Monday, November 18, 2019

Agent Orange: What the US Really Did in Vietnam

The US’ use of chemical warfare is far more insidious than what it executed conventionally militarily in Vietnam. Unlike napalm, which immediately scalded its victims, Agent Orange killed and maimed its victims slowly over time, its effects passed down through generations, wreaking untold horrors on a mostly civilian populace.
In the end, the military campaign was called Operation Ranch Hand, but it originally went by a more appropriately hellish appellation: Operation Hades. As part of this Vietnam War effort, from 1961 to 1971, the United States sprayed over 73 million liters of chemical agents on the country to strip away the vegetation that provided cover for Vietcong troops in “enemy territory.”
Using a variety of defoliants, the U.S. military also intentionally targeted cultivated land, destroying crops and disrupting rice production and distribution by the largely communist National Liberation Front, a party devoted to reunification of North and South Vietnam.
Some 45 million liters of the poisoned spray was Agent Orange, which contains the toxic compound dioxin. It has unleashed in Vietnam a slow-onset disaster whose devastating economic, health and ecological impacts that are still being felt today.
This is one of the greatest legacies of the country’s 20-year war, but is yet to be honestly confronted. Even Ken Burns and Lynn Novick seem to gloss over this contentious issue, both in their supposedly exhaustive “Vietnam War” documentary series and in subsequent interviews about the horrors of Vietnam.

House panel will look into dispute over Agent Orange benefits for Navy veterans

A key House of Representatives subcommittee will probe Wednesday whether thousands of Vietnam War sailors who say they were exposed to Agent Orange can qualify for federal benefits — as the list of congressional supporters continues to grow significantly.
McClatchy detailed last month how veterans’ advocates have been frustrated for years in their bid for help. The Department of Veterans Affairs , saying there’s not enough evidence to prove widespread Agent Orange exposure for Navy veterans who served on large ships like aircraft carriers in the South China Sea.
The proposed legislation, which now is co-sponsored by 252 of the House’s 435 members, would grant disability-benefits coverage for potentially tens of thousands of sailors who have certain cancers and diseases associated with exposure to the chemical dioxin, a dangerous ingredient used in the Agent Orange herbicide during the Vietnam War.
The bill, defeated in years past in Congress because of the estimated $1 billion cost over 10 years, is at a crucial political juncture, with a new president and VA secretary and President Donald Trump’s push to spend more federal money at the VA.

Vietnam Veterans of America urges vets to file claims if they were impacted by Agent Orange exposure

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — There is a push for Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to the toxic chemical Agent Orange to speak up now about their health concerns.
Vietnam Veteran’s of America Bureau Chief Marc McCabe visited Okeechobee Thursday to encourage veterans to file claims if they feel they were made sick because of Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam.
McCabe explained they try to visit rural areas where aging veterans might not have the same access to resources to help them.
McCabe says time is of the essence for veterans to file claims now, as a new group of veterans will soon be eligible for reimbursement.
Currently, McCabe said Vietnam Veterans who served in "brown water" in Vietnam, which is the inland waters, could be considered for presumed Agent Orange exposure.
In January 2020, veterans who served in ships as far as 12 miles offshore will also qualify.

Is this the solution to contaminated water on military bases?

As a Pentagon task force works to come up with a plan to address cancer-linked chemicals in ground water on its bases, a group of civilian researchers is exploring a high-tech solution.
The Enhanced Contact Plasma Reactor made its debut in September at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, according to a Tuesday release from the Air Force, in a field demonstration of its ability to break down per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance.
 “We are trying to destroy or degrade PFAS impacted groundwater using electrical discharge plasma,” principal investigator Selma Mededovic, of Clarkson University, said in the release.
The idea is that argon gas from the reactor concentrates perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOS and PFOA, generating plasma at the surface. The plasma then breaks down the PFAS molecules.
"This is the only technology that actually destroys PFAS molecules that has been demonstrated at this scale, it doesn’t just remove them from water,” co-principal investigator Tom Holsen said in the release. “All of the other demonstrations that we’re aware of remove it from the water through filtration so there is still a PFAS-containing waste. Our method actually destroys PFAS.”

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Veterans Day, 2019

Dow Chemical agrees to $77 million in environmental restoration settlement

Dow Chemical Co. has agreed to an estimated $77 million settlement for environmental restoration projects in mid-Michigan to compensate for wildlife destruction caused by the Midland-based chemical manufacturer.
The settlement, announced Friday and subject to public comment and approval, would "compensate the public for injuries to natural resources," according to a news release from the United States Attorney's Office Eastern District of Michigan.
Dow, which merged with Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co. in 2017, has agreed on settlement terms with the state of Michigan and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.
Federal, state and tribal agencies filed complaints alleging that Dow released dioxin-related compounds and other substances that "adversely affected fish, invertebrates, birds and mammals," and led to restrictions on hunting, fishing and use of public parks, the release said.
The Dow plant released dioxins and other hazardous substances into rivers and their watersheds for decades after opening in 1897.
As part of the reparations, the company agreed to pay for and implement eight natural resource restoration projects throughout Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties.

The courts have 'lost patience' with VA over delay on Blue Water Navy veteran benefits

Twelve "Blue Water Navy" Vietnam veterans have died since the Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie issued a stay on processing their Agent Orange disability claims.
On Friday, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by a veterans nonprofit group, Military Veterans Advocacy Inc. (MVA), asking that the delay on processing those claims ends. The delay affects more than 400,000 veterans or surviving family members who could be eligible for benefits, according to VA.
"I think we won a strategic victory," MVA Executive Director John Wells told Connecting Vets after the hearing.
Wells feels confident that, at the very least, VA will not be able to extend the stay past the original date of Jan. 1. However, there's a possibility that a decision comes back from the court ending the stay even earlier.
"We'll have to wait until the decision comes out, but I think if nothing else we've prevented the secretary from going past January 1st," Wells said. "From our point of view that would be the worst possible outcome. It might be better but we think that would be the minimum that we would get."
Wells and MVA are optimistic — and sensed that the courts were frustrated with VA much like the veterans are.
"We felt the court had pretty much lost patience with the VA," Wells said. "We also felt they were very concerned because Mr. Procopio had been granted his benefits by that same court back in January and still hadn't received his benefits. The judges did not seem very happy about that."

Agent Orange photog returns to jungle where it all began

CA MAU, Vietnam--A 78-year-old Japanese photojournalist who documented the vast and ongoing suffering caused by the use of Agent Orange by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War returned to the jungle here where his life's work began.
What Goro Nakamura saw, now one of the world's largest mangrove wetlands, bore little resemblance to how the area looked 43 years ago, when it was devastated by chemicals sprayed by the U.S. military to remove cover for the opposing side.
The trip to southern Vietnam in October only reinforced his commitment to continue calling for accountability and capturing the scars and aftereffects on younger generations of the years-long operation.
Nakamura started covering the Vietnam War in 1970. The conflict ended in 1975, and reunification of the country divided for nearly two decades was formally completed in 1976.
That year, he arrived at Ca Mau, the country's southernmost region, having heard about forests dying there and wanting to see it for himself.
It is believed that the U.S. military sprayed more than 70 million liters of Agent Orange between 1961 and 1971 as part of a sweep operation to uncover Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces hiding in the jungle. Ca Mau was one of the targets of the operation.
Nakamura traveled by boat in the waterways of the Cape Ca Mau jungle. What he discovered took his breath away, something he had only heard about until then and was now in front of him.
It was dead silent, with not so much as a bird chirping, he recalled. Nothing but a field of thousands of mangrove trees destroyed by the chemical attacks.

Thursday, November 7, 2019


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

November 14, 2019
Okeechobee, Florida
Contact: Dan Hunt

March 21, 2020
Portland, Oregon
Contact: Steve Carr

April 25, 2020
Barrington, Rhode Island
Contact: Fran Guevremont

As we celebrate veterans, don’t forget the residual consequences of war

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Veterans Day—a moment for us to recognize the sacrifices made by all those who have served our country. It is an especially powerful moment for the 18 million veterans still alive today, as they look back on their service and its profound impact on their lives, and those closest to them.
Unfortunately, many of our surviving veterans struggle to live their lives to the fullest because of war’s harsh consequences—if they even live at all. Because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other residual repercussions, the veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than that of the general population. According to the most recent data, more than 6,000 veterans commit suicide on an annual basis. This comes out to an average of 17 veteran deaths by suicide per day.
But, however terrible, even that’s not the end of the story. A veteran’s daily life is littered with countless obstacles, which are often ignored by the mainstream media yet continue to wreak havoc on entire communities.
Perhaps the most significant one is toxic chemical exposure. Any U.S. veteran who fought in the Vietnam War, which amounts to nearly three million service members, is presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. This includes the roughly 850,000 living Vietnam veterans who are forced to cope with the ramifications of Agent Orange in their daily lives.
Agent Orange is a herbicide linked to a wide range of debilitating conditions, such as multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, and others. The U.S. military used the toxic chemical from 1962 and 1975, spraying millions of gallons over Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
However, Agent Orange’s lethal legacy extends far beyond Southeast Asia. In Guam, where one in eight adults served in the Armed Forces, our military’s use of the herbicide has affected thousands of veterans stationed on the Pacific Island. They, and the thousands more who served on the island and now live elsewhere, are dealing with the consequences of Agent Orange on a daily basis. That’s right: It is a daily struggle.

What to know about the 2020 VA home loan program increase

The VA home loan has helped nearly 25 million service members become homeowners. Between no down payment and no mortgage insurance, it’s no wonder this mortgage option remains an attractive one for military borrowers and their families. However, with several changes on tap for the new year, will the program continue to be a popular choice for eligible buyers?
Here are four things you must know about the VA loan program increases coming in 2020.
No more loan limits
Starting Jan. 1, borrowers can say goodbye to VA home loan limits. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019 allows home buyers to borrow more than the current loan limit of $484,3509 in most U.S. counties. This change is expected to be a game-changer for military borrowers who are wanting to stay competitive with conventional buyers in higher-priced markets such as Denver and Seattle.
The combination of no loan limits and no down payment will certainly help a number of service members attain their homeownership goals in 2020. That said, veterans shouldn’t confuse the loan limit removal for unlimited borrowing power. You’ll still need to meet the program’s eligibility requirements and have sufficient income.
Higher funding fees
If you’ve taken advantage of your VA benefits before, you know to account for the funding fee at closing. For borrowers who don’t know, the funding fee varies based on your service history, loan amount, and other factors. It plays a major role in the VA program and ensures future service members can also become homeowners.
The funding fee for first-use borrowers will increase from 2.15% in 2019 to 2.30% in 2020. Those using the VA loan a subsequent time will see funding fees rise from 3.3% to 3.6%. It’s worth mentioning the increase is supposed to help offset health care costs for veterans who are dealing with the effects of Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

The Myth of Blue Water Navy Benefits

110,000 Carrier Sailors 'Left Behind'
There has lately been a lot of press coverage for the Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans who did not step foot on the solid ground of Mainland Vietnam or any of its many surrounding islands. This matter concerns their VA Benefit eligibility for presumptive exposure to herbicides (Agent Orange) in Vietnam while serving aboard ships offshore in a variety of direct combat and combat support roles. They recently won a landmark court ruling and have had legislation (that had been kicked around the Legislature since 2007) finally passed and signed into law by the President. They now face an unreasonable and possibly illegal delay of their Benefit awards imposed by the VA.
Anyone reading through the current information would think that all the Blue Water Navy sailors who served in the Theater of Combat offshore Vietnam have received their long-awaited Benefits. But that would be incorrect and no one is providing detailed information about which veterans are eligible for these Benefits and which are not. And many are still unaware that there was ever a question concerning their Benefits at all. The sailors who have recently won their presumption of exposure to Agent Orange are only those who served within a narrow band of water called the Territorial Seas of Vietnam, and then only when south of the 17th parallel. The fact is, this new law excludes many sailors who served on aircraft carriers. That might well be a significant number of Blue Water Navy sailors who served in the Vietnam Theater of Combat who should be eligible for these Benefits.

Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and PTSD

We know that those who are exposed to trauma are at an increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What do we know about OEF/OIF and PTSD?
OEF/OIF is an acronym that refers to the U.S.-led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Specifically, OEF means "Operation Enduring Freedom" (the war in Afghanistan), while OIF stands for "Operation Iraqi Freedom," or the Iraq War.
Veterans from the OEF/OIF conflicts have been found to have high rates of PTSD. Specifically, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that some 10 percent to 18 percent of OEF/OIF veterans have or had post-traumatic stress disorder and may be at risk for other mental health problems.
PTSD was more likely to be diagnosed in service members several months after they returned from the two conflicts, rather than right away. Here's some information on the conflicts and how PTSD has affected those who participated.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Former therapist: VA is hurting mental health care for combat veterans at its Vet Centers

SMITHFIELD, R.I. — From his small home office, former Lt. Col. Ted Blickwedel is conducting a self-appointed mission: to call attention to what he claims is a serious problem inside a little-known Department of Veterans Affairs program that provides free mental health care to combat veterans.
From 2009 until retiring last year, Blickwedel, a former Marine Corps logistics officer, worked as a counselor and therapist at a VA facility in Rhode Island called a "Vet Center."
That facility is one of 300 that VA operates across the U.S. through its "Vet Centers" program. The program includes 80 mobile Vet Centers, 20 vet venter "outstations" and almost 1,000 community access points.
The program began after the Vietnam War as the Readjustment Counseling Service. Its purpose was and is to help combat veterans "readjust" to civilian life at home after returning from deployments.
The centers provide cognitive behavioral "talk therapy" and organize social activities and events designed to get vets out of the house and connected with other vets. All services are free.
Blickwedel, himself a combat veteran, said he got a master's in social work so he could help veterans as a therapist. He told NBC News he found working at a Vet Center to be a "wonderful" experience.
"We witnessed huge changes in veterans. Some of them, their lives completely did a 180," Blickwedel said. "I've personally had veterans tell me that I've saved their lives. That I made a difference for them."

Thursday, October 31, 2019


Go Ahead and Die! - VA still has no plans to begin processing Blue Water Navy Agent Orange claims until 2020

READ THE STORYBlue Water Navy Vietnam veterans will have to continue to wait until next year before the Department of Veterans Affairs begins to process their long-awaited Agent Orange disability benefits claims.
There was no indication from Congress or VA leaders during a Wednesday hearing on the subject that there was a plan to lift the delay put in place earlier this year.
About a week after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act -- a long-awaited measure to grant benefits to certain veterans who served in the waters off of Vietnam -- VA Secretary Robert Wilkie issued a stay on processing any Blue Water claims until January 2020, first reported by Connecting Vets.
Veterans and members of Congress have repeatedly called on Wilkie to lift the stay and begin processing at least the claims of the oldest or most critically ill. Veteran service organizations have appealed to the White House, asking Trump to lift the stay himself. Some veterans have gone so far as to file a lawsuit to lift the stay.
Dying veterans exposed to Agent Orange and widows of those already passed have come to Washington pleading for benefits.

Four commanding officers of California Navy base die in unusual string of cancers

Four commanding officers at a premiere Navy weapons testing base in California have died of cancer, one of several alarming clusters in the military’s aviation community found by a McClatchy investigation.
The commanding officers served at California’s Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. They were some of the Navy’s top aviators and test pilots. Each had thousands of flight hours in advanced jets and two attended TOPGUN, the Navy’s elite Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor course. One of them, Capt. Alexander Hnarakis, was part of the inspiration for the Tom Cruise blockbuster movie.
Details about this unusual string of cancer deaths at the top tier of Navy veteran aviators were shared with McClatchy in interviews with pilots who knew them and with family members.
In recent months, members of that usually private group of both Navy and Air Force pilots have come forward to raise attention to the issue and try to answer the question: What’s causing the cancers?
At China Lake, three of the four commanding officers served back-to-back. Capt. John D. Langford, commanding officer from 1998 to 2000, died of brain cancer at age 66 in September 2015. Capt. James Seaman, commanding officer 2000 to 2002, died of lung cancer in April 2018 at age 61.
Capt. Alexander Hnarakis, commanding officer 2002 to 2004, died of thyroid cancer in May 2018 at age 62. Capt. Jeffrey Dodson, commanding officer 2009 to 2012, died of brain cancer in July 2016 at age 55.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Nearly 4,000 SC veterans claim to be affected by burning trash pits during post-9/11 wars

Thousands of South Carolina’s Iraq and Afghanistan veterans carry the weight of war on their lungs.
They suffer from shortness of breath, cancer and disease, and blame toxic smoke inhalation from smoldering trash burned in the desert at the request of the government.
After the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center collapsed on 9/11, America’s sons and daughters were jettisoned into wars in two foreign countries. The military, in a hurry, propped up forward operating bases in the middle of the desert and asked for assistance from private contractors for basic needs, such as waste removal.
Contractors had a simple solution: Burn the trash. Despite warnings from military officials on the ground about possible harm, the Department of Defense went ahead with the burn pits.
About 3,700 Palmetto State veterans have put their stories on a registry claiming they have severe health ailments as a result of the decision to burn waste. The smoke has affected their skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs through multiple diseases and cancers.
As these Iraq and Afghanistan survivors wait on legislation to push through the cogs of Congress, time is running out for some.
The issue of burn pits became a nearly decade long legal battle that would stretch from the smallest state courtrooms to the U.S. Supreme Court. Overall, more than 3.5 million veterans reported to the Department of Veterans Affairs they may have been exposed to airborne toxins since the War on Terror started.
 “The military recognized that there were certain health risks associated with the use of burn pits, but balanced those risks against the greater risk of harm to military and other personnel should other methods of waste management be utilized,” Roger W. Titus, a U.S. district judge in Maryland, wrote in a July 2017 ruling.

USS Plantree - US Coast Guard Vessel off Vietnam - REQUEST FOR HELP

Gifford, Debra L (MVA sponsored) <>
To: ALL who can help

I worked with the Department of VA for 36 years before retiring and taking a State of Alaska contract Veterans Service Officer (VSO) with the Vietnam Veterans of America and am seeking information about the U S Coast Guard ships associated with Service in Vietnam and exposure to A/O.  This veteran served on the USS Plantree off the coast of Vietnam in 1966.  He alleges he had to interact with the Vietnamese while debarked offshore.  Can you send to some of your VVA contact’s & see if any veterans have similar circumstances in proving “boot on the grounds in Vietnam?”

D Lucy Gifford
Accredited VSO with VVA
P O Box 23220
Juneau, AK  99802-3220

Veterans with PTSD have a higher risk for a stroke

PTSD has been known to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke in older adults — but, according to a recent study, that risk extends beyond older adults into middle-aged and even young adults.
A nationwide study published in Stroke, a journal of the American Stroke Association, that included 1.1 million veterans showed that PTSD may be a "potent risk" for stroke at a young age.
Those veterans were all enrolled in healthcare services provided by the Veterans Health Administration — mostly males between the ages of 18 and 60 with an average age of 30. They had all recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan and none had previously experienced a stroke.
Researchers followed these veterans for 13 years. Within that time period, 1,877 of the veterans had a stroke. That means that veterans with PTSD were 62% more likely to have a stroke — raising the risk more than other lifestyle factors like obesity and smoking.
PTSD affects roughly 8 million American adults — and 30 percent of veterans.

Whistleblower office at VA is failing in its most basic mission, watchdog says

One of President Trump’s signature initiatives to turn around a culture of retaliation against whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs is an office in disarray that instead has punished them — and held almost no wrongdoers accountable.
Those are the conclusions of a scathing report released Thursday by the agency’s inspector general, which found that the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection created early in Trump’s term in 2017 has failed in its core mission.
The president heralded the office as a tool to clean up the troubled agency. More than two years later it resembles a kangaroo court, the inspector general found, running inferior investigations that VA attorneys cannot trust and “floundering” in its duty to protect employees who report wrongdoing.
Just one senior manager has been removed by an office created to discipline senior-level managers involved in misconduct, Inspector General Michael Missal found.
The office has shown “significant deficiencies,” including poor leadership, skimpy training of investigators, a misunderstanding of its mission and a failure to discipline senior leaders, according to the 100-page report.
“Notably, in its first two years of operation, the [office] acted in ways that were inconsistent with its statutory authority while it simultaneously floundered in its mission to protect whistleblowers,” the report says. VA “created an office culture that was sometimes alienating to the very individuals it was meant to protect.”
In response, VA spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci said in a statement that the report “largely focuses on [the office’s] operations under previous leaders who no longer work at VA.” She said its new leadership has independently identified many of the issues the inspector general highlights and is moving to make changes, ensuring greater oversight over investigations and halting retaliation against whistleblowers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

October 23, 1983 - Beirut Marine barracks bombing

On October 23, 1983, two truck bombs struck buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, housing American and French service members of the Multinational Force in Lebanon (MNF), a military peacekeeping operation during the Lebanese Civil War. The attack killed 307 people: 241 U.S. and 58 French military personnel, six civilians, and two attackers.
The first suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb at the building serving as a barracks for the 1st Battalion 8th Marines (Battalion Landing Team – BLT 1/8) of the 2nd Marine Division, killing 220 Marines, 18 sailors and 3 soldiers, making this incident the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II and the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Armed Forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War.[1][better source needed] Another 128 Americans were wounded in the blast; 13 later died of their injuries, and they are counted among the number who died.[2] An elderly Lebanese man, a custodian/vendor who was known to work and sleep in his concession stand next to the building, was also killed in the first blast.[3][4][5] The explosives used were later estimated to be equivalent to as much as 9,500 kg (21,000 pounds) of TNT.[6][7]
Minutes later, a second suicide bomber struck the nine-story Drakkar building, a few kilometers away, where the French contingent was stationed; 55 paratroopers from the 1st Parachute Chasseur Regiment and three paratroopers of the 9th Parachute Chasseur Regiment were killed and 15 injured. It was the single worst French military loss since the end of the Algerian War.[8] The wife and four children of a Lebanese janitor at the French building were also killed, and more than twenty other Lebanese civilians were injured.[9]

White House responsible for delayed decision on new Agent Orange diseases, documents show

Two years ago, then Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin decided to add three health conditions to the list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits, but White House officials challenged his authority and impeded enactment, according to internal documents obtained by a veteran through the Freedom of Information Act.
Now tens of thousands of veterans are still waiting.
Shulkin decided to add three health conditions — bladder cancer, Parkinson’s-like symptoms and hypothyroidism — to the list of diseases eligible for Agent Orange benefits. Heavily redacted emails and briefings released recently to former Army Spc. Jeff O’Malley, of Pearland, Texas, show Shulkin made the decision sometime before Oct. 3, 2017 — a move that would have given ailing veterans faster access to disability compensation and health benefits.
But the Office of Management and Budget, including Director Mick Mulvaney, and other White House officials objected, according to the documents.
VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin wrote OMB Director Mick Mulvaney March 8, 2018, requesting support for his effort to expand the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases.
VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin wrote OMB Director Mick Mulvaney March 8, 2018, requesting support for his effort to expand the list of Agent Orange presumptive diseases.
While the specifics of OMB’s opposition were redacted, legible portions show that that the office believed the scientific evidence supporting the proposed additions was limited and it had concerns about the budgetary impact of the expansion, as well as any adverse effects on the existing disability benefits program.
According to the documents, roughly 83,000 veterans are afflicted with one of the three proposed presumptive conditions. The estimated cost for providing disability compensation to these former service members was redacted.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Department of Veterans Affairs Fast Facts...warts and all

Here is a look at the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
There are 18.2 million veterans in the United States, according to the most recent statistics from the US Census.
More than nine million veterans are served each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Health care facilities are made up of 1,074 outpatient sites and 170 VA Medical Centers.
1789 - The new US government passes legislation ensuring pensions for disabled Revolutionary War veterans.
1812 - The Naval Home, a facility for disabled veterans, opens in Philadelphia.
1924 - Congress passes the World War Adjustment Compensation Act, a system of bonuses for veterans of World War I. Any veteran entitled to more than $50 is given a certificate payable 20 years in the future and worth about $1,500.
July 21, 1930 - US President Herbert Hoover signs an executive order consolidating the Veterans' Bureau, the Bureau of Pensions and the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers into the Veterans Administration. The VA has a budget of $786 million and serves 4.6 million veterans.
1931-1941 - The VA builds 27 new hospitals, bringing the total to 91.
1932 - During the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans march on Washington to demand payment of their bonuses. After the marchers are forcibly removed, the VA pays their transportation costs home. Congress authorizes early payment of the bonuses in 1936.

Marine fed up with government denials, searches for evidence of toxic herbicides

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Former Marine Brian Moyer is fed up with government denials.
He saw herbicides being sprayed while he served on Guam during the Vietnam War.
The government denies it used the powerful defoliant Agent Orange on Guam.
Moyer, who now heads Agent Orange Survivors of Guam, is not convinced.
 “They continue going on with this lie,” Moyer said.
Former Marine Brian Moyer went to Guam to seek answers and evidence.
He recently traveled to Guam, where following our reports about the use of Agent Orange, local and federal Environmental Protection Agency field staff greeted him.
 “I had witnessed spraying on many many occasions,” Moyer explained.
He took E.P.A. staff to a fuel pipeline that runs from Apra Harbor to Andersen Air Force Base and other military installations.
Lakeland veteran Leroy Foster, who died last year, claims he sprayed hundreds of thousands of gallons of Agent Orange along that pipeline, as well as around military bases, housing and schools.
 “I was spraying the most deadliest substance on earth,” Sgt. Leroy Foster told me two years ago.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Why Lane Evans’ legacy still matters today

My friend and mentor Lane Evans died almost five years ago. He left Congress, due to Parkinson’s disease, seven years before that. Yet, in many ways, Lane was a man ahead of his time.
To confront many of today’s challenges, we might look to Lane’s example. That’s why I and a number of other leaders who were close to Lane will be commemorating his legacy at Augustana College on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 1-4 p.m. The Lane Evans “Election 2020: Putting People First” forum will highlight many of the ideals Lane stood for years ahead of his time that are urgently needed now.
One of our country’s biggest challenges today is income inequality -- the large and growing gap between the wealthiest few and the rest of us. For 24 years in Congress, Lane was a steadfast champion of working families and the hard-pressed middle-class. He opposed efforts to weaken unions, which fight for better wages and working conditions for all Americans. And he stood up against repeated attempts to undermine Social Security and Medicare -- critical programs that provide seniors with the dignity and security they deserve.
Lane also recognized, before many others, that clean air and water are essential to our future and he voted consistently to protect our natural environment from harm. Today, as we face the growing effects of climate change, such as rising oceans and catastrophic storms, we could learn from Lane’s example of making the environment a priority -- even in tough economic times.


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

October 19, 2019
Portland, Oregon
Contact: Steve Carr

October 26, 2019
Princeton, West Virginia
ontact: Roger Williams

October 26, 2019
Mankato, Minnesota
Contacts: Windy Block 507-327-3422
Maynard Kaderlik 507-581-6402

October 26, 2019
Winston, Oregon
Contact: Jennifer Ellis

November 14, 2019
Okeechobee, Florida
Contact: Dan Hunt

I Ran the VA Under President Trump Until He Fired Me

Dr. David Shulkin served as Secretary of Veterans Affairs under President Trump and is the author of It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Serve Your Country.
Around 11 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, I received a call telling me I was expected at Trump Tower in New York at 2 p.m. that afternoon. After about an hour of sustained panic driving with my wife Merle on snow-covered roads from Philadelphia, my cell phone rang. It was Reince Priebus.
 “Sorry not to have called sooner, but we’re all set. You’ll be meeting with the president-elect on Monday at 2:00 p.m.” Monday, not today.
We found the nearest exit, turned around and headed back home.

Later that afternoon, Priebus called again, this time with some questions for me — mainly, it seemed, to help him figure out how I had gotten on his call list. He wanted to know how I knew Trump. I told him I didn’t. He seemed perplexed that I had no connection to the Trump campaign. He also wanted to know how I became under secretary for Obama. Without commenting on any of my answers, Priebus asked me to meet with him for lunch on Monday prior to my meeting with the president-elect.

Vietnam vet seeks other exposed to Agent Orange in Thailand

Vietnam veteran Roger Jones is seeking fellow servicemen who were exposed to Agent Orange while serving at United States military installations in Thailand.
Jones served at   Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base and Takhli Royal Air Force Base Thailand from from August 1969 to August 1970.
He now has Parkinson’s disease, which was added to the list of ailments caused by Agent Orange in 2010.
Agent Orange is a herbicide used as a defoliant on areas of South Vietnam such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was also used to defoliate the outskirts of bases in Thailand, where American servicemen worked.
Currently, there are two bills in the United States Congress in which Jones wants to make his fellow servicemen aware — House Bill 2201 and Senate Bill 1381.
He hopes  recent bills will bring attention to the plight of veterans who served in Thailand during the Vietnam War era.
In April, the House bill was introduced to allow veterans who served in Thailand the opportunity to prove toxic exposure in order to qualify for Department of Veterans Affairs benefits. 

Military Exposures & Your Health

Military Exposures & Your Health is a new newsletter for Veterans with service from 1990 to the present.  Topics include military environmental exposures, updates about health, benefits, and news for Veterans. This newsletter will be released online twice a year and replaces the Gulf War Newsletter and Post-9/11 Vet Newsletter. 
Find the first issue at:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Bombs in Your Backyard

The link for the contamination map is below. The map was made in 2017, and it includes info through 2015.
The military spends more than a billion dollars a year to clean up sites its operations have contaminated with toxic waste and explosives. These sites exist in every state in the country. Some are located near schools, residential neighborhoods, rivers and lakes. A full map of these sites has never been made public – until now. Enter your address to see the hazardous sites near you, or select a state.


The Military Times has unveiled a new comprehensive job board that aims to connect veterans with thousands of job opportunities with employers seeking to hire people with military experience. 
The new online job board offers employers from around the country an opportunity to target veterans and servicemembers who are planning to return to the civilian job market. Servicemembers can create profiles, target a job search to specific locations and set up job alerts for new postings.
Veterans employment rates have remained strong in recent years, often falling below the national average. The job board is the latest addition to the Military Times' expanding support for veterans, which includes the Military Times Veterans Transition Survival Guide, an annual 'Best for Vets' rankings for employers; and, a news section that provides up-to-date information about education and transition issues.

EPA to test Verona, Mo. private wells for possible cancerous chemical

VERONA, Mo. (KY3) -- Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shared what they could Friday with leaders in Verona, Mo. The EPA is working to discover if a dangerous chemical has seeped into ground and well water.
The short-notice meeting came a little more than six weeks after the agency reported it found two dangerous chemicals at the Syntex site. The site is now operating as BCP Ingredients, but was known to produce Agent Orange decades ago.
At a public meeting in August, the EPA told residents one of those chemicals -- dioxin -- was contained, but the agency was not certain about the status other chemical, dioxane.
Friday, the EPA shared plans to start testing private wells in Verona for dioxane, but the mayor wants answers much sooner than that.
"Why, when there's questions asked, why ain't there just an out forthcoming answer?" Mayor Joseph Heck asked EPA officials in Friday's meeting.
Heck and about a dozen of the people he represents listened to EPA's plans to see if the chemical is in their ground and drinking water.

Congress sparks veterans’ ire with mortgage fee hike

Months after Congress passed a bill temporarily raising the fees that veterans pay for home loans, lawmakers are quietly seeking to tap the same pot of money again, a move that's pitting veterans’ groups against one another.
The House voice-voted a bill, H.R. 3504 (116), this summer that would hike veterans’ mortgage fees by more than half a billion dollars over the next 10 years — with $86 million of that going toward helping offset the U.S. deficit. The money is mostly to be used for the benefit of disabled vets by expanding both housing grants for them and a scholarship program for the children of military members killed in the line of duty.
So the legislation is putting veterans' advocates in a tough spot: Everyone supports the underlying programs for disabled vets, but while some groups are willing to eat the higher fees to get the legislation passed, others are drawing a line.
“Taking from those veterans [buying a home] in order to redistribute their money to another veterans cause is just robbing Peter to pay Paul,” said Lindsay Rodman, an executive vice president of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
“The way that they’re paying for it is essentially a cop-out of government responsibility to pay for the wounds of war,” Rodman said.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

URMC research suggests why flu season hits some harder than others

Researchers at the University of Rochester said that they have found links between environmental toxins and weakened immune systems that get passed down from generation to generation.

Paige Lawrence, who runs a lab in the environmental medicine department at the University of Rochester, said the results of the study, published this month in the journal iScience, could help explain why some people are more vulnerable to the flu than others.
The project started with mice.
 “We got mice, we let them get pregnant, and while they were pregnant, we exposed them to very teeny tiny amounts of dioxins -- one part per billion,” Lawrence said.
Dioxins are a type of pollution that is toxic to both people and mice. Their negative effects on immune systems are well-documented.
What has been less clear is whether those effects can be inherited.
To study that connection, the researchers also had a set of mice that they did not expose to dioxins. They tracked both groups for three generations -- until they had what Lawrence called, “the mouse equivalent of great-grandchildren.”