Thursday, August 23, 2018

VA may have fumbled over 1,000 sexual trauma claims, report says

Washington (CNN)The Department of Veterans Affairs incorrectly processed hundreds of claims related to military sexual trauma last year -- a breakdown in procedure that may have "resulted in the denial of benefits to veterans who could have been entitled to receive them," according to a report from the VA's Office of the Inspector General released Tuesday.
The Veterans Benefits Administration denied nearly half of the 12,000 claims that were filed in 2017 by veterans seeking support for post-traumatic stress disorder related to military sexual trauma, according to the department.
But investigators estimated that the VA failed to follow procedure when processing 1,300 of the 2,700 claims that were denied during a review period that spanned between April and September of 2017.
The report concluded that "multiple factors led to the improper processing and denial of (military sexual trauma)-related claims" during that time, including: "a lack of reviewers' specialization and no additional level of review, discontinued special focus reviews, and inadequate training."
"Incomplete processing may lead to inaccurate claims decisions and psychological harm to (military sexual trauma) victims," the report noted.
While the issue of sexual assault in the military has been widely reported for years, the momentum of the #MeToo movement has prompted a renewed effort for transparency within the armed services.
The Pentagon has said that it remains committed to addressing the issue of sexual assault and harassment within the ranks as survivors demand accountability from military leadership -- but encouraging victims to come forward and report sexually violent crimes remains a major challenge.
More than 5,200 service members reported a sexual assault in 2017 for "an incident that occurred during their military service, an increase of about 10 percent from the previous year," Tuesday's report said.

Does anyone out there know...

if Agent Orange or other defoliants were sprayed along the German/Czech border  where the anti-tank barriers and barbed wire defined the border between countries? 
Send information to

National guardsman’s widow speaks out

PORTSMOUTH -- Kendall Brock served 35 years with the 157th Air Refueling Wing of the National Guard at the former Pease Air Force Base before retiring.
In 2015, the retired chief master sergeant was diagnosed with stage 4 bladder and prostate cancer, his wife, Doris Brock, said in a recent interview.
“His doctor, his specialist, thought he had been exposed to Agent Orange and Kendall was never in Vietnam,” Doris said. “So that kind of raised some questions because he told us that the kind of cancer he had was very, very consistent with what he has seen with Agent Orange victims.”
By the time her husband was diagnosed, “there wasn’t anything we could do,” Doris said.
“He was given three to five years and he only lived two,” she said.
Kendall died June 30, 2017, at age 67.
Before his death, Doris had to watch her husband of 46 years go through agonizing chemotherapy treatments during the final two years of his life.
“That first treatment, it was a killer, it really was,” she said. “I watched him just deteriorate in a very short period of time. On his second treatment ... four weeks later he was so weak and so debilitated he had difficulty walking. We had to take him for hydration every day at the hospital. He couldn’t keep anything down and you just watched him melt away and that was really tough.”

Associations Between Use of Anti-malarial Medications and Health Among U.S. Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

thanks to Gerry Nye
VA’s Post Deployment Health Services (PDHS) Epidemiology Program researched the link between past use of anti-malarial medications, including mefloquine, and self-reported physical and mental health conditions among recent Veterans. They found that combat and deployment may negatively influence physical and mental health more than the use of antimalarial medications.
Researchers used data from 19,487 participants in the National Health Study for a New Generation of US Veterans, a large-scale study of OEF/OIF era Veterans.
Read about the research
Concerned about mefloquine side effects? Learn more

Monday, August 20, 2018

Blue Water Veterans Stalled? VA Vehemently Opposes New Legislation

Paul Lawrence, Undersecretary for VA Benefits, recently unleashed a blistering attack against the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 229), which would extend disability benefits to at least 70,000 Vietnam vets suffering from dioxin-related ailments.
Agent Orange, commonly used as a defoliant in the thick jungles of Vietnam, causes these ailments, and there is clear and convincing scientific evidence that these 70,000 veterans were also exposed to this chemical.
These soldiers were shipboard personnel who generally patrolled about 12 miles off the coastline, but precedent does suggest that this distance does not preclude Agent Orange exposure. Also, Congress does not differentiate between levels of exposure among land-based Vietnam vets, only whether they were exposed or not.
And yet…
VA is raring to go, citing “lack of sufficient scientific evidence” to grant these benefits, urging Senators to worry about “uncontrolled demands” for future VA benefits.
He specifically urged the Senate because this bill has already passed the House. UNANIMOUSLY. How rare must it be, in this age of polarized parties, that the House passes a bill unanimously?
As the former, doomed VA Secretary David Shulkin said of this legislation, “these veterans have waited too long and this is a responsibility that this country has.

A reminder for veterans of the Korean War to seek help

If you are a veteran who served in Korea from approximately 1965 or later, and your health is bad; you need to get yourself over to the U.S. Veterans Administration, the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, a military service group or your local county veterans service officer now.
If you are the spouse of such a deceased veteran then you should head over, too.
After the above date, the U.S. Eighth Army used Agent Orange as a defoliant in the area above the Civilian Control Line (CCL).
This agent was spread around like candy, and its use harmed thousands of veterans. It was hand sprayed and used around firing batteries and guard points.
It was used as a dust preventative on almost all the local roads above the CCL. If you drove on dusty roads then you almost certainly breathed dust containing the agent.
The list of ailments attributed to this poison is long and deadly. The above-mentioned agencies should be able to help you file your claim and research evidence of your exposure.
This is a forgotten problem. Many Korean veterans were deeply harmed, and they need to apply for help with their problems and compensation.
Fred Brown

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Report: Oatmeal, breakfast foods contain unsafe amounts of weed killer

A number of popular breakfast foods, including cereals, granola bars and instant oats, were tested and found to contain potentially dangerous amounts of cancer-linked glyphosate, the main ingredient in weed killer.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental advocacy organization that conducted the study, said Wednesday that glyphosate was found in all but five of 29 oat-based foods that were tested.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, the most heavily used herbicide in the United States. Every year, according to the EWG, more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate is sprayed on American crops.
The World Health Organization has determined that glyphosate is "probably carcnogenic to humans" and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set a safety level for the potentially dangerous chemical. Just last week, Monsanto was ordered by a court to pay nearly $300 million to a man who claims his terminal cancer was caused by exposure to Roundup. Hundreds of other cases are working their way through the courts.
Monsanto strongly disputes the finding that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and notes that over four decades, the EPA has consistently supported the safe and effective use of glyphosate.
The company notes on its website that on Dec. 18, the EPA stated the following: “The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.”

Drinking Water At Wurtsmith AFB Contaminted

Drinking water laced with high levels of poisonous chemicals may be to blame for cancer and other chronic disease among veterans and families who lived at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in northern Michigan, according to a new federal health report draft.
In July 2018 the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), set the table for Congress to consider legislation that would force the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to extend health benefits to base veterans without making them prove their illnesses are linked to chemical exposure. The presumptive disabilities from contaminated water at Wurtsmith AFB would lead to automatic compensation to potentially thousands of veterans.
The chemicals, notably benzene and trichloroethylene (TCE), were documented at extremely high levels in Wurstmith AFB water many times when the former Strategic Air Command (SAC) base was active and home to B-52 Bomber Wings.
To gain a measure of the extremely high levels of contaminated drinking water, according to the ATSDR, TCE levels in a well at the corner of Arrow Street and N. Skeel Avenue were as high as 5,173 parts-per-billion (ppb) during 1977, 1978, & 1979 tests, which is more than 1,000 times the EPA's current limit of 5-ppb for TCE in drinking water. TCE in another well on Jet Street near the present day Wurtsmith AFB museum was 1,739-ppb.
This is an evolving issue with many moving parts.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Burn pits, battlefield toxins, disabled troops and the fight for data

“I will advocate until they drape the flag over my coffin.”
That’s what Rosie Lopez-Torres told the Reserve Officers Association her husband, Army Reserve Capt. Leroy Torres, would say about his struggle for fair treatment after being disabled by toxic fumes spewing from burn pits in Iraq in 2007.
“You pretty much have to be a full-time advocate, just to ensure that the system doesn’t lose you in the process … if you come back from fighting a war and have to fight to keep your job.  It’s been a huge sacrifice; it’s had a huge impact on our lives,” she said. “How do you endure being stripped of your dignity and the one thing that was your life’s dream?”
Burn pits, in the news with the introduction of legislation that would provide better data on toxic exposure, long have been used to dispose of refuse. The burn pit detail achieves ignition with generous doses of petroleum products, themselves no breath of fresh air.
 Toxic exposure is not new: in World War I, mustard gas was used on Allied troops, and in Vietnam, troops were exposed to the Agent Orange defoliant. With the rise of technology, the battlefield includes especially toxic elements. In 2012, an Oregon jury awarded 12 National Guardsmen $85 million for their exposure in Iraq to carcinogen hexavalent chromium. (The decision later was overturned because it was heard in the wrong jurisdiction, not on the argument’s merits.)

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Jury Awards Terminally Ill Man $289 Million In Lawsuit Against Monsanto

At 42, Dewayne Johnson developed a bad rash that was eventually diagnosed as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Four years later Johnson — now near death, according to his doctors — has been awarded a staggering sum of $289 million dollars in damages in a case against agricultural giant Monsanto.
The former school groundskeeper sued the company, arguing that an herbicide in the weed killer Roundup, likely caused the disease. His lawyers also contended Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the alleged risk from their product.
On Friday, a San Francisco jury agreed. They deliberated for three days before awarding Johnson $250 million in punitive damages and $39 million in compensatory damages.
"The jury found Monsanto acted with malice and oppression because they knew what they were doing was wrong and doing it with reckless disregard for human life," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., one of Johnson's attorneys, according to the Associated Press.
"This should send a strong message to the boardroom of Monsanto," Kennedy added.
Johnson's is the first of hundreds of cancer-patient cases against Monsanto and could be a bellwether of what lies ahead for the company.
As NPR's Bill Chappell reported:
"Claims against Monsanto received a boost in 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer – part of the World Health Organization — announced that two pesticides, including glyphosate, are 'probably carcinogenic to humans.'
Monsanto is now facing hundreds of lawsuits, many of which were filed after that 2015 announcement. Dozens of the suits were joined to be heard in the court of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria – who, even as he allowed the case to proceed, said the plaintiffs 'appear to face a daunting challenge' in supporting their claims at the next phase of the case."
"We were finally able to show the jury the secret, internal Monsanto documents proving that Monsanto has known for decades that ... Roundup could cause cancer," Johnson's lawyer Brent Wisner said in a statement, according to The Guardian.

Judge dismisses 2003 lawsuit over Dow dioxin contamination

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Dow Chemical has prevailed in a long-running lawsuit by property owners over dioxin contamination along the Tittabawassee River.
TV station WJRT says the 2003 lawsuit was recently dismissed by a Saginaw County judge. Dow argued that the statute of limitations had long expired when the case was filed.
The company's legal position was strengthened in January. The Michigan Supreme Court said the clock began to run when damage occurred, not in 2002 when regulators publicly reported high levels of contamination in the river's flood plain.
WJRT says Dow has been cleaning up properties along the river by replacing contaminated soil. Property owners wanted to be compensated for lost land value and enjoyment of their property.

Friday, August 10, 2018



Veterans hope burn pit bill will provide VA health care, disability benefits

Veterans are praising new legislation that, if passed, will provide immediate VA health care and disability benefits to service members exposed to toxic fumes from burn pits.
Following several reports by 8 On Your Side on the burn pit issue, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R)-Florida announced he has introduced into Congress the "Protection for Veterans' Burn Pit Exposure Act of 2018."
"This will enable the veterans battling illness to immediately access VA medical care and disability benefits," Rep. Biliraksi stated in a Tarpon Springs news conference.
Lauren Price, a navy veteran, worked on the legislation with Mr. Bilirakis.
"It's the most important fight of my life," she said.
When Lauren Price went to war in Iraq in 2008, burn pits operated 24/7.
The military dumped any and all waste into pits, doused it with jet fuel, then ignited it.
Price remembers smoke, carrying toxic fumes and particulates, was everywhere.
"No matter what you did you couldn't hide from it," stated Price.
Christina Thundathil's duties in Iraq included burning human waste with jet fuel every day for 300 days.
"My lungs are moderately damaged," explained Thundathil.
Price and Thundathil now suffer chronic incurable bronchial and lung diseases.
"It was irrelevant where you were, when you were, if you were in the shower, there's an air conditioner running in the shower room, you were always breathing it," Price added.
The department of Defense and VA reject any connection between service members contracting rare and inexplicable diseases and open air burn pits.

Burn pits

It has taken quite some time for the VA to recognize the adverse effects of exposure to Agent Orange. Now the VA is conducting studies to determine the health effects of exposure to the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The burn pits may very well become the new “Agent Orange” by taking some time to evaluate the veterans that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the effects include heart and lung problems, cancer, digestive tract issues and many other health issues.
Iraq had at least three football-field size burn pits that burned continuously and caused the air quality to be very bad. Some of the people that worked near them developed a chronic cough that some service members called the “Iraqi Crud.”
The VA created the Institute of Medicine committee to study of health issues and the connection to burn pits. The IOM ultimately concluded that there is not enough evidence to prove toxic burn pit smoke harmed U.S. service members. However, the studies that the IOM relied on are arguably unreliable. The VA has been accused of stalling for time under the guise of scientific uncertainty. It is understandable that the VA has to have enough evidence of a nexus and new health issues.

Tribes seek probe of dioxin in The Dalles

Four Indian nations in the Columbia Basin are calling on the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to launch a "comprehensive investigation" into dioxin contamination at a Union Pacific-owned Superfund site in The Dalles, according to an article by Paul Koberstein and Jessica Applegate of the Portland environmental journal Cascadia Times.
Past studies showed that several species of Columbia River fish caught downstream from The Dalles were contaminated with dioxin, a highly toxic chemical, according to the article. No one knows yet if the dioxin originated at the Union Pacific Superfund site.
But the four Indian nations, each with treaty rights to Columbia River fish, want to find out.
The reporters' article, Dioxin in The Dalles, is the fourth in a series on a site in the Columbia riverfront community long used to treat railroad ties with creosote. It was based on a review of 5,500 pages of documents released in May by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Germany Heat Wave Lowers Elbe and Other Rivers, Exposing Dangerous World War II Munitions

An ongoing heat wave in Germany has lowered water levels on numerous rivers, including the Elbe River, where dangerous World War II munitions have been exposed.
Police are warning against touching grenades, mines and other possibly live explosives exposed in areas that were once battlegrounds in the eastern German states of Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony during World War II, Deutsche-Welle reports.
Saxony-Anhalt police spokeswoman Grit Merker told the newspaper at least 22 grenades, mines and other explosives have been found so far this year.

Appeals court orders Trump administration to ban pesticide harmful to children's brains within 60 days

A federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration Thursday to revoke approval for a widely used pesticide that studies show can harm the brains of children.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 60 days to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide initially developed as a nerve gas during World War II.
“This decision to tell the EPA to do the ban is a pretty bold move,” said Kristen Boyles, a staff attorney for Earthjustice, who represented environmental and farm worker groups in the case.
But she said it was justified by the science and the EPA’s continued foot-dragging.
The 2-1 decision stemmed from a 2007 petition by two environmental groups to prevent the chemical from being used on food.
The groups cited studies that found children and infants who had been exposed prenatally to low doses of chlorpyrifos suffer from reduced IQ, attention deficit disorders and delayed motor development that lasts into adulthood.
“The EPA failed to take any decisive action in response to the 2007 petition, notwithstanding that the EPA’s own internal studies continued to document serious safety risks associated with chlorpyrifos use, particularly for children,” New York District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, who was filling in on the 9th Circuit, wrote for the panel.
The Obama administration proposed banning the pesticide’s use on food crops, but former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course last year and decided to retain the pesticide.

Monday, August 6, 2018

SHAME! - VA rips 'Blue Water' Agent Orange bill, urges Senate to sink it

Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they strongly oppose passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), which would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 veterans.
The legislation would give coverage to service members who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.
The Blue Water Navy bill passed the House unanimously in late June and seemed certain to fly through the Senate, given reports of close coordination on the bill between veterans’ affairs committees, and the House having negotiated a plan to pay for the benefits with major veteran service organizations.
On Wednesday, however, with Robert Wilkie installed two days earlier as VA secretary, his undersecretary for benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, delivered a blistering attack on the Blue Water Navy bill, and on a proposal to test providing routine dental care to veterans, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
Lawrence testified that there’s still no credible scientific evidence to support extending Agent Orange-related benefits to shipboard personnel who never went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its rivers. Without such evidence, he said, it would be wrong, and would create a disastrous precedent, to award VA benefits.

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.

Some veterans got Agent Orange benefits, many more still waiting

Navy veteran Lonnie Kilpatrick received a letter in April from the Department of Veterans Affairs, reversing its previous decision and approving Agent Orange benefits for him.
Kilpatrick was stationed on Guam during the Vietnam War, according to retired Marine Brian Moyer. Moyer is lead organizer for the Agent Orange Survivors of Guam,
Kilpatrick died a month after receiving the letter. He's one of only a dozen or so veterans who served on Guam and whose ailments were recognized by Veterans Affairs as being related to Agent Orange exposure.

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Senate: Pass the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017, as passed in House Bill HR299.


The United States government, through the Department of Veterans Affairs, has a DUTY to TREAT medical problems associated with military service; COMPENSATE veterans (or their families) for early death or disability associated with their service; and MONITOR and DOCUMENT the effects of government policy and MISTAKES that created a higher health risk. For 50 years, VA has FAILED to monitor and document the effects of Agent Orange on military members that served in the "Blue Water Navy" during Vietnam. Congress is attempting to "fix" this dereliction of duty - and VA Officials oppose the change. We the people support treatment and compensation for these medical issues; and believe monitoring and documenting these issues should be the responsibility of VA, not the individual veterans.

REFUSE - CONFUSE - DELAY -DENY - Veteran against veteran: A new battle on Capitol Hill pits Agent Orange funding against low-cost mortgages

A new battle on Capitol Hill is pitting Vietnam veterans against more recent service members.
The Senate is currently considering the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, a bill that would extend benefits to 90,000 vets who served in the Navy off the coast of Vietnam and say they were exposed to Agent Orange. The House of Representatives in June approved the bill 382-0.
But one of the ways it would pay for the bill, which the Veterans Administration estimates will cost $3.4 billion over the next five years, is by increasing fees on home loans guaranteed by the Veterans Administration – a benefit far more likely to be accessed by younger vets.
The home loan program is a point of pride among the VA. It is available to anyone who has served, and offers generous terms including no down payment requirements, and the ability to fold closing costs into the overall loan amount.
Veterans often don’t have much of a credit profile, since many spend their entire early adult life in service. Yet delinquency rates for the VA loans are much lower than any other category of mortgage. That’s not just because vets are more disciplined, but because VA underwriting considers how much money homeowners will have after paying the mortgage and other expenses, a more holistic approach than many other lenders take.
The VA declined to comment for this story, as did other housing market participants, even as they privately expressed dismay over the inter-generational feud and Congress’ inability to take care of American service members. At least one senator, North Carolina Republican Thom Tillis, in a Wednesday hearing also said he was uncomfortable with that idea.
But as the National Association of Realtors said in a letter to two senators, “as a benefit, NAR believes that VA loan guarantee fees should be based on the risk of the loan made, and not the costs of other VA programs or benefits.”

DENY - DELAY - CONFUSE - REFUSE - VA: Science Doesn't Support Agent Orange Claims from 'Blue Water' Vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs opposed a bill Wednesday that has overwhelming bipartisan support in the House and Senate to extend Agent Orange health care and disability benefits to "blue water" sailors who served offshore during the Vietnam War.
"The science is not there" to show that the freshwater systems of Navy ships were contaminated by dioxin from Agent Orange defoliants widely used in Vietnam, said Paul Lawrence, the undersecretary for benefits at the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration.
"It's difficult to hear from veterans who are ill" as they file claims, he said at a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, but "there is no conclusive science" from a report by the Institute of Medicine to show a service connection.
Several senators from both sides of the aisle and representatives of veterans service organizations (VSOs) disputed Lawrence on the evidence for a service connection and urged passage of the bill, something the committee chairman, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, has made a "top priority."
The House has already passed by a vote of 382-0 the bill, which would allow sailors who served offshore in Vietnam to claim care and benefits for so-called "presumptive" diseases from exposure to Agent Orange, including respiratory cancers, heart disease, Parkinson's and chloracne.
Those who served on the ground and on the rivers of Vietnam are already able to claim Agent Orange benefits, and "it doesn't make any sense" to exclude the blue water sailors, said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York.
"I think this is an injustice that we can and must rectify," she said.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 90,000 sailors could be covered by the bill, which would likely cost about $1.1 billion over 10 years.
Lawrence and Dr. Ralph Erickson, the VA's chief consultant for post-deployment health at the Veterans Health Administration, also expressed concerns about Congress' proposal to "offset" the cost of the bill, H.R 299, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018.
In the House version of the bill, the money would come from a small increase in payments from non-disabled veterans who use the VA's home loan program, about $2 per month.