Monday, June 29, 2020

Tell USDA to Reject Bayer-Monsanto's Multi-Herbicide Tolerant Corn

Bayer's Monsanto is requesting non-regulated status for corn that will increase the use of drift-prone and toxic herbicides. This means that the planting of a new genetically engineered (GE) variety of corn, which requires substantial weed killer use, will not be restricted in any way. The syndrome of 'more-corn, more-pesticides, more-poisoning, more-contamination' must stop—as we effect an urgent systemic transformation to productive and profitable organic production practices. Because USDA is proposing to allow a new herbicide-dependent crop under the Plant Protection Act, the agency must, but does not, consider the adverse impacts associated with the production practices on other plants and the effects on the soil in which they are grown. Business as usual is not an option for a livable future.
Bayer-Monsanto has developed multi-herbicide tolerant MON 87429 maize, which is tolerant to the herbicides 2,4-D, dicamba, glyphosate, glufosinate, and aryloxyphenoxypropionate (AOPP) acetyl coenzyme A carboxylase (ACCase) inhibitors (so-called “FOP” herbicides, such as quizalofop). Now the company wants this corn to be deregulated—allowing it to be planted and the herbicides use without any restrictions. The petition below, and our formal comments explain the dangers in greater detail.
2,4-D is a phenoxy herbicide that is as well known for its propensity to drift as it is for its damaging health and environmental effects. Approval of Bayer-Monsanto's application would result in adverse impacts and contamination, along with the demonstrated plant-damaging effects. Over the decades of its use, 2,4-D has been linked to an increased risk of birth defects, reduced sperm counts, increased risk of non Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson's disease, and hormone disruption, as well as other health problems. 
2,4-D drift has long been a known problem to off-site locations, endangered species, and non-target crops. Many forms of 2,4-D volatilize above 85oF and 2,4-D drift has been known to damage tomatoes, grapes, and other plants. Herbicide concentrations 100 times below the recommended label rate have been reported to cause injury to grapes.

Bayer reaches over $10 billion settlement in Roundup cancer lawsuits

Bayer will pay more than $10 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits regarding claims that its herbicide Roundup causes cancer, the company announced Wednesday.
Monsanto, which Bayer bought in 2018, lost a lawsuit that same year brought by a school groundskeeper who claimed its weedkiller had caused his non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Since then, thousands of U.S. lawsuits have been filed against the company.
Bayer CEO Werner Baumann called the decision to settle the lawsuits the right one in order to end a long period of uncertainty.
“The decision to resolve the Roundup litigation enables us to focus fully on the critical supply of health care and food,” he said in statement. “It will also return the conversation about the safety and utility of glyphosate-based herbicides to the scientific and regulatory arena and to the full body of science.”
The settlement, however, does not contain any admission of wrongdoing or liability.
Bayer will pay $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to settle existing lawsuits and then another $1.25 billion that will cover any potential litigation in the future, the company said in a press release Wednesday.
Kenneth Feinberg, a court-appointed mediator for the settlement, called the deal a "constructive and reasonable" resolution.

Veteran’s win leaves glimmer of hope for others who served in Thailand

Veterans like 73-year-old Dan Tolly, exposed to herbicides while serving in Thailand during the Vietnam War, face a knockdown drag out when they apply for VA benefits.
After a years-long struggle, Dan got quite the surprise this weekend in his mailbox. The Department of Veterans Affairs finally approved his claim that his heart disease and cancer were caused by exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange while he served at Ubon Air Force Base. Not only was he awarded disability benefits for life, he got a check from the VA retroactive to 2016.
“I’ve never seen a check like that,” Dan said. “I looked at the amount and it was more numbers than I expected.”
Like Dan, tens of thousands of Americans served in Thailand during the war. 8 On Your Side profiled Dan’s case in a series of reports in September 2019. We forwarded Dan’s records to the VA and asked that it review Dan’s case further.
For years, the military denied it sprayed Agent Orange in Thailand. Of late, the VA has awarded disability benefits for herbicide exposure to personnel who could prove they worked on base perimeters, where the military now concedes it used tactical herbicides.
Dan assembled missiles for F-4 Phantoms. The shop was about 100 feet from the perimeter.
“I walked through the perimeter gate everyday – back and forth, going to work,” Dan said.
“That stuff was mixed with petroleum, so anybody walking across that perimeter would pick it up on their shoes, carry it into the mess halls, the barracks,” explained John Wells, the director of litigation for Military Veterans Advocacy.

Monday, June 22, 2020

VA Reaches 1 Million Veterans and Family Members Through Tele-town Hall Meetings

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) has reached more than one million Veterans and family members through telephone town hall meetings held with states across the country.
The weekly meetings highlight VA benefits and give beneficiaries an opportunity to communicate directly with VA Under Secretary for Benefits Paul R. Lawrence, Ph.D.
“The town hall meetings are an effective way to interact with Veterans and their beneficiaries,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Outreach to Veterans is part of our mission and making sure they know about the benefits they have earned is one of the ways we deliver our promise to them.”
Lawrence, who briefs listeners and takes questions from callers, conducts the meetings to ensure Veterans have accurate and up-to-date information. As of June 16, VBA has conducted 25 tele-town halls.
The briefings include updates about VA’s response to COVID-19 and the GI Bill along with the launch of Blue Water Navy Act, Solid Start program and other new initiatives to include the Veterans Benefits Banking Program — helping Veterans to understand and access all services and benefits earned. Veterans and family members are encouraged to join and ask questions about their benefits at 844-227-7557.
Lawrence will continue the telephone town hall meetings sharing steps VA is taking to support Veterans and keep employees safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

VA denies request to cover veterans exposed to herbicides in the islands

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has denied a rulemaking request from a Louisiana-based veterans advocacy group to cover veterans exposed to herbicides on Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Island.
According to Military Veterans Advocacy, Paul Lawrence, the undersecretary for benefits at the VA, claimed that the herbicides sprayed in central Pacific islands had been commercial rather than tactical herbicides.
"Lawrence's dismissal of herbicides as commercial rather than tactical is a distinction without a difference," said MVA Chairman and Director of Litigation John Wells. "The Government Accountability Office noted in a 2018 report that both commercial and tactical herbicides contain the chemicals 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, which combine to make the deadly dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD."
Tactical herbicides include the infamous Agent Orange and other "rainbow" herbicides. There has been concerted interest over many years on whether Agent Orange had been used on Guam. A 2018 GAO report did not find evidence that the deadly herbicide was offloaded on island, but the report does acknowledge, through various military records, that Agent Orange components 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T had been used on Guam in commercial herbicides.
Herbicide 2,4,5-T was banned in the 1980s due to its toxicity.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

In an era of fostering inclusivity, the Department of Veterans Affairs fails again

The Department of Veteran Affairs recently announced its intent to install new bronze plaques bearing a quote from Lincoln’s second inaugural address. It reads, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan" at each of the nation’s 140 VA cemeteries.
If the past weeks have taught us anything, it is that words matter. White-washing histories means stories and lives of so many are unrecognized and similarly, gender-washing our VA cemeteries only serves to keep the contributions of women service members invisible.
Women are the fastest growing group of veterans and there are currently nearly half a million who use at least one form of VA benefits. Instead of using this knowledge to create a more gender-inclusive VA, the Secretary has decided it is more important to honor the words of a long-deceased president than the service of those he is charged to serve.
This is not the first time the VA has failed women. VA hospitals have been reported to be threatening and dangerous environments for women service members and recognition for female needs ranging from infertility to safety are long overdue. Women veterans are less likely than men to seek care at VA, and advocates say that’s due at least in part to gender and sexual harassment by male veterans at VA hospitals and clinics. Instead of rectifying the problems from within the department, it seems it is digging in its heels to continue to make women feel as if they are unvalued pieces of the war-fighting machine.
Advocates worry that the emergency response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic could take away attention from other needed changes within the Veterans Affairs system.
Women veterans advocates worry coronavirus crisis will overshadow other needed fixes
New improvements must be implemented alongside other needs reforms, they warn.
Additionally, the gender of the service member is not the only thing wrong with this quote. A Gold Star child who loses one parent, either a father or a mother to service, is not an orphan unless the other parent too has passed. Here the VA has ample opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of widows — of all genders — who step forward and raise their non-orphaned children as single parents — many of which are supported by the VA.

Veteran missing for a month found dead in stairwell at VA hospital

The body of a missing veteran was found in a stairwell on the campus of a Massachusetts VA hospital one month after he was reported missing.
The 62-year-old man was found dead in a building on the Bedford Veteran Affairs Hospital campus in Bedford on Friday by another resident, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney's office.
The man, who the district attorney's office declined to name was last seen at the facility on May 8 and had been reported missing on May 13. He was found wearing the same clothing he was reported missing in. The DA's office is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of his death, Meghan Kelly, a spokeswoman, told CNN.
The man was a resident of Caritas Communities, a non-profit dedicated to preventing homelessness, Kelly confirmed.
The organization runs a residential facility called Bedford Veterans Quarters in a space it leases in a section of a building on the VA campus, Caritas said in a news release. The organization provides "on-site staffing to refer and help residents connect to counseling, medical treatment, employment and other services at the VA," the news release said.
Caritas filed a missing person's report for the man on May 13 and had been working with the VA and the Bedford Police to find the resident, the organization said in a statement.
CNN reached out to Bedford Police about details of the search for the man, but was referred to the Middlesex County District Attorney's office because that office is leading the investigation.
When asked if the man's death was related to Covid-19, Kelly said they don't have a reason to believe it is, but will wait for the medical examiner to rule the cause of death. CNN has reached out to the medical examiner for comment.
Bedford Veterans Quarters has had no Covid-19 cases, Caritas Executive Director Karin Cassel said. According to data provided by the VA, the Bedford VA facility has had 266 cases, including 33 deaths.

S.3446 - Expedite Agent Orange Coverage Act of 2020

S.3446 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)

Expedite Agent Orange Coverage Act of 2020

A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to extend the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to prescribe regulations providing that a presumption of service connection is warranted for a disease with a positive association with exposure to a herbicide agent, and for other purposes.

from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette - June 16, 1995

June 16, 1995
Jacksonville residents told the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday that they'd rather place a hazardous waste landfill on clean land away from the Vertac site than where passers-by might see it. The landfill, which will hold soils contaminated with dioxins, could be 30 feet high. "In a worst-case scenario, it could be as high as 50 feet," said Doug Keilman, technical director of the Health and Environmental Division for Hercules Inc. Hercules is a former owner and producer of such herbicides as Agent Orange at the Vertac Chemical Corp. site in Jacksonville. The site was declared a national Superfund site in 1982.

Did the Midland flood stir up contaminants that could hurt wildlife?

The flood that was caused by heavy rains and the failure of two dams near Midland caused property damage far downstream. But the long term damage might be in the contamination of wildlife.
Paddling a kayak through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, you can see that it's been flooded. But, for the most part, that's OK. It's a flood plain. It's supposed to flood here rather than in cities downstream.
This refuge is a stopover for migratory birds.
The Cass, the Tittabawassee, the Flint, and the Shiawassee rivers all come together around this 10,000 acres.
“We probably, on average, get about fifty thousand waterfowl,” said Pam Repp, manager of the refuge. Most of those birds have already made the stop in the spring as they headed north.
“We have Canada geese, blue wing teal, green wing teal. We have a lot of wood ducks. Wood ducks do nest here. We support most of the flyway," Repp explained.
That flyway is the Eastern portion of the Mississippi flyway of birds migrating between the southern U.S. and Canada.

VA Benefits – A Basic Understanding of Special Monthly Compensation

What is Special Monthly Compensation?
When receiving a rating decision and a grant of service connection for disability compensation, a veteran is assigned a rating percentage of up to 100% that entitles them to a monthly payment of a certain amount due to their disability related to their military service. Sometimes, however, even a 100% VA disability rating amount may not be enough compensation. For those situations, there are other VA benefits a veteran may qualify for provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs that allows them to receive compensation greater than the 100%. This is Special Monthly Compensation (SMC).
VA Special monthly compensation
The rating schedule is meant to compensate veterans for reduced earning capacity due to their disability. SMC disability benefits are different because they are meant to compensate veterans for non-economic factors, such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, and the profound nature of the disability. SMC benefits provide additional compensation at a rate much higher than the 100% rate. SMC is reserved for veterans that have suffered certain severe disabilities, severely disabled veterans who are housebound, or in need of regular aid and attendance or daily health-care services. These rules and procedures for qualifying for SMC can be complicated, so here we will look at a general overview of SMC to make you aware that such benefits exist and that you may be entitled to them.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Advocates Seek Reversal of Policy that Denies Agent Orange Claims to Guam, American Samoa, Johnston Island Veterans

Military-Veterans Advocacy, a Slidell, Louisiana based veterans advocacy group, has reacted to a denial of their request for rulemaking to cover veterans exposed to herbicide on Guam, American Samoa and Johnston Island. 
The letter, signed by Mr. Paul Lawrence, Under Secretary for Benefits, claimed that herbicides sprayed on the central pacific islands were commercial rather than tactical herbicides. In a letter to VA Secretary Wilkie dated June 8, 2020, MVA Chairman of the Board and Director of Litigation CDR John B. Wells (USN, Ret.) addressed the reasons for the denial and asked that the Secretary overrule Lawrence and grant the rulemaking request.

"Lawrence's dismissal of herbicides as commercial rather than tactical is a distinction without a difference," Wells wrote.  "The Government Accounting Office (GAO) noted in a 2018 report that both commercial and tactical herbicides contain the chemicals 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D which combine to make the deadly dioxin 2,3,7,8-TCDD.
"It is not the label assigned," Wells added, "but the chemical composition of the herbicide that wreaks havoc on the human body.  Veterans exposed to that herbicide who have manifested a covered disease or disability should be covered." 
Wells said evidence shows herbicide use on Guam from 1958 through 1980.  Pertinent documents have been provided to the VA.
Although Lawrence admitted in his denial that leaking barrels of Agent Orange herbicide were stored on Johnston Island, he claimed that coverage should be denied because civilian contractors rather than military personnel maintained the leaking drums.
In his letter to Wilkie, Wells scoffed at this reasoning noting that the island was only 241 hectacres or less than one square mile of area.  Wells wrote that "civilians and military shared common areas including latrine and shower facilities, recreational facilities, a common laundry, dining hall, chapel etc. In these close quarters, cross-contamination between civilian and military would have been rampant."
Wells also submitted an affidavit from Dr. Wayne Dwemychuck, a noted Canadian environmental scientist and Agent Orange specialist who has confirmed this analysis.
Wells closed his letter with a request for Wilkie to overrule Lawrence and a promise to commence litigation by mid-July if this did not occur.

Media Contact:
Point of contact
CDR John B. Wells, USN (ret)

VA has a new patient advocacy tracking system

The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new tool that allows its health care teams to collaboratively address and resolve issues.
The Patient Advocate Tracking System-Replacement (PATS-R) is a web-based tool that reinforces the culture that patient advocacy is the responsibility of every employee, VA said in a release.
“PATS-R has really modernized the way patient advocates complete their work,” said Katie Braun, a Veteran Experience Coordinator at the Pittsburgh VAMC. “The system has also encouraged advocacy at all levels, and within services lines.”
At 90 percent, veteran trust in VA health care at record high Following several years of research and development, PATS-R is now being used by 24,000 patient advocates and service line professionals at 151 VA Medical Centers and community-based outpatient clinics across the country.
PATS-R empowers employees to actively engage with veterans at the point of service, helping to build a relationship of trust.  It also supports their patient experience with a technological solution for complaint resolution and service recovery, the release states.
PATS-R also taps into VA-wide patient experience feedback, meaning that a veteran’s complete interaction history with VHA follows them wherever they are.

Sons and Daughters in Touch Father’s Day Celebration to be a Virtual Event

The SDIT Father's Day celebration at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has been cancelled due to the pandemic. However, in collaboration with VVMF, SDIT is holding a virtual Father's Day ceremony on Sunday, June 21. As part of that program, VVMF and SDIT are requesting that Gold Star families and Vietnam veterans submit tribute videos honoring the fallen and their families.

Submit a Video Here...

VA Unprepared to Deal with a Second Wave of COVID-19, Top Officials Say

The Department of Veterans Affairs is saddled with an antiquated supply chain that is short of personal protective equipment (PPE) -- including N-95 masks and gowns -- swabs and other vital equipment to deal with a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, VA officials said Tuesday.
The VA's health care system currently has about a 30-day supply of protective gear on hand, but would need a supply backstop of at least 60 days or possibly six months to cope with a resurgence of the novel coronavirus in the fall, said Dr. Richard Stone, acting head of the Veterans Health Administration.
At a hearing of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, asked, "So, Dr. Stone, we're not where we need to be?"
Stone replied, "That is correct."
In his testimony, he added, "We recognize that a future pandemic wave may test all of us" in terms of the demand for adequate supplies for health care workers to protect themselves and treat patients.
For decades, the VA has relied on a "just in time" supply chain for deliveries that has been severely strained by the current pandemic, Stone said.
"This system has not delivered the response necessary," he said, but stressed that health care workers are adequately protected despite the shortcomings.
"Just in time for PPE is not the way to go," said Deborah Kramer, the acting under secretary for Health for Support Services at the VHA, who joined Stone at the hearing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

June Willenz, Champion of Women in the Military, Dies at 95

She didn’t serve in the military herself. But she saw the armed services denying equal benefits to female veterans, and she crusaded to make a difference.
June A. Willenz, a longtime human rights activist and champion of women in the military, died on May 3 in Bethesda, Md. She was 95.
Her daughter Pam Willenz confirmed the death. She said Ms. Willenz had had a heart attack after emergency hip surgery.
Ms. Willenz was an advocate for women in the armed forces at a time when they were largely ignored. Her 1983 book, “Women Veterans: America’s Forgotten Heroines,” provided one of the first comprehensive examinations of women in the armed services. It exposed inequities between men and women and led to congressional hearings, as well as to improved benefits, services and career opportunities for women.
As devoted as she was to women veterans, Ms. Willenz never served in the military herself. Her focus on
“She had files of causes she wanted to be a part of,” Pam Willenz said in an interview. “If anything crossed her path with a human rights or social justice element, she wanted to dig deeper and see what she could do about it.”
Causes that drew her attention ranged from rape victims in Africa to the mistreatment of pets in the United States.
But her biggest cause was striving to achieve equality and recognition for women and other marginalized people in the armed services. She brought veterans’ voices into the civil rights movement. She was the first woman to lead a presidential subcommittee on disabled veterans; she developed the first Legal Aid project for veterans with discharge problems; and she worked with Congress to create special offices for women and members of minority groups within the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs. She even wrote one-act plays dramatizing the conflicts confronting women in the military.

Contamination detected in Riverside Park soil tests

A Wausau City Council representative is calling for environmental cleanup at a west side park after soil testing performed in April showed multiple exceedances of state Department of Natural Resources soil standards, validating long-held concerns by residents in the area.
For years, residents worried about potential soil contamination in Riverside Park and asserted there may be issues with cancer-causing soil dioxin levels in the that could exceed state standards. Now, that assertion is a reality, after the city’s April 2020 environmental testing revealed concentrations of dioxin and furan that exceed the DNR’s not-to-exceed direct contact limits for a non-industrial setting. Based on the city’s initial analysis, concentrations of one dioxin and one furan were more than double state soil limits for a non-industrial setting.
Multiple exceedances were identified below a culvert that empties into the park and neighbors an area that once housed a cold storage building at the former SNE plant. One area of the cold storage building was used as a “drum accumulation area” for hazardous waste.
Based on initial data and analysis by the city’s consultants, the other eight soil samples taken in the park away from the culvert outfall area also identified low-levels of contaminants, but those concentrations did not exceed state soil standards.

VA acknowledges it’s ‘not there yet’ with coronavirus testing for employees

The Department of Veterans Affairs does not have on-demand coronavirus testing for its employees up and running just yet, despite its best intentions to screen anyone who presented symptoms or believed they had been exposed.
VA has tested about 12% of its health workforce for the virus, Richard Stone, executive-in-charge at the Veterans Health Administration, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Wednesday afternoon.
His comments contrast with those the department made one week ago before another congressional committee, when Jennifer MacDonald, chief consultant to the deputy VA undersecretary for health, told a House appropriations subcommittee any symptomatic employee or anyone who wanted a test could be screened.
“We’re not hearing that,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the committee’s ranking member, said. “We’re not hearing that from the folks on the ground. We’re still hearing that they’re not being tested.”
“Senator, you are exactly right, we’re not there yet,” Stone said. “Although we’ve tested over 12% of our employees, and it is our intent to have on-demand testing for all of our employees, we’re not there yet.”
VA’s labs have the capacity to process 60,000 coronavirus tests a week, Stone said, but the department lacked the swabs and cartridges necessary to fully screen employees.
“Simply when we issued the guidance to go to on-demand testing for our employees, we ran out of swabs because of some problems with UPS shipping,” he said. “That was a national problem with the crashing of UPS systems for a weekend. We have now recovered from that. Right now, we have about 60,000 tests available, but we do not have the ability to institute on-demand testing for our employees. It is our intent to get there.”

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Bill aims to help track veterans’ exposure to toxic burn pits

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is pushing legislation aimed at tracking veterans’ exposure to burn pits overseas.
“There’s no doubt that burn pits are the Agent Orange of our generation,” Mast said in a Tuesday statement.
“Service members that were exposed in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeing horrible health effects and are dying as a result.”
These open-air pits are used in some countries to burn garbage and human waste. The pits can emit harmful toxins affecting veterans’ lungs or even causing cancer.
Mast, a Republican, is joined on the bill by former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii in the U.S. House.
“Millions of our brothers and sisters in uniform have been exposed to the toxic chemicals released from toxic burn pits and are suffering and dying without treatment,” Gabbard said.
“This is an egregious failure of our nation to those who serve. It is too late for some, but more are suffering and more need help. While there has been some progress on this front in the Defense Department and [Department of Veterans Affairs], more must be done.”
Mast and Gabbard were behind similar successful legislation, allowing servicemembers to join a registry tracking those who have been exposed to the pits.
“We’ve made progress, but much more must be done, which is why we need this bill to track exposure to burn pits so exposed veterans can get the care they need,” Mast said.
The new bill would require the VA to track cases and brief Congress on numbers each quarter. Health care providers must also inform veterans of the registry should they complain of exposure.

Flooding in central Michigan exposes decades of Dow Chemical’s environmental crimes

A major health crisis threatens residents of central Michigan after last week’s flooding that displaced more than 10,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes. There have been widespread concerns about potential chemical leakage from the flooded containment ponds at the Midland Dow Complex and the spread of dioxin by the flood from a Superfund cleanup site downriver to larger areas.
In response, Dow Chemical announced last Wednesday that there were “no reported product releases,” and the state of Michigan announced on May 27 that it would begin testing soil sediments taken from the Tittabawassee River this Thursday. However, the statement from Dow and the small-scope testing proposed by the state are woefully inadequate and in no way reassuring. The potential environmental and health crisis triggered by this flooding is a long time in the making and rooted in Dow’s decades-long criminal practice of dumping chemicals, failure to ensure safe working conditions, and above all, disregard for the health and well-being of the population.
In Dow’s reporting of its flooded containment ponds, the contents of these ponds were left unmentioned, and their real purpose was glossed over. Dow’s containment ponds collect chemical run-offs from a large cement trench running throughout the Midland Dow complex. As explained to the WSWS by a former Dow employee, the company “had trucks come in that would take the containers [of various chemicals], but they didn’t have a reservoir to collect any residual chemicals” besides the containment ponds, “which would overflow” with ground level chemicals when it rained.

Monday, June 1, 2020

June is PTSD Awareness Month: Help Us Spread the Word

Make the Pledge

Start by taking our Raise PTSD Awareness Pledge (new online form).

COVID-19 Hits Veterans Homes, VA Says New Home-Care Program Still Months Off.

Macabre news of bodies stacked in a makeshift morgue. Federal emergency teams swooping in to take control of state veterans homes where the coronavirus has killed scores. For veterans, getting care in their own homes has gone from a preference to a matter of survival.
“It’s definitely scary,” says Rob Grier.
His father, Robert Grier Sr., served in Korea and Vietnam, and Rob says if he weren’t taking care of him, his dad would probably need to be in a nursing home. The VA has been good to them over the years, Rob says, especially when his father got lung cancer.
“We were just blessed to have a great team at the VA during his care for that, “he says, “but still, a pre-existing condition, that’s not good for COVID.”
Grier wants to keep taking care of his dad, but he’s not sure he can without help from the VA caregiver program, which is not yet open to older veterans.
Since 2011 the VA has helped caregivers with a stipend, but only for Iraq and Afghanistan vets. In 2018 the VA MISSION Act promised to expand to veterans of Korea and Vietnam, and eventually all veterans who need it.
But who needs it? The VA finally announced its highly technical answer to that question in March after a two-year wait. Anyone with at least a 70% disability rating from the VA can apply. It’s now available to veterans disabled by illness, not just injury. That’s particularly important to Vietnam vets suffering from cancer and other diseases linked to the defoliant Agent Orange.

Vietnam co-chairs debate on protecting environment in armed conflicts

Protecting the environment in conflicts is a crucial need and a shared responsibility of the international community, Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, head of the Vietnamese Mission to the United Nations, has affirmed.
New York (VNA) – Protecting the environment in conflicts is a crucial need and a shared responsibility of the international community, Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, head of the Vietnamese Mission to the United Nations, has affirmed.
Quy made the statement at an online discussion jointly held by the Vietnamese Mission to the UN, the Swiss Mission to the UN, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the peace organisation PAX on May 29 in response to the UN Protection of Civilians Week.
He stressed the need for States to pay attention to restore the environment after conflicts to help civilians soon stabilise their life and maintain sustainable peace.
He told participants that Agent Orange/dioxin has caused serious impact on Vietnam’s population and the environment, as over 3 million Vietnamese people are dioxin victims and hundreds of thousands of hectares of land are contaminated by the chemical.
Meanwhile, addressing dioxin consequences needs huge resources and time, he added.
The diplomat took the occasion to thank UN member states, organisations and the international community for supporting Vietnam in dioxin detoxification and helping dioxin victims.
Delegates at the event emphasised the need for more discussions at UN and UN Security Council mechanisms on environmental protection in armed conflicts as there is a close connection between protection of the environment, protection of civilians, and development goals.

Born with agent orange, Hanoi teacher escapes fate

Whenever Lan Anh wants to give up, she remembers her family and reaches back out to life.
In a room in Xuan Mai Town of Hanoi's Chuong My District, Le Thi Lan Anh shows her students some photos taken on a recent trip to central Vietnam. At only 1.3 meters in height, there seems to be little difference between the beaming teacher and her pupils.
Forty-four years prior, Do Thi Lan had struggled to hide her tears when first holding the 1-kilogram, convulsing Lan Anh. Her father Le Huy Toan, a veteran of the war in central Vietnam, immediately knew the cause of his newborn daughter’s agony.
"Take her home and care for here. If she lives, that is good. If she does not, we can do nothing," the couple were told after visiting several hospitals in search of answers.
Lan Anh’s mother was unable to properly feed her daughter due to constant bouts of crying.
"The baby cried, then I cried," said Lan, who had to send her daughter to her mother-in-law after eight months of maternal leave.
All of their neighbors were skeptical, thinking Anh would not survive.
"This is my granddaughter, I’ll take care of her," maintained her grandmother, who used wet towels to daily wipe Lan Anh's fingers and toes in the hope her joints would stretch and heal.
Whenever Lan Anh fell sick as a child, her father would drop everything and take her to hospital. When she finally started walking, her grandmother gave her a heavy pair of sandals to ease the pressure of spinal deformity.