Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Expand Agent Orange-related health care? Shulkin says he would if he could

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors like cost, medical science and politics still stand in the way.
Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday that he made recommendations to White House budget officials last year on whether to add up to four more conditions -- bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors and hypertension (high blood pressure) -- to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.
“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1st”, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on Monday. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”
Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.
At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.
They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.
“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer, like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy…epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

The facts about farmed salmon you wish you didn’t know

• Farmed salmon are fed pellets made out of fish oil and smaller fish, ground-up chicken feathers, poultry litter (yes, that’s poop), genetically modified yeast, soybeans and chicken fat.
• Wild salmon get its lovely rose color from eating krill and shrimp. Farmed salmon, because it eats those pellets, is grey. To make it more appetizing to consumers, farmers add dyes to their feed.
• Studies show that farmed salmon contains up to eight times more PCBs — cancer-causing industrial chemicals that were banned in 1979 — than wild, as well as high levels of mercury and dioxins from herbicides like Agent Orange.
• We’ve all heard that omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients for nervous system, heart and brain health. Omega-3 in fish are derived from plants like algae, leaves and grass. Because farmed salmon are fed a lot of soy, they are high in omega-6, which you don’t want: Omega-3 fights inflammation while omega-6 promotes it.
• Then there are environmental concerns: pollution from fish excrement and uneaten feed; farms releasing diseases to wild fish stocks; escapees unwittingly released into the wild where there are no natural populations and then outcompeting native fish populations. Many people also have ethical concerns about farming carnivorous fish. To produce farmed fish such as salmon, you must feed them about three times their weight of wild-caught fish. That’s like feeding a whole sheep to a chicken to get that poultry to harvest weight.

Two Islands, 1,400 Miles Apart, Are Banding Together Against U.S. Bases

In January, three residents from the U.S. territory of Guam visited Japan to express their solidarity with Okinawans struggling to block construction of new U.S. military facilities on their island.
In the small community of Takae — population around 140 — they met residents Ashimine Yukine and Isa Ikuko, who explained what life was like living alongside the marines’ Jungle Warfare Training Center, a sprawling 35 square-kilometer facility that was once a testing ground for Agent Orange and later commanded by Oliver North.
In 2016, explained the residents, Tokyo mobilized approximately 800 riot police to force through the construction of new U.S. helipads in the area.
“The entire island is a military training ground,” explained Isa. “No matter how much we ask the Japanese government to change things, nothing changes. U.S. military helicopters and Ospreys fly low at day and night. Residents are moving away.”
In 2017, there were 25 U.S. military aircraft accidents in Japan — up from 11 the previous year. Many of these have occurred on Okinawa. As recently as last October, a CH-53E helicopter crashed and burned near Takae.
The Guam residents also visited Henoko, where the Japanese government has begun preliminary work on a massive new U.S. military installation to replace the U.S. air base Futenma, in Ginowan. The base will be built by landfilling Oura Bay, an area of immense biodiversity.l[

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Agent Orange Linked to Increased Risk of MGUS in Some Vietnam Veterans

US Air Force veterans who participated in the spraying missions of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War have a more than twofold increased risk of developing a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, a precursor to multiple myeloma. An association between Agent Orange and multiple myeloma has been suspected based on other studies involving farmers and agriculture workers, but this study provides the first direct evidence linking Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange with MGUS. Fifty years after the US Air Force began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, new research shows that veterans exposed to the herbicide are more than twice as likely to develop monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a precursor to multiple myeloma
A team of researchers led by Ola Landgren, Chief of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Myeloma Service, analyzed serum samples from 459 US Air Force personnel involved in aerial herbicide spray missions during the Vietnam War, as well as 459 samples from veterans who served there at the same time but were uninvolved in the spraying missions.
All of these veterans served between 1962 and 1971, when the US military dropped more than 19 million gallons of herbicides in Southeast Asia during Operation Ranch Hand.
Researchers tested for the presence of MGUS and also concentrations of TCDD, a contaminant of Agent Orange that’s been classified as a human carcinogen since 1997.

Video for new Community Resource Center

Courtesy of Betty Mekdeci and the National Birth Defect Registry

I thought you might like to see the video for our new Community Resource Center, the section supported by the grant from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation.

With best regards, 

Friday, March 16, 2018


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting calendar

March is multiple myeloma month

Multiple Myeloma and Agent Orange 

Veterans who develop multiple myeloma and were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service do not have to prove a connection between their disease and service to be eligible to receive VA health care and disability compensation.

About multiple myeloma

Multiple myeloma is a cancer caused by an overproduction of certain proteins from white blood cells. It is called multiple myeloma because it is characterized by plasma cell tumors in bones in multiple parts of the body.
There are often no symptoms until the disease progresses. Symptoms include bone pain, unexplained bone fractures, repeated infections, weakness or numbness in the legs, abnormal proteins in the blood or urine, anemia, fatigue, and high level of calcium in the blood.
Visit Medline Plus to learn more about treatment of multiple myeloma, the latest research and more from the National Institutes of Health.

VA benefits for multiple myeloma

Veterans with multiple myeloma who were exposed to herbicides during service may be eligible for disability compensation and health care.
Veterans who served in Vietnam, the Korean demilitarized zone or another area where Agent Orange was sprayed may be eligible for a free Agent Orange registry health exam.
Surviving spouses, dependent children and dependent parents of Veterans who were exposed to herbicides during military service and died as the result of multiple myeloma may be eligible for survivors' benefits.

Research on multiple myeloma and herbicides

The Health and Medicine Division (formally known as the Institute of Medicine) of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded in its 1994 report on "Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam" and in 1996, 1998, 2002, and 2004 updates, that there is limited/suggestive evidence of an association between exposure to the herbicides used in Vietnam and the development of multiple myeloma.

IAVA says burn pit exposure could be "the Agent Orange of our era"

Last week, when Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) Chief Policy Officer, Army vet Melissa Bryant, spoke before the Senate and House Committee on Veterans Affairs, one of the items she addressed was the exposure of vets to toxic exposure to chemicals, metals and other hazardous materials through burn pits. During her testimony, she told them she believes these exposures could be "the Agent Orange of our era."
This statement came from both her fear of what lies ahead and her experience with the past as Bryant was exposed to burn pits in Baghdad, and her father's exposure to Agent Orange during his tour in Vietnam. 
"I was helping him look through his VA disability claims and he was speaking to all the issues of Agent Orange which you can trace back to when he was in Vietnam in 1968," Bryant says. "So, 50 years later he is still suffering from the effects of walking through defoliated areas with Agent Orange. So that's something that from my deployment experience a decade ago, I have to question, where am I going to be 40 years from now?"

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


We update our meetings regularly on the Town Hall Meeting calendar

U.S. sailors visit Vietnamese shelter for victims of Agent Orange

DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) - Sailors from a U.S. aircraft carrier on Wednesday visited a Vietnamese shelter for people suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy foliage. 
Of the 4.8 million people who were exposed to Agent Orange, some three million are still suffering from its effects, including children born with severe disabilities or other health issues years after their parents were exposed, according to the Hanoi-based Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange.
“I think it’s very powerful to see the circumstances in which we’re here today compared to, say, 40 years ago,” said Gordon Watkins, a sailor from the visiting USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier who was at the shelter in Danang.
“I’m here in a T-shirt and shorts, and I’m playing with children,” said Watkins, who was holding a young Vietnamese boy in his arms. 
“I think that’s a really good step,” said Watkins, who along with other sailors made incense sticks and plastic flowers with the children at the shelter.  
On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy band visiting Vietnam with the carrier performed a rendition of “Noi Vong Tay Lon”, a Vietnamese song about national unity which was popular during the war.
The United States will soon finish a five-year, $110 million program designed to clean soil contaminated by Agent Orange at Danang International Airport.

U.S. 'supercarrier' USS Carl Vinson makes historic port call in Vietnam

SEOUL — The USS Carl Vinson — the Navy's massive nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — arrived in Vietnam on Monday, marking the first time such a ship has docked in the country since the Vietnam War.
The Nimitz-class supercarrier, accompanied by another carrier and a destroyer, anchored off the coast of Da Nang, the city where 3,500 Marines landed in March 1965 as the war's first American ground troops.
The Carl Vinson carries 6,000 crew members, stretches more than 1,000 feet and weighs more than 100,000 tons. The port call will mark the largest U.S. military presence in Vietnam since the almost two decade-long war ended in 1975. The war killed 58,000 Americans and more than 3 million Vietnamese.
The Carl Vinson's sailors will visit a treatment center for victims affected by the chemical defoliant Agent Orange during the war, and a Navy band will perform a concert in Da Nang.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Years later, Marine families bear scars of poisoning at Camp Lejeune

Life was about to take a sudden, shattering turn as Paula Twitty Bushman stood in her green, dress uniform of the U.S. Marine Corps, ready for another day in traffic court at Camp Lejeune.
The young Marine was a paralegal and four months pregnant. Suddenly, she felt discomfort below her waist and saw blood running down her leg and onto her black patent-leather shoes. A colonel at the court saw a burst of fear cross her face.
When Bushman awoke at the base hospital, confused and uncertain, a military doctor told her the news: The child wasn’t right. We had to take it.
The 1983 loss began years of torment that included another child stillborn at eight months, and health problems that continue to plague her.
“Something was stolen from me,” said Bushman, now 55. “Something was stolen without me ever saying it could be taken.”
As many as a million people stationed at the Marine base from 1953 to 1987 became
part of one of the darkest chapters in the Corps’ history. Toxins linked to miscarriages, birth defects, cancers and neurological behaviors polluted the drinking water.
Those exposed not only drank the poison water, they used it to bathe, swim, cook, wash clothes — and mix baby formula.
Georgia now has one of the largest concentrations of Lejeune veterans and dependents in the country with 10,561 on a national registry of those exposed to the contamination. Nearly 259,000 men and women across the country have joined the list.
“We were there to do a job and we did it, and now 30 years later we’re all sick,” said Crystal Dickens, a Lejeune Marine veteran in DeKalb County who lost two babies in pregnancy and now suffers from chronic health conditions. “Even the daycare, the mess hall, everywhere you went the water was contaminated and we didn’t know.”
Reluctantly, Congress in 2012 extended cost-free VA health care coverage to veterans and a more limited plan for family members suffering from conditions linked to the polluted water, acknowledging for the first time the harm it caused. The Obama administration followed in January 2017 with a plan to provide $2 billion in disability benefits to Lejeune veterans.

The Long Shadow of Fort McClellan

“In terms of documented contaminants, the levels are absolutely outrageous...” 
Kathy Keefer had no idea that Fort McClellan was adjacent to one of the nation’s most contaminated communities when she returned for her second Army stint in 1987 while pregnant with her eldest daughter. She didn’t know that decades of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) pollution from the nearby Monsanto plant had permeated the tree bark in Anniston, Ala., and turned domestic pigs into hazardous waste. Or that the drinking water had been tainted by heavy metals, solvents and other hazardous waste from the Anniston Army Depot, Fort McClellan and other industrial sources.
She’s thought a lot about it in retrospect, given the strange health problems visited upon herself, her husband – also a Fort McClellan veteran – and her children, problems entirely at odds with their family medical histories. 
“If I had known that Fort McClellan was a potential hazard for my unborn child, I would have found a way to stay off base and petitioned not to have gone at all,” Keefer says. 
That sentiment is shared by thousands of veterans who suspect that a litany of cancers, autoimmune disorders and other diseases are a result of toxic chemicals they were exposed to while stationed at the base in northeastern Alabama. 
“Fort McClellan is a powder keg of what was known, suspected and found there,” says Joan Zakrocki, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public health after leaving the Army and now researches the former base’s environmental problems as an advocate for Fort McClellan veterans and families. “Our time at Fort McClellan was the single most important factor contributing to our health.” 
Not only does Fort McClellan’s toxic résumé rival Camp Lejeune, N.C., where trichloroethylene (TCE) and other pollutants eventually forced VA to provide exposure-related health care to Marines, formerly serving Marines and families. But the combination of toxic chemicals from Monsanto, Fort McClellan and the Anniston Army Depot makes it the most contaminated place in the United States, says David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the State University of New York at Albany in Rensselaer. 

RoK’s dioxin detoxification method to be expanded in Thua Thien-Hue

Hanoi (VNA) – Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan has agreed to expand the Republic of Korea (RoK)’s microbiological method to detoxify soil contaminated with Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin in A Luoi district in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue.
The method is being piloted at the district’s A Sho airport and helps reduce dioxin concentration in contaminated land by 35 percent, according to a report of the Vietnam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment (VACNE). Speaking at a working session in Hanoi on February 28 with representatives from the RoK’s BJC Company, Nhan assigned the Vietnam Environment Administration and VACNE to discuss an expansion plan with the company to improve the soil environment in the locality. Participants at the session lauded the capacity and efforts of Korean experts. They expressed their hope that the method will be carried out on a larger scale to boost the district’s socio-economic development. From 1961 to 1971, American troops sprayed more than 80 million litres of herbicides — 44 million litres of which were AO, containing nearly 370kg of dioxin — over southern Vietnam. The mountainous district was sprayed with 432,812 litres of grass-killing chemicals during the 10-year period. A Sho, a temporary airport during the war, was used for parking and washing of airplanes after spraying was completed, resulting in serious contamination of the area with dioxin.-VNA

Inventors of Killing Machines Like the AK-47 Often Regret Their Creations

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, died in 2013 at the age of 94. Though he often shrugged off criticisms that he'd given the world a tool that has helped murder millions (he once compared himself to a "woman who bears children,” declaring himself “always proud” of his creation), months before his
death, he revealed intense remorse. In an April 2013 letter to Russia's Orthodox church, Kalashnikov said a profound sadness had dogged him in the final years of his life. "My spiritual pain is unbearable,” the gun inventor wrote. “I keep asking the same insoluble question. If my rifle deprived people of life then can it be that I...a Christian and an orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?"
The letter was made public in 2014, after being published in the Russian newspaper Izvestia and later picked up by Western outlets. The missive offers an unvarnished look at a man who, taking stock of his life, came to regret what he once considered his greatest achievement and contribution. "The longer I live," Kalashnikov continued, "the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”