Thursday, May 25, 2017

VVA Strongly Opposes Abandoning of Severely Disabled Veterans, Asks Young Vets for Support

(Washington, D.C.)—“The budget plan unveiled yesterday completely abandons many of the most severely disabled veterans of the Vietnam generation and could make thousands of elderly veterans homeless,” said John Rowan, National President of Vietnam Veterans of America. “Frankly,” said Rowan, “we’re extremely alarmed by this provision in the budget proposal, because this is the opposite of what President Trump promised veterans.”
On May 23, the Trump Administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs released the first budget request for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on October 1, 2017. President Trump’s budget proposal calls for terminating Individual Unemployability (IU) benefits to those eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, under the erroneous rationale that this constitutes a duplication of benefits. The Individual Unemployability program supports veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, many of whom have been unable to contribute to Social Security as a result of those injuries. This budget proposal would impact nearly every Vietnam-era veteran whose survival depends on the income from Individual Unemployability.

“Since this news broke yesterday, we have been contacted by severely disabled Vietnam veterans from all across the country who are concerned about being made homeless if this budget is accepted by Congress,” said Rowan. “The founding principle of Vietnam Veterans of America is ‘Never Again Will One Generation of Veterans Abandon Another,’ and we hope that the newest generation of veterans will live by this as well. We call on our younger brothers and sisters, and all Americans, to stand with us--this is our time of need.”


Trump's big VA budget request comes with proposed trims to veterans benefits

WASHINGTON — The White House’s proposed $186.5 billion budget for Department of Veterans Affairs operations next year includes more than $13 billion for medical care outside VA and $3.6 billion in savings from benefits trims.
The proposal, officially released Tuesday and now facing months of scrutiny on Capitol Hill, represents another sizable boost for the department, which over the last decade has seen annual increases while other government agencies have faced funding reductions.
President Trump’s plan calls for a $4.4 billion increase in discretionary funding for the department, roughly a 6 percent increase from fiscal 2017 levels. The $82 billion total discretionary request is nearly twice as large as the department’s entire budget in fiscal 2001, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Officials said the VA spending request reflects that “veterans’ access to timely, high quality health care is one of this administration’s highest priorities.” But they also promised their focus is on “providing veterans with the most efficient and effective care and benefits,” and proposes several trade offs to pay for program expansions.
The most dramatic of those is an end to Individual Unemployability benefit payments to retirement-age veterans, a move expected to save $3.2 billion next year alone and $41 billion over the next decade. 
Under current policies, the Individual Unemployability program allows VA to award payouts at the 100-percent disabled rate to veterans who cannot find work due to service-connected injuries, even if they are not deemed 100-percent disabled. The number of program recipients has tripled since 2000, reaching almost 339,000 in fiscal 2016.
Trump has proposed stopping those payouts once veterans are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, arguing the practice now amounts to “the duplication of benefits.” It would impact more than 225,000 veterans receiving the payouts today.
All veterans receiving benefits checks from the department would also be affected by a plan to “round down” cost-of-living increases to the nearest dollar, which was VA policy from the late 1990s until 2013. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Little Blue Corvette

When Keith Richard Litavsky returned home from fighting on the front line in the Vietnam War, he did so with two Purple Hearts and one more mission to accomplish.
That mission took him to an Illinois car dealership where he purchased the car he had been dreaming about while serving overseas: a marina blue 1967 Chevrolet Corvette.
Paid for with money he'd sent home from the war for that very purpose, Keith Litavsky took meticulous care of the car.
INDIANAPOLIS — A marina blue 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe bought by a Vietnam War hero and maintained by his son sold for $675,000 at an Indianapolis auction Saturday.
The unrestored sports car, with 8,553 miles on it, was bought by Carmel, Ind., resident Gary Runyon at Dana Mecum’s 30th Spring Classic at the State Fairgrounds.
"It was very exciting but also very, very difficult," to part with the car, said its owner, Matt Litavsky. "It was all kind of a haze."
Litavsky's father, Keith Richard Litavsky, bought the car after returning from the Vietnam War with two Purple Hearts in the 1960s. He cared for it meticulously and seldom drove it before dying of cancer in 1993 from exposure to Agent Orange. Matt Litavsky kept up the same level of care, driving it a total of 15 miles over the past 15 years.
Keith Richard Litavsky, the original owner of the Corvette, served fearlessly on the front line in Vietnam, carrying his wounded commanding officer out of a firefight, who would later die in a helicopter crash and leave Litavsky as the only surviving soldier in his unit. After returning from Vietnam decorated with two purple hearts, he went right to Jack Douglass Chevrolet in Hinsdale, Illinois, and purchased his dream car—this 1967 Corvette—with money he’d sent home for that purpose. Sadly, Litavsky died before his time of cancer from exposure to Agent Orange on his last mission in Vietnam. But his legacy lives on in the Corvette being offered in Indianapolis by his son Matt, who was given the car just before Litavsky’s untimely death in 1993.

Sick veteran fights for easier access to VA care

(CNN)Every time Army veteran Henry Mayo Jr. looks in the mirror -- his appearance permanently altered by medical conditions -- he is reminded of his service to the United States. But the Department of Veterans Affairs denies the connection between his sickness and his service, a problem that hinges on the fact that Mayo wasn't sent overseas, but served his country on US soil.
The former Army specialist says he developed a number of health conditions years after he served in the 21st Chemical Company. "I done lost my skin, my glands don't work. I don't sweat, so I just have to live with it," Mayo told CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
"I started losing my hair and then my skin started getting bad, then the knots started rising on my head ... that was something to be scared of, you know. You didn't know what was going to happen next."
VA records show that Mayo, 80, sought coverage for medical conditions that include a type of lymphoma often associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
Mayo was drafted in 1959 and sent to Fort McClellan in Alabama, where Mayo says mustard gas was tested on his skin and he participated in radiation tests without protective gear.
"We went out to this radiation area and we was there for about three hours. No kind of instruction or nothing. They just gave us the badge and told us to pin it on us," Mayo says of the radiation test, during which he wore a device to monitor exposure. Fort McClellan was closed in 1999 after the Environmental Protection Agency labeled it a "Superfund site," a term used for areas so contaminated by hazardous waste that they pose a threat to human health.
The Department of Veterans Affairs argues there's no proof Mayo's medical issues are a result of his Army service, which means it doesn't have to cover the high cost of care. Other veterans who served at Fort McClellan say they have gotten the same response.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Obtaining Records and Filing Exposure Claims

The Investigation Into Water Contamination At Camp Lejeune May Reopen Soon

The toxic water crisis at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that left 750,000 Marines, sailors, spouses and their families exposed to contaminated drinking water between the 1950s and the 1980s may face a renewed investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On May 10, the CDC posted a sources sought notice for a cancer incidence study on water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The purpose of the study, according to the notice is to:
“… assess whether there is an association between exposure to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and the incidence of specific cancers in approximately 463,922 cohort members, the study will require that vital status and cause of death for decedents be obtained for 425,319 of the cohort members who had not died prior to January 1, 2009 before accessing cancer registry data from up to 55 state, territorial, and federal cancer registries.”
The difference between this proposed study, which is focused on cancer incidence, and previous studies, which focused on mortality rates, is that a “cancer incidence study would have a greater capability of evaluating cases of highly survivable cancers than a mortality study.” A 2005 panel of scientists recommended that a cancer incidence “should receive the highest priority,” but one has yet to be conducted.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Farmworkers encounter pesticide dangers

On Cinco de Mayo, there was pesticide drift that stopped farmworkers from harvesting southwest of Bakersfield in Kern County. The workers were in the process of harvesting cabbage when they began to get sick. According to a television news report, the pesticide odor came in from a mandarin orchard west of the cabbage field that was sprayed the night previous with Vulcan, an organophosphate-based chemical. About 12 people reported symptoms of vomiting, nausea and one person fainted. In the end, more than 50 farmworkers were exposed.
The shocking and sad part is that the active ingredient in the insecticide the workers were exposed to is chlorpyrifos, which was slated to be banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama administration. However, in March that ban was canceled. The EPA said there wasn’t enough solid evidence. Chlorpyrifos is reported to cause severe neurotoxic symptoms in humans if touched, inhaled, or eaten.
For more than 15 years, it was banned for residential use, but can still be used in agriculture. This cannot go on.
Many people do not realize that people who are exposed to pesticides working in agricultural fields are at a higher risk of getting cancer. 
This is an issue that hits home for me. In 2002, my father, Sebastian Sanchez, who worked in the Salinas Valley agricultural fields, died due to non-Hodgkin lymphoma — a cancer associated with pesticide exposure. As a former farmworker who also worked in the Salinas Valley agricultural fields, I have firsthand experience with how farmworkers were, and are still, impacted by pesticides. I remember one day when I and other workers were sprayed while working in the fields. I thought it was starting to rain, but I looked up to see a small plane overhead spraying pesticides.
I will always fight for a worthwhile cause that has no voice. In essence — I am a farmworker in spirit. I miss my father so much — he fought so hard to beat non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
As consumers — as human beings — we must take action with the EPA, bombard them with calls, letters to stop using these dangerous chemicals that affect the entire community.
Victoria Sanchez De Alba is a Bay Area communications consultant. Her work on raising awareness of the dangers of pesticides to farmworkers has earned her a nomination for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “San Francisco Woman of the Year” award.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Pesticide drift halts harvest southwest of Bakersfield

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - More than 50 farm workers were exposed to a pesticide drift Friday morning southwest of Bakersfield.
The incident shut down harvesting operations after some of those workers complained of sudden illness.
The workers were in the process of harvesting cabbage for Dan Andrews Farms in a field off Copus Road when they began to get sick.
"We started getting an odor, pesticide odor, coming in from the mandarin orchards west of our field," said Efron Zavalza, Supervisor and Food Safety Specialist, Dan Andrews Farms.
Zavalza said a Sun Pacific Farms orchard was sprayed Thursday night with Vulcan, an organophosphate-based chemical that is land applied. 
Health officials said it is highly toxic.
"I'm not pointing fingers or saying it was done incorrectly.  it was just an unfortunate thing the way it was drifted.  The wind came and pushed everything east and you know we were caught in the path," Zavalza said. 
Twelve people reported symptoms of vomiting, nausea and one person fainted. 
The Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Environmental Health and Hazmat immediately responded to the area and did a mass decontamination. 
One person was taken to the hospital. 
An additional twelve workers did not show signs of any symptoms. 
However more than half of the farm workers left before medical aide arrived.

Editorial: Agent Orange still poisons many Vietnam War veterans

For many Americans, the enduring memory of the Vietnam War is of the protests that defined a generation and shattered the illusion of America’s purity on the world stage. But for the 3 million men and women who served in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and early 1970s, the memories are more visceral: the fog of combat, the stench of death, the sting of returning to a seemingly ungrateful nation.
For some veterans, there’s something else, and it’s no memory. Exposed to the toxin-laced Agent Orange a half-century ago, they are now suffering long-term effects including heart disease, Parkinson’s, type II diabetes, immune system disruption, and a variety of potentially lethal cancers. The time has come for them to get the moral and financial support that are our nation’s debt.
Robert Schmid of Leverett is one of those Vietnam vets. Schmid was a soldier on the ground when planes overhead showered down herbicide to kill jungle foliage and reveal enemy troops. Amid the gunfire, he paid it little heed. “There is so much activity,” he told reporter Lisa Spear, “that it is just another thing happening.”
Now 72, Schmid has suffered a heart attack and attributes his coronary heart disease to his time in-country. Donald F. Moulton, another Vietnam veteran, suffers from an aggressive form of leukemia. He told fellow veteran John Paradis that he was exposed to Agent Orange while a Navy Seabee clearing vegetation to build bases, hospitals and schools.
“We weren’t even using the words Agent Orange then and we just took it for granted,” Moulton said. “I can tell you this, we weren’t pulling any weeds over there — that stuff pretty much took care of everything.”
And no wonder. Agent Orange contained toxins including the now-infamous dioxin, and the U.S. military sprayed close to 11 million gallons of it in Vietnam. In the decades since, scientists have concluded beyond a doubt that the herbicide is to blame for health problems including the ones suffered by Schmid and Moulton — and the government has begun paying benefits to veterans who grapple with those issues.
Veterans collect monthly benefits ranging from modest to more substantial; veterans interviewed by Spear reported payments between $300 and $3,000 a month, depending on their debilitation. But many of those afflicted don’t know that they and their spouses are entitled to the help, despite the pain and expense associated with long-term ailments.

Burn Pit Veterans Look For Answers

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A US Congressman from Pennsylvania is promising action following a KDKA investigation into a new health crisis facing America’s military.
Some are calling exposure to “burn pits” in Iraq and Afghanistan this generation’s Agent Orange.
“I get sick all the time,” veteran Shawn Schrag said. “I’m coughing and wheezing right now.”
As a paratrooper in Iraq, Schrag would often tend to burn pits — where platoons would pile all kinds of garbage, plastics and human waste — douse it all with diesel fuel and set it afire.
Years later, he and tens of thousands of other war on terror vets wonder if their exposure to the pits and the thick, dark toxic smoke is the cause of their health problems, such as respiratory ailments and severe headaches.
“To give you an example, when I came back from Iraq, about three weeks later, I had the most intense pain ever,” veteran Justin Moore said. “I had these migraines that would just put me on the floor.”
The vets compare the burn pits to Agent Orange, the defoliant used in Vietnam that caused cancer in returning soldiers — though the government was slow to acknowledge a connection.
“I’ve met with Vietnam veterans that had pretty much every organ replaced because of the Agent Orange they experienced,” Schrag said, “and just like them, you know, they didn’t have a clue what was in that stuff being sprayed upon them. I didn’t have any clue what I was burning.”

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Judge: Board Ruling Denying Veteran Benefits For Exposure To Agent Orange Stands

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on May 5 affirmed a ruling by the Board of Veterans Appeals that denied a man's claim for benefits from exposure to Agent Orange on grounds that the board's decision was "not clearly erroneous" (Larry Clemons v. David J. Shulkin, No. 15-4195, Vet. Clms.; 2017 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 662). - See more at:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on May 5 affirmed a ruling by the Board of Veterans Appeals that denied a man's claim for benefits from exposure to Agent Orange on grounds that the board's decision was "not clearly erroneous" (Larry Clemons v. David J. Shulkin, No. 15-4195, Vet. Clms.; 2017 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 662).

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on May 5 affirmed a ruling by the Board of Veterans Appeals that denied a man's claim for benefits from exposure to Agent Orange on grounds that the board's decision was "not clearly erroneous" (Larry Clemons v. David J. Shulkin, No. 15-4195, Vet. Clms.; 2017 U.S. App. Vet. Claims LEXIS 662). - See more at:

The final installment of George Claxton's Agent Orange Study Links May 10, 2017

Prenatal Arsenic Exposure and Birth Outcomes among a Population Residing near a Mining-
Related Superfund Site
Many Vets Say Agent Orange Settlement Falls Short
Genetic and epigenetic cancer chemoprevention on molecular targets during multistage carcinogenesis.
Transcriptional profiling of rat white adipose tissue response to 2, 3, 7, 8-tetrachlorodibenzo-ρ-dioxin.
Exposure to the herbicides used in Vietnam
Overview of developmental heart defects by dioxins, PCBs, and pesticides.
Molecular targets that link dioxin exposure to toxicity phenotypes.
Disruption of paired-associate learning in rat offspring perinatal exposed to dioxins
Knockout of arsenic (+3 oxidation state) methyltransferase results in sex-dependent changes in phosphatidylcholine metabolism in mice.
Why did researchers not use realistic doses in animal studies of bisphenol A?
St. Louis burning: What killed the babies near Weldon Spring?
Report on Cancer Risk: Weldon Spring
The Right to Answers
Veterans exposed to chemicals need to know
Adult and child urinary 2,4-D in cities with and without cosmetic pesticide bylaws: a population-based cross-sectional pilot study.
Endocrine-disruptor molecular responses, occurrence of intersex and gonado-histopathological changes in tilapia species from a tropical freshwater dam (Awba Dam) in Ibadan, Nigeria
Exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) increases human hepatic stellate cell activation
PPARα-dependent cholesterol/testosterone disruption in Leydig cells mediates 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid-induced testicular toxicity in mice.
Effects of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid on the ventral prostate of rats during the peri-pubertal, pubertal and adult stage.
Prenatal Arsenic Exposure and Birth Outcomes among a Population Residing near a Mining-Related Superfund Site
2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin in breast milk increases autistic traits of 3-year-old children in Vietnam
Chronic diseases and early exposure to airborne mixtures: Part III. Potential origin of pre-menopausal breast cancers.
The transcriptional response to oxidative stress during vertebrate development: effects of tert-butylhydroquinone and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.
Impact of Perinatal Dioxin Exposure on Infant Growth: A Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Studies in Dioxin-Contaminated Areas in Vietnam
In utero and Lactational TCDD Exposure Increases Susceptibility to Lower Urinary Tract Dysfunction in Adulthood
A pharmacokinetic analysis and dietary information are necessary to confirm or reject the hypothesis on persistent organic pollutants causing type 2 diabetes.
The University of Michigan Dioxin Exposure Study: Population Survey Results and Serum Concentrations for Polychlorinated Dioxins, Furans, and Biphenyls
Fetal Thyroid Function, Birth Weight, and in Utero Exposure to Fine Particle Air Pollution: A Birth Cohort Study
Transcriptional profiling of rat white adipose tissue response to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-ρ-dioxin
Organochlorine pesticide exposure in mothers and neural tube defects in offsprings.
Associations of Peripubertal Serum Dioxin and Polychlorinated Biphenyl Concentrations with Pubertal Timing among Russian Boys