Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tester, Murray, Sanders, Brown, Manchin Urge VA to Expand List of Medical Conditions Linked to Toxic Exposure

(U.S. Senate) – Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are urging VA Secretary David Shulkin to expand the agency’s list of medical conditions associated with exposure to Agent Orange.
In March 2016, the National Academy of Medicine recommended that the VA expand its list of medical conditions that are associated with presumed exposure to Agent Orange. The VA has yet to respond to its recommendations to include bladder cancer, hyperthyroidism and Parkinson-like conditions.
“The veterans suffering from these conditions are still in urgent need of critical health care and other benefits,” the Senators wrote. “The care owed to our servicemembers should not be delayed and denied any longer. They fought for our country, were exposed to a toxic chemical while carrying out their daily duties, and in return, we are failing to provide medical care and disability compensation.”
Under the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA was required to implement recommendations from the National Academy of Medicine within 60 days. While that law has expired, the VA has delayed its response several times over the course of the last 19 months.
Veterans who served in Vietnam are presumed to have been exposed to toxic chemicals like Agent Orange. The VA considers a number of medical conditions to have direct relation to a veteran’s presumed exposure to toxic chemicals and provides these veterans with health care and disability benefits.
The Senators’ letter can be found online HERE.

Legislation passes Senate to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) have announced that their bipartisan legislation to help veterans who have been exposed to toxic burn pits has passed the Senate as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. 
The Helping Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits Act would create a center of excellence within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to better understand the health effects associated with burn pits and treat veterans who become sick after exposure.
The Press did a story last March on a 36-year-old Air National Guard member, Amie Muller, who died of pancreatic cancer she and her family attributed to exposure to toxic burn pits during two tours in Iraq. Her mother-in-law, Sandy Muller, lives in Mahtomedi.  
Klobuchar testified before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee last year to discuss the need to dedicate staff and resources to exposure diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of health conditions stemming from exposure to burn pits.
“It took the government years after the Vietnam War to recognize that there was a link between Agent Orange and the devastating health effects on our soldiers. We can’t let history repeat itself — burn pits can’t become today’s Agent Orange,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why passing this bipartisan bill to support our nation’s heroes, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with their families, has remained one of my top priorities.”

Dioxin removal on San Jacinto opposed by some Galveston groups

- Partially submerged in the San Jacinto river lay 15,000 truckloads of cancer causing Dioxin waste.
It's genuinely scary business, so scary some who depend on Galveston Bay for their livelihood don't want the toxins disturbed, preferring instead construction of a permanent tomb or cap to isolate a substance considered among the most dangerous on the planet.
"With a permanent cap, a permanent armored cap it kind of takes mother nature out of play. You already have an existing solution. It's going to be watched 24 by 7. There is still going to be testing going on," said J.T. Edwards of the Galveston Maritime Business Association.
Edwards and others fear an EPA proposal to excavate and haul away Dioxin stored in the precariously capped Superfund site could cause a disaster, if the removal process is interrupted by a storm.
"There is one thing you cannot control. You cannot control mother nature. You don't know about storm swells, you can't predict for that," said Edwards.

Attention Mothers - Agent Orange exposure can put your baby's hormones at risk

Washington: Attention mothers-to-be! Exposure of dioxin - a highly toxic compound - has been linked to an increase in certain levels of hormones in women and their breastfeeding children that puts them at higher risk of birth defects, cancer and neurodevelopment disorders.
A defoliant chemical - Agent Orange - used by the US in 1962 to 1971 is one of the dioxin-contaminated herbicides that were sprayed during the Vietnam War and used in different industrial and agricultural activities.
The researchers at Kanazawa University in Japan revealed for the first time the impact of dioxin exposure on women and babies.
Lead researcher Teruhiko Kido said that dioxin hotspots in the South of Vietnam are of the most severely polluted regions in the world.
Kido added that they know exposure to dioxins has an impact on hormones and they wanted to know if this was being passed through generations and potentially putting babies at risk in these areas.
Their use has resulted in hotspots of dioxin contamination, with concentrations of the chemical two to five-fold higher in affected areas in southern Vietnam than in non-contaminated regions.
Dioxins are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) - they interfere with how hormones send messages to each other around the body.
EDCs have been implicated in causing birth defects, cancer and neurodevelopment disorders.
In particular, dioxins have an effect on a hormone called Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which is responsible for male and female characteristics in humans.
Dioxins put these out of balance, leading to health problems and disfigurement.

Puerto Rican combat vet: Hurricane Maria worse than war

By Bill Weir and Jennifer Rivera CNN
AGUAS BUENAS, Puerto Rico (CNN) -- Miguel Olivera, now 75, survived combat and being impacted by Agent Orange in Cambodia as the US waged war against the Viet Cong decades ago.
Now, at home in Puerto Rico, he is facing another threat to his life -- a fridge without power.
He needs insulin to survive but his last vial is sitting, at risk of spoiling, in that refrigerator that can no longer keep it cool.
His town, Aguas Buenas, in the mountains above San Juan, was left tattered by Hurricane Maria.
The lush tropical foliage is gone -- as if a massive lawnmower came from the sky and shredded it all.
Olivera and his wife Diana Aponte, 73, sheltered from the storm inside their home -- it's built on concrete stilts sunk into the hillside, and Aponte feared it would slide into the ravine.
Water came through the shutters as the wind howled outside, and at one point the couple huddled on the living room floor, prepared to die together.
"The hurricane is worse" than combat, Olivera says.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Fight continues for Agent Orange coverage for Blue Water Navy vets across the country

Reinstate coverage for the Blue Water Navy Veterans

Vets Fight for their Shipmates

Give naval vets the help they need

Kingston woman fights for veterans' rights

Defense bill makes provision for veterans sickened by exposure to toxic burn pits

Veterans who served downwind of burn pits at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan could get a little clarity from the VA next year.
The $700 billion military spending bill that just passed the U.S. Senate makes provisions for the veterans who spent their deployment inhaling the smoke from their base's burning garbage — tires, plastic, batteries, electronics and human waste, all doused with jet fuel and set alight. The legislation calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to study and respond to the health risks of the burn pits.
Some veterans returned home complaining of asthma, neurological issues, cancers and other serious health problems. Burn pits, activists worried, could be this generation's version of Agent Orange.
Veterans who served downwind of burn pits at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan could get a little clarity from the VA next year.
The $700 billion military spending bill that just passed the U.S. Senate makes provisions for the veterans who spent their deployment inhaling the smoke from their base's burning garbage — tires, plastic, batteries, electronics and human waste, all doused with jet fuel and set alight. The legislation calls on the Department of Veterans Affairs to study and respond to the health risks of the burn pits.
Some veterans returned home complaining of asthma, neurological issues, cancers and other serious health problems. Burn pits, activists worried, could be this generation's version of Agent Orange.

Friday, September 22, 2017

AGENT ORANGE: A Toxic Legacy

Forty-two years after the fall of Saigon, veterans from The Villages® and countless others are still battling the aftermath of Agent Orange. 
Michelle Beardon
It was 1966. Bob Westfall was just 19, a kid really, too young to vote but old enough to fight for his country. He wasn’t much different than most of the young men who were either drafted or enlisted for an unpopular war halfway across the world. How bad could it be to leave a hardscrabble life on the poor side of the tracks in Newburgh, N.Y. for an adventure paid for by Uncle Sam?
A lot worse than he could have imagined.
“I suppose if you got out of it alive, you did ok,” says Westfall, now 70. More than 58,000 of the 2.6 million Americans sent to the Southeast Asian country didn’t make it, their names now inscribed on The Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Westfall spent 23 months there, mainly in A Shau Valley in the northernmost part of South Vietnam, a key infiltration route for North Vietnamese forces and site of some of the most fierce battles of the war.
By the time he completed two tours of duty as an Army communications specialist, Westfall survived bungee pits, a cyst on his spine and a peppering of shrapnel that was removed on the field by a medic with pliers. Westfall took home a Purple Heart for his combat injuries and enough bad memories to fill the next five decades.
What he didn’t know was that after leaving the steamy jungles of Vietnam, he would go home to fight a different war – this one with Agent Orange.

“We saw what it did to the land,” he says of the powerful herbicide used in Vietnam by the United States military. “No one was thinking of the damage it was doing to the humans.”
A resident of The Villages in Central Florida, Westfall has fought lymphoma, a blood cancer that traveled through his neck, groin and spleen. He ingested so much chemotherapy that it calcified his adrenal gland and thickened the walls of his bladder. He has dealt with depression, alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder. Because the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs considers lymphoma one of 18 presumptive health conditions connected to Agent Orange exposure, Westfall earns a monthly disability check.
But that’s not the end of it.
Some studies have linked birth defects and other medical issues to children, and even grandchildren, of Vietnam veterans at a higher rate than the general population. Westfall says it is no coincidence that his 43-year-old daughter and two grandchildren struggle with learning disabilities.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

September 23, 2017
Chicago, Illinois
Contact: Pat O'Brien 847.403.4676
Roger McGill 773.203.3353

October 1, 2017
Fargo, North Dakota
Contact: Becky Bergman 701-293-5151
Dan Stenvold 701-331-2104

November 4, 2017
Sturgis, South Dakota
Contact John Price

Federal government sues Mid-Michigan woman for blocking dioxin clean up

(WJRT) - (09/19/17) - A Mid-Michigan woman is being sued by the government for not allowing federal workers on her property to clean up a dioxin contamination.
It's something Dow Chemical and the Environmental Protection Agency have been working together to do for a decade now.
Property owner Connie Braun says she has seen no proof that there is contamination on her property, but the federal government says there is.
“I told them to get off my property, that the answer was no, they couldn't have access.” said Braun.
Braun has been telling that to Dow Chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Justice for about two years now. So the justice department has filed a lawsuit, saying dioxins, pollutants that can cause cancer, exist on riverbanks on her property along the Tittabawassee River and it needs to be cleaned up.
“They want to come and put a road down the middle of my property and take out all the trees along the river,” said Braun.
The lawsuit states positive dioxin results were found on the property before Braun bought it. Dow Chemical and the EPA continue to clean-up other properties, like this one along the Tittabawassee River floodplain. But Braun is balking.
“You spend your whole life working and live out here, so you could be a neighborhood like this, and something like this would destroy the neighborhood,” said Braun.
The lawsuit states the EPA wants the work done to stabilize the riverbanks to prevent erosion and the re-contamination of the river system. The government hopes a judge will allow Dow contractors and the EPA on the property.
“I'm not afraid of their lawyers,” said Braun.
She says she was not aware that the soil on her riverbank tested positive for dioxin before she bought the property. But at the same time, she's not worried.
“I've been here twelve years, I've never seen a rat, or a muskrat, or a deer or a fox, I have all of them, turkeys, dying because of this water,” said Braun.
Dow Chemical and the Department of Justice did not want to comment on the legal action at this time.

During Vietnam, Agent Orange Got Arkansas Trial, Veterans And Locals Still Haunted By Exposure Fears

Vietnam veteran James Kaelin stands on a dirt road staring into an empty scrub forest once part of Fort Chaffee, a U.S. Army Training camp east of Fort Smith, Arkansas. 
“They won’t even admit to this being a test site to anybody,” Kaelin says. “But I have information showing the Army tested Agent Orange, Agent White and Agent Blue on seven different locations on Fort Chaffee in 1966 and 1967 without knowledge to the general public. It was top secret.”
Kaelin has brought with him a stack of white papers a half-foot deep, still on the floorboard of his burgundy pickup, military documents proving that Fort Chaffee was a chemical weapons proving ground. Cicadas trill this hot August morning as military aircraft buzz overhead. Kaelin frequently pauses while telling his story to identify the make of each plane going by, without looking up.
“Rumor has it that pine trees were planted along the perimeter of this one test site,” Kaelin says, “in order to camouflage all the dead foliage inside.”
An old warning sign remains on former Fort Chaffee land sprayed with Agent Orange.
Credit Jacqueline Froelich / ARKANSAS PUBLIC MEDIA
During the Vietnam War, U.S. military forces decimated jungles occupied by North Vietnamese with tactical defoliants. The chemical agent mixtures, categorized by colorful code names, were tested on U.S. national forests as well as more than a dozen rural military bases including Fort Chaffee, a 75,000-acre Army post straddling Sebastian and Crawford Counties in west central Arkansas.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Infrastructure built to tackle dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa airport

Dong Nai (VNA) – The Ministry of Defence on September 16 launched the construction of infrastructure to address dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Airport in Bien Hoa city, the southern province of Dong Nai.
The project has total investment of 270 billion VND (11.8 million USD) from the State budget. Key facilities include disarming war-time mines and bombs, building roads, zoning off dioxin contaminated areas and removing organisations and military works from the new detected squalid regions.  Speaking at the launching, Deputy Minister of Defence Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh said that the project shows Vietnamese Government’s efforts in tackling post-war bombs and mines as well as toxic chemicals in hot spots. Once completed, it will help officials, soldiers and local people reduce their exposure to detrimental dioxin, he highlighted.  The move is a technical infrastructure preparation for a dioxin treatment project worth 500 million USD in non-refundable official development assistance from the US and other partners. Construction of the dioxin treatment project will begin latter this year, he added.
Bien Hoa Airport is considered as one of the dioxin hot spots in the country due to its high level of the chemical. According to assessments from Vietnam and the US, some 500,000 cubic metres of dioxin contaminated land in the airport need to be treated, requiring a large amount of capital and technology.-VNA

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Forgotten Victims of Agent Orange

Phan Thanh Hung Duc, 20, lies immobile and silent, his midsection covered haphazardly by a white shirt with an ornate Cambodian temple design. His mouth is agape and his chest thrusts upward, his hands and feet locked in gnarled deformity. He appears to be frozen in agony. He is one of the thousands of Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.
Pham Thi Phuong Khanh, 21, is another such patient. She quietly pulls a towel over her face as a visitor to the Peace Village ward in Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, starts to take a picture of her enlarged, hydrocephalic head. Like Mr. Hung Duc, Ms. Khanh is believed to be a victim of
Operation Ranch Hand, the United States military’s effort during the Vietnam War to deprive the enemy of cover and food by spraying defoliants.
Perhaps Ms. Khanh does not want strangers to stare at her. Perhaps she feels ashamed. But if she does feel shame, why is it that those who should do not?
The history of Agent Orange and its effects on the Vietnamese people, as well as American soldiers, should shame Americans. Fifty years ago, in 1967, the United States sprayed 5.1 million gallons of herbicides with the toxic chemical dioxin across Vietnam, a single-year record for the decade-long campaign to defoliate the countryside. It was done without regard to dioxin’s effect on human beings or its virulent and long afterlife. Agent Orange was simply one of several herbicides used, but it has become the most infamous.
Chemical companies making Agent Orange opted for maximum return despite in-house memos that a safer product could be made for a slight reduction in profits. American soldiers were among the unintended victims of this decision: Unwarned, they used the empty 55-gallon drums for makeshift showers.
Over the years, there have been both American and Vietnamese plaintiffs in Agent Orange court cases in the United States. Possibly the only one that could be considered a victory for the plaintiffs was an out-of-court settlement of $180 million in the 1980s for about 50,000 American veterans. Many more never benefited from the case because their illnesses did not show up for years.
These American veterans have fought for decades to get medical treatment and compensation for birth defects and ailments presumed to be Agent Orange-related diseases. Records from Agent Orange lawsuits indicate that both the military and the chemical companies involved were well aware, early on, of the dangers of dioxin, so much so that our government terminated the program three years before the war’s end.
Our government has acknowledged some of its responsibility to its veterans. In 2010, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki added three Agent Orange-related diseases to the V.A.’s compensation list, and Congress allocated $13.3 billion to cover the costs. An enterprising Senate aide slipped in $12 million for Agent Orange relief in Vietnam, only a small portion of which was for health. These disparities in funding are unconscionable, as is the American government’s illogical refusal to acknowledge that Agent Orange has caused the same damage to the Vietnamese as it has to Americans.

Utah VA Program Meant To Help Rural Vets Faces Elimination

The Veteran’s Administration, or VA, is in charge of getting benefits like healthcare and disability compensation to Utah’s former service members. But for veterans from past wars, it can be hard to navigate the system. One local program is meant to help veterans but it may soon disappear.
Wesley Grossnickle was a helicopter door-gunner in Vietnam in 1970 and ’71.
"We was in Hueys, so we was in support. We were what’s called the 229th Assault," Grossnicle says. 
Today he lives in Cornish, Utah, a town of about 300. Grossnickle has hearing and vision problems. He also has heart trouble from exposure to Agent Orange and he is being evaluated for PTSD. There are lots of things the VA can do for Grossnickle. The problem is finding out about them.

Friday, September 15, 2017


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting Calendar:

September 23, 2017
Chicago, Illinois
Contact: Pat O'Brien 847.403.4676
Roger McGill 773.203.3353

October 1, 2017
Fargo, North Dakota
Contact: Becky Bergman 701-293-5151
Dan Stenvold 701-331-2104