused with Parkinson’s disease. It can occur at any age but is most common in people age 40 and older.
My husband’s tremors began in his late 20s and had progressively worsened. They severely affected his life and his capabilities. Not only did they cause his hands to shake uncontrollably, both of his legs shook and his head bobbed. They were starting to affect his balance and he was starting to fall a lot. His body was in a constant state of motion and he couldn’t feed himself, shave, or even sign his name. Not to mention not being able to tie his shoes, button buttons, zip zippers, and much more.
Not only did tremors affect Bob’s physical life, they also affected him mentally. He was embarrassed to eat in public and have to be seen getting spoon fed by me. His severe tremors also caused him a lot of depression.
After years of trying various prescription drugs and having no luck, we finally were sent to see Dr. Terry Rowland, a neurologist now working at Columbia V. A. Hospital. On his first visit, Dr. Rowland brought up the possibility of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery. Bob and I both thought it sounded like a good idea and he felt he had nothing to lose since the quality of his life had deteriorated so much. Dr. Rowland got the wheels in motion and in a couple of weeks we went to see Dr. Thorkild Norregaard, a neurosurgeon at University of Missouri Hospital.