Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sunday, April 26, 2020

FEMA Reportedly Took The 5 Million Masks Ordered For Veterans To Send To Stockpile

Five million face masks ordered by the Veterans Health Administration to protect staff at the department’s hospitals and clinics were taken by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the Strategic National Stockpile, a top official told The Washington Post.
“I had 5 million masks incoming that disappeared,” said Dr. Richard Stone, the executive in charge of managing the nation’s largest health care system with 1,255 facilities that serve more than 9 million veterans. He told the Post that FEMA instructed vendors with protective equipment ordered by the Veterans Administration to send the shipments instead to the stockpile.
“The supply system was responding to FEMA,” Stone, a former Army deputy surgeon general, told the Post. “I couldn’t tell you when my next delivery was coming in.” Veterans’ health care facilities were going through about 200,000 masks a day, according to Stone.
Stone acknowledged the problem after Veterans Administration officials had denied their facilities were grappling with shortages even amid mounting complaints from health care professionals.
After an appeal from Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to FEMA, the agency provided the VA with 500,000 masks this week, FEMA officials said in a statement to the Post. FEMA officials did not address the issue of diverting supplies ordered for veterans to the national stockpile.
The short-changing of hospitals caring for the nation’s veterans is similar to FEMA issues at other facilities and states across the nation. Hospital officials and governors have complained that FEMA is snatching equipment ordered by communities — rather than providing much-needed supplies, which officials had been counting on the agency to do.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — a Democrat who President Donald Trump has frequently targeted because of what he calls her “complaints” — revealed last month that vendors with whom her state had contracted for desperately needed medical equipment were told “not to send stuff,” on orders from the Trump administration.
Several hospitals in seven states surveyed by the Los Angeles Times complained that FEMA officials were showing up unannounced and seizing their supplies, leaving them desperately short and uncertain about where to turn for more equipment.

NVLSP Fact Sheet on CARES Act

The National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP) recognizes that veterans may have questions regarding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  We have compiled a fact sheet to help address some of the common questions.

NVLSP continues to work to ensure that the government delivers to our veterans, active duty personnel and their families the benefits to which they are entitled due to disabilities incurred during their military service. 

Should women be eligible for US military draft?

One of the starkest ways American women have achieved equality with men in the workplace has occurred in the military.
The decision five years ago by then Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to open all positions in the armed forces to women - including combat duty - was largely applauded as a necessary step that benefited the military and society.

But this levelling of the military playing field has led to a more divisive consequence - at the end of March the government's National Commission on Military, National and Public Service declared it is now time that women become eligible for the military draft - the procedure by which individuals are chosen for conscription - just like their male counterparts between the ages of 18 and 25.
Currently, all male US citizens in that age bracket, regardless of where they live, and male immigrants - documented and undocumented - residing within the US, must register through the Selective Service System.
These registrations create a pool of men who could be pressed into service if the US needs tens of thousands more troops to fight a war or if the country faces an existential crisis.
Women have also been serving the US military for generations, from sewing uniforms during the Revolutionary War to nursing the wounded in World War II. But they have never been required to register for the draft, a stance increasingly at odds with the reality of American's modern military.
"The mere fact that women would have to register would signal a national recognition that everyone is expected to serve if needed and that everyone's service is valued equally," says Kara Vuic, a war studies professor at Texas Christian University, who is writing a book called Drafting Women.

Writing contest on Agent Orange, dioxins held for first time

Hanoi (VNA) - A writing competition on the subject of Agent Orange and dioxins and their aftermaths, the first of its kind in Vietnam, has been launched to mark the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the use of Agent Orange and dioxins in the country on August 10, 1961.
Held for both professional and non-professional journalists, it aims to promote the role of the media in raising public awareness of Agent Orange and dioxins and their consequences and to express support for the victims.
Entries can be a news story, an interview, a commentary, or an investigative piece published in Vietnamese in domestic print or online magazines and newspapers between January 1 and March 30.
They must be true stories and honestly depict people having a positive influence on the community and contributing to caring for and supporting victims of Agent Orange and dioxins.
Each writer can submit no more than three entries. The winners will be announced and receive awards in August, when the anniversary will be marked officially./.

Veterans group accuses VA of using coronavirus patients as ‘testing subjects’

WASHINGTON — A national veterans group has accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of using patients as “human testing subjects” for an anti-malaria medication that some believe could be useful against the coronavirus.
The VA is giving hydroxychloroquine to some patients as a “last resort,” the department said Thursday, even though it’s unproven to work.
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America took issue with the department doling out an unproven treatment for the coronavirus after a study was published this week that determined the drug had no benefit for VA patients.
“This is incredibly troubling for a number of reasons and raises so many questions that we need answered,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of IAVA.
There is no proven treatment for the coronavirus, which has killed more than 45,000 Americans and infected nearly 845,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Hydroxychloroquine, which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, entered the public spotlight after optimistic claims by President Donald Trump that it could be a “game changer” against the virus.

Veterans Affairs coronavirus cases top 6,000 as vice president touts department progress

A day after Vice President Mike Pence said that Veterans Affairs is “not seeing cases in its facilities increase,” the department’s coronavirus count topped 6,000 after one of its largest one-day jumps in the last month.
The number of deaths within the VA health system also rose to 391 on Thursday morning, up 18 from the day before. The department has seen a steady rise in cases and fatalities since March 22, when officials reported just 160 cases and a single death from the fast-spreading illness.
Nationally, more than 800,000 Americans have contracted the virus and more than 44,000 died have died from complications related to the illness.
Some medical center employees had been receiving only one mask a week to protect against infection.
On Wednesday, during the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House, Pence praised efforts by VA officials to deal with the outbreak.
“We are also very proud of our team at the VA,” he said. “The VA has addressed its capacity issues. It’s not seen cases among the veterans in its facilities increase, so they are deploying teams to focus on nursing homes.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie on Covid-19


VA Head Acknowledges Challenges For Health Care Workers Battling Coronavirus

The Department of Veterans Affairs is the country's largest health care network with 300 hospitals, clinics and nursing homes nationwide. More than 9 million American veterans get care from the VA, and today VA doctors and nurses serve on the frontlines of the pandemic crisis.
In March, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told NPR's All Things Considered that his department was well-prepared for the outbreak of COVID-19, and had good supplies of masks and testing kits. The reality is different today, he said.
"Since then, as the national emergency kicked in since I did that interview, the normal supply chains have dried up," said Wilkie.
Wilkie insists the VA did sufficient planning, with "war games" of the outbreak earlier this year. And he said the VA had replenished its national emergency cache of health supplies before the virus hit. That planning has not measured up to the crisis. No VA hospital has run out, but that's because the VA has been forced to carefully ration equipment.
"For those who are on the front lines in the emergency rooms, in the COVID wards, who are in the nursing homes, they have the normal supply of equipment. It's those who do not have that direct contact with patients that we've asked to follow CDC guidelines," he said.
Wilkie admits the Centers for Disease Control guidelines are based more on adapting to the crisis than on ideal medical practices.
"We are ensuring that those on the front lines have what they need," he said. "Does everyone in a hospital have all of the changes in gear that we would have in a normal situation? No."

Sunday, April 19, 2020

VA Instructs Coronavirus-Exposed Staff to Continue Working, Places Those Who Don’t in AWOL Status

Employees at the Veterans Affairs Department are feeling pressured to return to work even after they've been exposed to the novel coronavirus—a new VA policy requires them to continue showing up, and threatens discipline along with the possibility of losing pay for those who stay home.
The situation is creating a stressful environment in which VA workers worry their colleagues may be hiding symptoms while they have insufficient equipment to protect themselves and others from spreading the virus. Government Executive spoke to employees at more than a half-dozen facilities, all of whom said management was providing inconsistent guidance and creating unsafe working conditions.
To date, more than 5,000 patients and 1,600 staff at VA facilities have tested positive for COVID-19; more than 300 patients and more than a dozen staff have died from the disease. Until recently at some facilities, staff told Government Executive, some administrative staff were not even allowed to wear masks, either because there weren't enough to go around and they were being reserved for medical personnel with more sustained patient contact, or because supervisors were worried about alarming patients and visitors. 
At some facilities, VA officials have instituted policies under which employees who worked with COVID-19 positive patients before their status was known—and therefore were not wearing the proper equipment—should continue to work until they develop symptoms, after which they could be tested for the virus. In some cases, those employees included nurses and doctors who subsequently tested positive for the virus but returned after seven days when their symptoms were no longer evident, employees said. One memorandum sent by a top official at a medical center in Indianapolis said VA facilities should consider enabling employees “who have had an exposure to a COVID-19 patient to continue to work after options to improve staffing have been exhausted.”  

In Vietnam, There Have Been Fewer Than 300 COVID-19 Cases And No Deaths. Here's Why

Vietnam shares a border with China, yet it has reported no deaths from COVID-19 and just 268 confirmed cases, when other Southeast Asian nations are reporting thousands.
Experts say experience dealing with prior pandemics, early implementation of aggressive social distancing policies, strong action from political leaders and the muscle of a one-party authoritarian state have helped Vietnam.
"They had political commitment early on at the highest level," says John MacArthur, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's country representative in neighboring Thailand. "And that political commitment went from central level all the way down to the hamlet level."
With experience gained from dealing with the 2003 SARS and 2009 H1N1 pandemics, Vietnam's government started organizing its response in January — as soon as reports began trickling in from Wuhan, China, where the virus is believed to have originated. The country quickly came up with a variety of tactics, including widespread quarantining and aggressive contact tracing. It has also won praise from the World Health Organization and the CDC for its transparency in dealing with the crisis.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently characterized Vietnam's efforts as the "spring general offensive of 2020," a reference to the 1968 Tet Offensive, which many claims helped turn the tide of the Vietnam War.
Tens of thousands have been put in quarantine camps. By the end of March, Vietnam had banned all international and domestic flights. The government locked down the country on April 1. State-run media say the current social distancing and stay-at-home orders are to be extended for at least another week.

8 ways veterans are particularly at risk from the coronavirus pandemic

Among the most hard-hit are veterans, who are particularly susceptible to both health and economic threats from the pandemic. These veterans face homelessness, lack of health care, delays in receiving financial support and even death.
I have spent the past four years studying veterans with substance use and mental health disorders who are in the criminal justice system. This work revealed gaps in health care and financial support for veterans, even though they have the best publicly funded benefits in the country.

VA Workers Exposed to the Coronavirus

“America will again, and soon, be open for business,” President Trump had said. “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” That was on March 23, the same day that the Norfolk-based Virginian-Pilot published a letter from Sheila Elliott, a long-time pharmacist at the nearby Hampton Veterans Affairs hospital, criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for “the haphazard way in which COVID-19 is being handled.” The VA, she wrote, “was at the front lines of providing invaluable assistance” to victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Ebola epidemic, but “this time, VA workers are facing a scarcity of everything from masks to hand sanitizer to test kits.”
As the coronavirus pandemic rips through America, the VA is preparing to fulfill its statutory role as a backup civilian healthcare system when the private sector becomes overloaded. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie announced last week that the department would open up 1,500 hospital beds across the country for civilians diagnosed with Covid-19. But as the VA ramps up this critical support, its clinicians must also continue treating more than nine million veterans, many of whom are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus due to their age and underlying conditions, including respiratory illnesses brought on by exposure to Agent Orange or burn pits.
There’s reason to be hopeful that the VA can meet these challenges. Contrary to popular belief, the department generally delivers care that’s as good or better than the private sector’s. As for-private hospitals continue to schedule lucrative tummy tucks and other non-essential services, the VA has swiftly canceled elective procedures in order to free up staff and resources for emergency care. While the private sector system is furloughing staff, the VA is expediting hiring practices and ramping up compensation. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had to strong-arm private hospitals to coordinate on care and equipment, but the VA has long run a highly integrated national network where staff and supplies can be shifted quickly to help quell the virus.
But the VA’s many strengths are being undercut by the Trump administration’s attacks on federal workers’ rights. Elliott—who, in addition to having worked at the VA for 30 years, is the daughter of a World War II Navy veteran and president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 2328—told me that VA leaders were ignoring labor leaders’ concerns and recommendations for workplace safety. As a result, decisions were being made seemingly arbitrarily, some staff assigned to Elliott’s hospital’s Covid-19 unit were not properly trained, and safety protections had not been ensured.

You can now be fined in Vietnam for spreading fake news about coronavirus on social media

HANOI – A new decree took effect in Vietnam on Wednesday introducing fines for the dissemination of “fake news” or rumors on social media, amid the rapid spread of comment online about the novel coronavirus in the Southeast Asian country.
The first COVID-19 cases were detected in Vietnam this January and the health ministry has reported 267 infections so far with no deaths, numbers well below those seen in some other Asian countries.
Local authorities have already fined hundreds of people for posting what they described as “fake news” about the virus, using the term popularised by US President Donald Trump, based on existing legal provisions. But the new decree, drafted in February, supersedes one from 2013 which does not specifically cover ‘fake news’, new guidelines say.
A fine of 10-20 million dong ($426-$853), equivalent to around three to six months’ basic salary in Vietnam, will be imposed on people who use social media to share false, untruthful, distorted, or slanderous information, according to the decree.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

From Agent Orange to Coronavirus: How Guam's residents have been put at risk time and again by US military

Residents of Guam are not new to constant US military presence on the strategic Pacific island. However, with the novel coronavirus outbreak, they are fearing for their lives as hundreds of sailors from a coronavirus-stricken Navy aircraft carrier flood into the island’s hotels to quarantine.
An outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt began in late March infecting more than 580 sailors. Amid this, the ship’s commander Capt. Brett E Crozier was fired for distributing a letter urging faster action to protect his sailors, leaving the Navy into a leadership crisis.
The carrier has been docked in the US territory for over a week as the 4,865-person crew is tested for the virus and moved ashore. However, what has made locals nervous is that many sailors, who have tested negative, are isolating in the island’s hotels and they do not exactly know where they are being put.
“Being negative today doesn’t mean that they won’t be in a week or so. The decision to house them in the middle of our community is playing a game of chance with the health of our people,” a group of locals, who have urged Guam Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero to reconsider allowing the sailors to stay in hotels, said in a statement.
“Our people are getting slapped in the face,” said Hope Cristobal, one of the residents of Guam, who thinks officials are making promises about safety but are unable to keep up. Cristobal lives less than a quarter-mile from hotels in Tumon, a district located in the municipality of Tamuning which is the center of Guam's tourist industry. “We don’t know exactly where they’re being housed,” she added.
According to reports, Mary Rhodes, president of the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association, declined to disclose the names of the hotels where the Navy personnel have been housed.

What about those hospital ships?

The two Mercy-class hospital ships have become prime assets in the Navy's efforts to reach out to foreign countries and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Since 2001, the hospital ships have conducted a number of humanitarian-assistance and disaster-response missions at home and abroad, providing care to more than 550,000 people.
Comfort, which originally drew most of its medical staff from the Washington area, was transferred to Norfolk, Virginia in 2013 to be closer to the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, where most of its medical staff now is based. Comfort deployed for 180 days for Continuing Promise 2015. In 2017 Comfort deployed to Puerto Rico to support relief efforts after Hurricane Maria, and in 2018 Comfort deployed to South and Central America for Enduring Promise 2018.
Mercy has made three 150-day deployments in recent years including Pacific Partnership 2015, 2016 and 2018. Comfort also provided humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) each contain 12 fully-equipped operating rooms, a 1,000 bed hospital facility, digital radiological services, a medical laboratory, a pharmacy, an optometry lab, a CAT-scan and two oxygen producing plants. Each ship is equipped with a helicopter deck capable of landing large military helicopters. The ships also have side ports to take on patients at sea. When fully operational, the hospital ships have a crew of about 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy medical and communications personnel. The precise crew composition and size varies by mission type. During humanitarian-assistance missions, the crew often includes representatives from other U.S. services, foreign militaries and nongovernmental organizations.
Both hospital ships are converted San Clemente-class super tankers. Mercy was delivered in 1986 and Comfort in 1987. Normally, the ships are kept in a reduced operating status in Norfolk, VA, and San Diego, CA, by a small crew of civil service mariners and active duty Navy medical and support personnel. Each ship can be fully activated and crewed within five days.

Vietnam Expedites Shipment of Medical Suits to US

Vietnam has shipped nearly half a million protective suits to the United States, marking a quick turnaround in bilateral talks to deal with the significant U.S. shortage in medical equipment, and resulting in a tweet of thanks from the U.S. president.
"This morning, 450,000 protective suits landed in Dallas, Texas," U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday in a post on Twitter. "This was made possible because of the partnership of two great American companies—DuPont and FedEx—and our friends in Vietnam. Thank you!"
The U.S. embassy in Hanoi said a second shipment of 450,000 suits from Vietnam would follow "to address the urgent need for protective equipment for frontline providers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States."
Vietnam is still working to keep COVID-19 under control domestically. It has had 251 people infected in total and has recorded no deaths as of Friday. That relative stability has allowed it to send medical aid to nations such as Laos, Spain and now the U.S.
The aid stands in contrast to worries elsewhere the pandemic is encouraging protectionism, with nations trying to limit exports of medical supplies. The limits around the world range from Moscow suspending exports of personal protective equipment, to the White House telling 3M not to sell surgical masks abroad. 
Americans are more familiar with buying "Made in Vietnam" garments and footwear, given the Southeast Asian nation's large manufacturing base. It is that manufacturing capacity that makes it possible for firms such as Dupont to speed up production of protective coveralls in Vietnam. Dupont said it took 10 days to finish the protective suits and fly them from Hanoi to Dallas — a process that usually takes 90 days and includes transport on a container ship.

William Goines; America’s first black navy seal

William Goines became America’s first black Navy Seal in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy created the first two SEAL teams – team one on the West Coast and two on the East Coast.
Born in 1936 in Dayton, Goines was one of the 40 men chosen to join SEAL Team Two and was also the only Africa-American on either team.
Goines’ pioneering feat began after seeing a film that depicted Navy frogmen, performing underwater demolition operations during World War II while he was a junior at Lockland Wayne High School.
“My fate was sealed right there. That’s exactly what I wanted to do,” Goines said, the reported.
Goines would enlist into the Navy in 1955 after receiving his diploma to begin training as a frogman. He was with five Army Rangers, two foreign Naval officers, four U.S. Navy officers, and 85 other Navy enlisted men.
According to, all the Rangers and one of the foreign officers dropped out three weeks after and when the time for graduation came in 1957, he was one of the 13 men left standing.
And then five years later in 1962, President Kennedy established the first two SEAL teams and Goines was selected after several interviews for the unit, famously known for the 2011 raid in Pakistan on the compound housing former Al-Qaeda leader and Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.
“I was one of 40 selected to become the nucleus of future Navy SEALs,” Goines told NBC News. “I remember asking this lieutenant, ‘what was our mission gonna be? And he said, ‘It’s too secret to talk about.’”
In his over 30-year career, Goines jumped out of moving planes on stealth missions that soared as high as 30,000 feet and flew as fast as 300 mph. “We jumped out of everything,” he told the “We even jumped out of balloons in France and Belgium, just experimenting.”
He swam for miles unassisted and survived the trenches of Vietnam after exposure to Agent Orange.

'Rice ATMs' provide free rice for people out of work in Vietnam due to the coronavirus crisis

(CNN)A machine that gives out free rice -- it sounds too good to be true. But these "rice ATMs" have been set up around Vietnam to help those who need it most during the coronavirus pandemic.
Vietnam has 265 cases of the novel coronavirus and zero deaths, numbers that are significantly lower than the rest of the world. But still, to prevent further spread, the government has enforced social distancing, effectively shutting down many small businesses and leaving thousands out of work.
For these people who are suddenly without income, businessmen and donors have set up machines that dispense free rice at several cities across Vietnam.
In Hanoi, rice contained in a large water tank pours out into residents' bags from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, according to state-run news agency VNA.
Those waiting in line are required to stand six feet apart from each other and they must use hand sanitizer before receiving their rice, according to local newspaper Hanoi Times.
In the central city of Hue, a rice ATM located at a college provides 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of free rice for local residents.
In Ho Chi Minh City, a rice ATM dispenses rice 24/7. And in Da Nang, two rice ATMs will be set up next week, according to VNA.

Michael R. Leaveck

WASHINGTON D.C. — Michael R. Leaveck, long-time advocate for Vietnam veterans and their families and a specialist in fine art, died on April 2, 2020 in Washington, DC as a result of a traumatic brain injury. He was 73 years old.
A native of Gay, Michigan in the upper peninsula, Michael graduated from Lake Linden-Hubbell High School in 1964 and enlisted in the US Navy, where he served from 1964 to 1967 as a crypto technician aboard three different ships operating in Vietnamese territorial waters. He then moved to California, where he received a BA degree from California State University, Stanislaus in 1973 and immediately joined Cal State Stanislaus as its first Coordinator for Veterans Affairs. In this position, Michael created a program that provided specialized services to over 900 returning veterans at the peak of their enrollment at the university. In 1980, Michael moved to Sacramento to become the staff specialist on veterans policy for the California Legislature’s Assembly Select Committee on Veterans Affairs and drove significant policy changes for veterans, including strengthening California’s veterans home loan program and passing legislation authorizing the building of California’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
After 17 years in California, Michael moved to Washington, DC in 1984, becoming the Legislative Director and later Director of Public Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), where his legislative strategies led to establishment of the right to court review of veterans benefits claims and preservation of the VA store-front counseling program, known as the Vet Centers. Michael then served from 1989 to 1996 as Deputy Director of the Agent Orange Class Assistance Program, established by a US District Court to manage part of the $240 million Agent Orange class action lawsuit settlement, and oversaw the distribution of over $70 million in grants to 73 agencies in 100 communities in the 50 states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Families protest as veterans nursing home emptied for virus

ATLANTA (AP) — With her husband's Veterans Affairs nursing home closed to visitors to guard against the coronavirus, Linda McCall hadn't seen him for weeks but at least took comfort that he was nearby in suburban Atlanta.
Now, 78-year-old Ralph McCall has been moved to a facility two hours away, and she’s fuming.
“It’s like my husband is property, or a piece of meat, and we don’t have a say,” said Linda McCall, a Roswell resident. “Whoever made this decision in Washington, they don’t care about my husband at all.”
McCall and other veterans' families said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs gave them insufficient notice of the decision to move dozens of residents from the Atlanta nursing home and worry they won't receive adequate care in their new facilities.
The agency said the veterans, many with multiple medical conditions, will be safer in other VA locations less affected by the coronavirus than the Eagles' Nest community living center adjoining the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur. The agency is also trying to clear out space in the facility in case the adjacent hospital needs it for a surge of COVID-19 patients, spokesman Gregory Kendall said.
The transfers were interrupted when one of the nursing home residents tested positive for COVID-19, Kendall wrote Tuesday in an email to The Associated Press. The ill patient was removed and is being cared for separately, Kendall said, and the transfers to facilities elsewhere in Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina have resumed. He said patients previously transferred were tested just before being moved.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

April 7, 2001

In early April of 2001, an advance team for a 95-member group of military service members visited the post-war Vietnam, coordinating the logistics to begin work at six MIA recovery sites the following month – the unit's 65th expedition, called a Joint Field Activity. For this, a Russian-made M-17 helicopter was chartered from the Vietnamese military to aid in expediting equipment and personnel – as JTF-FA had been doing since 1992, according to Alan Liotta, acting director of the POW-MIA office.
Late on the afternoon of Saturday, April 7th, 2001, one of the chartered helicopters was ferrying personnel from Vinh to Hue.
A Vietnamese official said the helicopter had been on a flight to the central city of Hue, leaving Vinh at 4:15 in the afternoon, and had been scheduled to stop at Dong Hoi, the Quang Binh provincial capital, before heading south to Hue. But earlier that day, a member of the JTF-FA team called their headquarters in Hawaii to report that they were canceling a stop in Dong Hoi because of bad weather.
Aboard the helicopter, piloted by Vietnamese, were seven Americans – all active duty military servicemen – and nine Vietnamese military men. The Americans: Army Lieutenant Colonel Rennie M. Cory Jr., the outgoing commanding officer of Det 2.  
The other Americans aboard were Army Lieutenant Colonel George D. Martin III, the incoming commanding officer of Det 2, from Hopkins, South Carolina, and who previously commanded the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry at Fort Drum, New York; Air Force Major Charles E. Lewis, the unit’s deputy commander, from of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and, prior to his JTF-FA service, was responsible for the design and construction of the F-15 Eagle mounted on a pedestal at the entrance to the 333rd Fighter Interceptor Wing at Eglin AFB in Florida, and was a a military-history buff trained as an engineer; Army Sergeant 1st Class Tommy J. Murphy, a Mortuary Affairs specialist with the part of Central Identification Laboratory Hawai'i (CILHI) and the team's Sergeant who was from Georgia, but lived in Honolulu; Air Force Master Sergeant Steven L. Moser, an Vietnamese Intelligence Analyst & Linguist who was from San Diego, but also lived in Honolulu; Navy Chief Petty Officer Pedro J. Gonzales, a Hospital Corpsman from Buckeye, Arizona, who was a crack diver and served as the team's medic; and Air Force Technical Sergeant Robert M. Flynn, a Vietnamese Linguist from Huntsville, Alabama, who served as Cory's translator.

The Vietnamese aboard the helicopter were: Deputy Director Nguyen Than Ha of the Vietnamese Liaison Office; Senior Colonel Tran Van Bien, Deputy Director of the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) and former General in the People's Army of Vietnam; Vietnamese Air Force Lieutenant Colonels Nguyen Van Ha & Nguyen Thanh Son, Majors Nguyen Huu Nham & Vu Pham The Kien; and Lieutenants Giap Thanh Ngan, Pham Duy Dung, and Dang Ngoc.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Stop the Spread of Rumors - Know the facts about coronavirus disease 2019


Taxpayers Paid Millions to Design a Low-Cost Ventilator for a Pandemic. Instead, the Company Is Selling Versions of It Overseas.

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, there is not a single Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator — developed with government funds — in the U.S. stockpile. Meanwhile, Royal Philips N.V. has sold higher-priced versions to clients around the world.
Five years ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tried to plug a crucial hole in its preparations for a global pandemic, signing a $13.8 million contract with a Pennsylvania manufacturer to create a low-cost, portable, easy-to-use ventilator that could be stockpiled for emergencies.
This past September, with the design of the new Trilogy Evo Universal finally cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS ordered 10,000 of the ventilators for the
Strategic National Stockpile at a cost of $3,280 each.
But as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe, there is still not a single Trilogy Evo Universal in the stockpile.
Instead last summer, soon after the FDA’s approval, the Pennsylvania company that designed the device — a subsidiary of the Dutch appliance and technology giant Royal Philips N.V. — began selling two higher-priced commercial versions of the same ventilator around the world.
 “We sell to whoever calls,” said a saleswoman at a small medical-supply company on Staten Island that bought 50 Trilogy Evo ventilators from Philips in early March and last week hiked its online price from $12,495 to $17,154. “We have hundreds of orders to fill. I think America didn’t take this seriously at first, and now everyone’s frantic.”
Last Friday, President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to begin mass-producing another company’s ventilator under a federal contract. But neither Trump nor other senior officials made any mention of the Trilogy Evo Universal. Nor did HHS officials explain why they did not force Philips to accelerate delivery of these ventilators earlier this year, when it became clear that the virus was overwhelming medical facilities around the world.
An HHS spokeswoman told ProPublica that Philips had agreed to make the Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator “as soon as possible.” However, a Philips spokesman said the company has no plan to even begin production anytime this year.
Instead, Philips is negotiating with a White House team led by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to build 43,000 more complex and expensive hospital ventilators for Americans stricken by the virus.

Work starts back up at Central Chemical Superfund site in Hagerstown

Drilling work began in March to install more wells for the Central Chemical Superfund site in Hagerstown's North End, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The entire cleanup operation at the former pesticide blending site is running behind schedule after a new groundwater contaminant, dioxin, was discovered in 2018, EPA officials said. Construction of a pump and treatment system for contaminated groundwater, previously scheduled for 2018, began this year.
"The reality is dioxin delayed us a couple years. The good news is we're back on track," said Mitch Cron, one of the EPA officials overseeing the cleanup.
Central Chemical Corp. blended agricultural pesticides and fertilizers at the 19-acre site from the 1930s to the 1980s. Raw pesticides manufactured elsewhere were mixed at the site with inert materials to produce commercial-grade products.
Among the contaminants found in the soil, groundwater, surface water and sediment, as well as in the tissue of fish caught downstream from the site, include arsenic, lead, benzene, aldrin, chlordane, DDD, DDE, DDT, dieldrin, and methoxychlor, the EPA has said in the past.
In 1997, the site was placed on a list for the federal Superfund program, designed to address abandoned hazardous materials sites.

Trump Justice Dept. Fights a Navy Vet's $35K Fee Request

The Trump administration’s Justice Department is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject a Vietnam veteran’s attempt to collect $35,000 in legal fees for his landmark court victory opening potentially billions of dollars in Agent Orange benefits to thousands of so-called “blue water” Navy service members.
Alfred Procopio, represented by retired Navy Cmdr. John Wells of Slidell, Louisiana, is asking the justices to review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that said he is not entitled to fees and costs under the federal Equal Access to Justice Act. The en banc court in September sided with the Justice Department in a one-line summary decision rejecting Procopio’s fee request.
Procopio’s fee request involves provisions of the Equal Access to Justice Act, a law that allows “prevailing party” plaintiffs in certain instances to recoup litigation fees in cases involving federal agencies.
Procopio sought legal fees after his victory in January 2019 in the case Procopio v. Wilkie. The Federal Circuit, ruling 9-2, said for the first time that the Agent Orange Act of 1991 and its presumption of exposure to the chemical herbicide applies to Navy veterans who served on ships within the 12-mile territorial sea of the Republic of Vietnam. The Justice Department had argued those benefits applied only to soldiers on land or inland waterways.
The benefits potentially owed to roughly 90,000 vets have been estimated to cost the government more than $1 billion over 10 years.
The Equal Access to Justice Act permits an award of fees when the government’s litigation position was not “substantially justified.” In his Supreme Court petition, Wells heavily relied on a concurring opinion written by Judge Kathleen O’Malley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The judge said that although she was bound by Supreme Court and circuit precedents to rule against Procopio, the disabled Vietnam vet was “the very type of prevailing party, moreover, for whom Congress enacted the EAJA.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

S. 3444 - "Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act 2020"

from our good friend Paul Sutton
The VA has delayed - for now almost three years - the addition of the four diseases as recommended by the National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). If your Senator is not a co-sponsor of S.3444, get on 'em! Encourage your Representative to introduce a companion bill in the House. Once they pass the stimulus bill today, they'll have plenty of time on their hands to help sick and dying Vietnam veterans.
Paul Sutton

Summary: S.3444 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

There is one summary for S.3444. Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Introduced in Senate (03/11/2020)

Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans Act of 2020
This bill provides a presumption of service-connection for Parkinsonism, bladder cancer, hypertension, and hypothyroidism for veterans exposed to certain herbicide agents while serving in Vietnam. Under a presumption of service-connection, specific conditions diagnosed in certain veterans are presumed to have been caused by the circumstances of their military service. Health care benefits and disability compensation may then be awarded. 

VA says Blue Water Navy Veterans received $140M in retroactive benefits in January, February

Blue Water Navy Veterans and survivors who filed compensation claims in January and February 2020 have so far received over $140 million in retroactive benefits. This information can be found in a new monthly report published on the 10th business day of each month to inform Veterans and other stakeholders about BWN claims decisions.
These figures show the latest results from VA directly acting upon the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veteran Act of 2019 that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
The BWN Act extends the presumption of herbicide exposure, such as Agent Orange, to Veterans who served in the offshore waters of the Republic of Vietnam between Jan. 9, 1962, and May 7, 1975, as well as Veterans who served in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between Sept. 1, 1967, and Aug. 31, 1971. Prior to this law, only Veterans who served on the ground in Vietnam or within Vietnam’s inland waterways were eligible to receive disability compensation based on a presumption of herbicide exposure.
How to file
Filing a claim for BWN benefits is a straightforward process. Veterans who wish to file an initial claim for an herbicide-related disability that have not been previously decided by VA can use VA Form 21-526EZ, Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits, online at
However, BWN Veterans who were previously denied will be able to reapply using VA Form 20-0995, Decision Review Request: Supplemental Claim. As of Jan. 1, VA began processing BWN claims that were stayed in the VA review process or under appeal.
Survivors and dependents who have never filed a claim but want to file a claim now can use VA Form 21P-534EZ. Survivors and dependents who have been previously denied a Dependency and Indemnity claim and want to file another claim now can use VA Form 20-0995. For additional Dependency and Indemnity claims information, visit