Wednesday, October 20, 2021

For First Time in Nearly 100 Years, Public Authorized to Approach Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza

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ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time in nearly 100 years, and as part of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration, the public will be able to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza and lay flowers in front of the Tomb on Nov. 9 and 10, 2021.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration Public Flower Ceremony, a two-day event, will be free and open to the public and will allow them to personally pay their respects to the Unknown Soldiers. This is a rare opportunity for the public to walk next to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a privilege otherwise given only to the sentinels of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, “The Old Guard.”

“As the stewards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, it’s our honor to lead the centennial commemoration of this site,” said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery. “The Tomb has served as the heart of Arlington National Cemetery. It is a people’s memorial that inspires reflection on service, valor, sacrifice and mourning. As a sacred memorial site and the grave of three unknown American service members, the Tomb connects visitors with the legacy of the U.S. armed forces throughout the nation’s history.”

The public flower ceremony information and instructions include:

 ​•  The flower ceremony will start on Nov. 9 at 8 a.m. with representatives from the Crow Nation placing flowers at the Tomb and reciting the prayer given 100 years ago by American-Indian Chief Plenty Coups.

​•  The ceremony will end on Nov. 10 at 4 p.m. with the original benediction recited by the Army Chief of Chaplains, Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Solhjem.

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Perez: Prohibit open burning of military waste ordnance

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Sen. Sabina Perez has expressed her "strong opposition" to an open burning/open detonation permit at Andersen Air Force Base and is requesting the administrator of the Guam Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit open burning of waste ordnance materials, and for the agency to deny the military an open burning permit.

The senator submitted the letter after an information hearing last week on issues and concerns related to open burning and detonation operations.

"The draft permit would allow the release of hazardous chemicals such as lead, which has been banned in Guam since 1990, and highly carcinogenic substances such as strontium and uranium. Dioxin, which is an endocrine disruptor, carcinogenic in small quantities, and a persistent organic pollutant, has been known to be released as part of the emissions and has been detected in soils at OB/OD sites," Perez's letter stated.

The senator also urged the agency to conduct environmental impact studies before processing the permit application, facilitate and require the use of alternative technology in the disposal of ordnance, strengthen groundwater monitoring and air emissions detection, and to reopen the public comment period on the permit application, in addition to other requests.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Reprinted from the Agent Orange Zone, Tuesday October 2, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

AOZ - Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Men say their breast cancer was caused by contaminated water at Camp Lejeunehttp://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/22/17059795-men-say-their-breast-cancer-was-caused-by-contaminated-water-at-camp-lejeune?lite


By Ami Schmitz and Kristina Krohn
Rock Center

Mike Partain got the shock of his life five years ago when he was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. That he got breast cancer at all is surprising. It's so rare that for every 100 women who get it, just one man will.
“Five years ago I was just an ordinary father of four, husband of 18 years. And one night, my then-wife gave me a hug and she felt a bump on my chest,” he said in an interview with Dr. Nancy Snyderman airing tonight at 10pm/9CT on NBC News’ Rock Center with Brian Williams.  
When his doctor delivered the devastating news in a phone call, Partain’s first thought was, “What contest in hell did I win to deserve this?”
After his diagnosis, Partain was desperate to answer the question, “why”? He said, “I don't drink. I don't smoke. I've never done drugs. There is no history of breast cancer in my family.”  
But everything changed after he saw a news report, where a former Marine drill instructor named Jerry Ensminger told Congress how his 9-year-old daughter Janey died of leukemia, and that he believed her death was caused by drinking water at Camp Lejeune contaminated with chemicals.
“My knees buckled,” Mike said, “I grabbed the back of the couch and I sat there.  I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is what happened.’” 
The son of a Marine, Partain was born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He soon learned that there had been a long history of suspicion about the water at Camp Lejeune.
“The entire time my mother was pregnant with me, we were drinking high levels of tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and benzene in our water” he said. Partain believes these chemicals caused his breast cancer.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 500,000 and 1 million people were exposed to the contaminated water from 1953 to 1987, when the last of several contaminated wells were closed. 
Partain has found 83 other men who lived or served at Camp Lejeune who have also been diagnosed with male breast cancer. 
Peter Devereaux, a 50-year-old a former Marine, is one of them. He was diagnosed in 2008.
Devereaux remembers when his doctor first let him know he had breast cancer.
“I was just like, whooo. Even now I've said that so many times, it still takes your breath away,” he said.
READ MORE: http://rockcenter.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/02/22/17059795-men-say-their-breast-cancer-was-caused-by-contaminated-water-at-camp-lejeune?lite




Review: Desperate – An Epic Battle for Clean Water and Justice in Appalachia

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By Kris Maher

Scribner, 2021

In 2012, I spent a few days in Nitro, West Virgina, for the Wall Street Journal, reporting on a settlement the town had won from Monsanto for its pollution of local groundwater while making Agent Orange for the U.S. military. I expected rage against the corporation. Instead what I found was a longing for the days of smoke and particulates. That stinky air? To people in Nitro, that was the smell of jobs.

The tension between small town employment and its deadly costs, and consequent tragedy, are central to Kris Maher’s important and gripping new book, Desperate: An Epic Battle for Clean Water and Justice in Appalachia, the saga of mining communities in southern West Virginia in the early years of this century fighting coal company Massey Energy and its titanic boss Don Blankenship, for clean water.

For Maher, a Pittsburgh-based former colleague of mine at the Wall Street Journal, the story he tells is “a distillation of what’s happened in other parts of the country with small towns,” he told me in an interview. “But it’s more evident here because you only had the coal industry and you never had some other industries come in and replace it. There’s more of a focus on one specific industry, and its impact.”

In the 1980s, a coal mining company called Rawl Sales&Processing, controlled by Massey, in Mingo County, started injecting waste from active mines into abandoned mines which then leaked into the water supply of local towns.

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‘Delay, Deny, Hope You Die’ – The VA, Burn Pits, and Veterans

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Burn pits: Human waste. Feces. Trash. Plastic. Batteries. Medical waste and supplies. Body parts. Yes, body parts. Dead animals. Chemicals. Paint. Tires. Anything and everything not wanted or used anymore. Burn it all. Pour diesel fuel on it, and light a match. Anyone would agree that this is quite the cocktail, with a very disturbing mix.

For everyone who has ever been to Iraq or Afghanistan, or who has a family member or friend who served, burn pits are not a secret. It’s extremely common knowledge. Everyone knows they suck and were a terrible aspect of any deployment.

What is a secret, shockingly enough, is how the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) is handling the severe health issues many veterans experience as a result of these burn pits. The VA is denying coverage to the vast majority of veterans who submit health claims as a result of constant and prolonged exposure to the toxic nature of burn pits.

In fact, the number of denied claims is quite high. According to data obtained from the VA by Military.com, as of March 31, the VA had denied 72 percent of burn pit claims.

After a hiatus from cable and comedy TV, comedian and TV host Jon Stewart is back. He just launched a new show on Apple TV, The Problem With Jon Stewart. The first episode aired on September 30, 2021. What was that first episode about? Burn Pits and Veteran healthcare. It was titled: The Problem with War: Burn Pits and Sick Veterans.

To his great credit, burn pits and the health issues surrounding their use, have been something Jon Stewart has been working on, and advocating for years. God bless him for it. Just like the work he has done with First Responders, and those associated with the clean-up in New York City after 9/11, he’s trying to get the same care and attention to veterans with burn pit exposure.

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‘Donut Dollies’ Served U.S. Troops in Vietnam

Now in their 70s, these Red Cross women went to war to help morale

Fresh out of college during the late 1960s, these women chose an unlikely path far from the anti-war marches and protests across the U.S.

They went to Vietnam.

They were American Red Cross recreation workers nicknamed the “Donut Dollies.” Nobody remembers them handing out doughnuts in Vietnam since, as a mess sergeant grumbled, “It was too damn hot.” But the nickname stuck since Red Cross workers had, in fact, distributed doughnuts in prior military campaigns, including World War II.

Applicants for Vietnam had to be single, ages 21 to 24 and graduates of a four-year college. The Donut Dollies who are alive now are in their 70s, and though more than 50 years have gone by from their life-altering, perilous time in Vietnam, their memories are vibrant.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

October is Agent Orange Awareness Month






Toxins, dioxins and potential risks to grandchildren from the UPL chemical inferno

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With the barest trickle of information seeping beneath the closed-door investigation into the UPL chemical disaster in Durban, the public is still in the dark about health impacts and exposure levels from airborne toxic chemical exposure. But studies on people and animals exposed to several of these chemicals point to significant health problems that could potentially extend several generations into the future.

Viktor Yushchenko was on the point of gaining power as president of Ukraine in 2004 when he became seriously ill and was flown to Austria for specialist treatment. He was poisoned deliberately, possibly by Russian agents.

Medical experts later determined that the poison was a highly toxic chemical known as 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD).

TCDD is a colourless, odourless but highly toxic dioxin, one of several by-products of a wide range of manufacturing and heating processes including smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp and the manufacturing of some herbicides and pesticides.

Yuschenko survived, but was left with a severely disfigured face, with his skin bloated and pockmarked by chloracne (a severe form of acne linked to exposures to dioxins).

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Intelligence at the root of ‘The Problem,’ Jon Stewart’s funny, thought-provoking new series

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The problem with Jon Stewart is he signed off as host of “The Daily Show” in 2015, at a time when we needed him the most. Not that Stewart didn’t deserve to take a break from the grind of a four-times-a-week show after 16 Emmy-spangled years and not that Trevor Noah hasn’t been a worthy successor — but it would have been awesome to hear Stewart’s wry and sardonic and fact-fueled takes on all the madness that has transpired in our world over the last half-dozen years.

Here’s the good news headline: Stewart is returning to the current-affairs milieu with the Apple TV+ series “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” a multiple-season, single-issue show in which Stewart (backed by an enormously talented team of writers and producers) will introduce a major topic on each episode and then do a deep-dive into the subject. We start with a Producers’ Meeting in which Stewart and senior staffers kick around ideas and share stories; continue with Stewart seated at a desk in a loft-like studio, delivering a monologue to a live audience; break for the occasional short comedic filmed bits, and continue with Stewart talking to guests who have been impacted by the issue of the day.

If it all sounds a bit like a grad school lecture delivered by the hippest and funniest prof on campus, well, that’s kind of what we’re getting, and it’s vintage Jon Stewart: thought-provoking, laugh-out-loud funny, insightful, clever, occasionally a bit too pleased with itself but on balance, pretty flippin’ great, only they don’t say “flippin’ ” on this show cause you can swear on Apple TV+.

“The Problem With Jon Stewart” plays like a particularly compelling segment on “60 Minutes” crossed with a late-night comedy talk show. In Episode One, titled “War,” Stewart shines a harsh spotlight on the military’s use of Burn Pits, i.e., the common practice in Iraq and Afghanistan of digging huge holes next to bases and burning chemical drums, vehicles, medical waste, food waste, amputated body parts, tires, tarps, batteries and mountains of human waste. Pour on the jet fuel, light it up — and toxic, black plumes of smoke would be inhaled by the soldiers on the bases.

“In this divided country, the one thing we can agree on, is we love our troops,” says Stewart. “We support our troops — unless they actually need support.” We see evidence of the grave damage caused to veterans who have been exposed to burn pits and learn some 72% of related claims filed with the VA have been denied, for reasons of, well, money. Money and bull----. “I was retired from the Army at 27 years old,” says Sgt. Isiah James, who says he could once run five miles but now can hardly breathe at night. “Burn pits are our generation’s Agent Orange.”

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

30-day Challenge to Collect Signatures to Show Secretary McDonough that we are Serious


Our last battle is for the future generations of innocents. We will go to our graves without honor if we abandon the future generations. If we lose this battle for P.L. 114-315, the child victims die without recognition of their veteran ancestors' service causations.... How many generations must suffer? Our human dignity is at stake. The world will benefit from this research.

DOWNLOAD THE PETITION

SIGN THE PETITION HERE!


Inside the Shifting Treatment Landscape for Advanced Genitourinary Cancers

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Surgery to remove cancer and even vital organs such as kidneys has been a mainstay of cancer treatment, but today, researchers are striving to find other options for patients. For example, nonsurgical treatments for patients with advanced renal cell carcinoma include the use of immunotherapy (which uses one’s immune system to attack cancer cells) and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (which block enzymes that aid in cancer growth).

Fifteen years ago, there weren’t many first-line treatment options for patients with this type of cancer, but now we have several — allowing patients and their oncologists to choose which treatment may work best for them.

In this special issue of CURE®, we spoke with a patient with metastatic renal cell carcinoma who obtained a second opinion after experiencing tumor growth while on a combination of two immunotherapy drugs. His new doctors suggested he enroll in a clinical trial that was testing an immunotherapy drug with a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. He enrolled and participated, which resulted in the cancer shrinking. “Every scan I had showed a decrease, and the overall reduction of my cancer was 54%,” he told CURE®. Two other patients interviewed for the story had similar experiences with the combination treatment, highlighting its effectiveness in treating this disease even in earlier stages.

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Veterans benefits could see a big cost-of-living boost later this year

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Veterans may be in line for a big cost-of-living boost in their benefits payouts starting in December thanks to legislation finalized by Congress on Monday.

The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act passed unanimously in the House on Monday and without objection in the Senate earlier in the summer. It now heads to the White House, where President Joe Biden is expected to sign it into law in coming days.

The legislation ties the cost-of-living boost for veterans benefits to the planned increase in Social Security benefits. Although the Social Security boost is automatic each year, lawmakers must approve the veterans benefits increase annually.

How much that boost will be next year is still not certain. The Social Security Administration is expected to announce the COLA rate for 2022 next month, based on economic trends over the last few months.

That increase will go into effect for benefits checks sent out starting this December.

The cost-of-living bump hasn’t been above 3.0 percent since 2011, and has averaged less than 1.3 percent over the last six years.

But last month, officials from the Senior Citizens League predicted that next year’s rise could top 6.2 percent, based on recent inflation and wage data released by federal economists. If so, it would be the largest increase since 1983 for Social Security and VA benefits recipients.

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Vietnam, US step up cooperation in tackling war consequences

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Deputy Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien met with Patrick Leahy, president pro tempore of the US Senate on September 22 (local time) in Washington DC, with their discussion focusing on war-aftermath mitigation projects in Vietnam.

Hanoi (VNA) - Deputy Minister of National Defence Sen. Lieut. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien met with Patrick Leahy, president pro tempore of the US Senate on September 22 (local time) in Washington DC, with their discussion focusing on war-aftermath mitigation projects in Vietnam.

The US senator expressed his delight at outcomes of the nations’ collaboration in tackling war consequences, particularly a dioxin detoxification project at the Bien Hoa airport and a project on improving the quality of life of people with disabilities in eight provinces heavily sprayed with Agent Orange.

He also acknowledged the progress made in cooperation in searching for remains of missing-in-action US servicemen and Vietnamese martyrs as well as in the implementation of joint communications campaigns.

Chien informed Leahy that his ministry has supported the COVID-19 vaccination of people involved in the Bien Hoa airport project to ensure its progress and asked the US official to support the provision of more funding to complete the project sooner.

Chien proposed the US study to expand the beneficiaries in the life quality improvement project as most provinces in Vietnam have AO/dioxin victims.

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Thursday, September 23, 2021

We Need Your Help: Act Now! 30-day Challenge to collect signatures to show Secretary McDonough that we are serious.








DOWNLOAD THE PETITION HERE!


Our last battle is for the future generations of innocents. We will go to our graves without honor if we abandon the future generations.

If we lose this battle for P.L. 114-315, the child victims die without recognition of their veteran ancestors' service causations.... How many generations must suffer?

Our human dignity is at stake.
The world will benefit from this research.

SIGN THE PETITION ONLINE!


The American citizens and signers of this formal petition for just reconsideration do hereby demand Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Dennis McDonough personally read the entirety of The Toxic Exposure Research Act (TERA), Public Law 114-315, Sections 631 through 634. Upon reading this law, we further demand the VA Secretary read and understand the DVA-contracted report issued by NASEM (IOM) dated 2018, Gulf War and Health, Volume 11: Generational Health Effects of Serving in the Gulf War, specifically the sections within the report that stipulate the research mandated by TERA, Public Law 114-315, is both feasible and necessary. Most importantly, we demand the VA Secretary follow the specific, written intent of  TERA, Public Law 114-315, and based upon NASEM’s declaration of feasibility,  certify to both Veterans Affairs committees of Congress his understanding of the research feasibility,  and certify it is his honorable intent to proceed with the specified research and implement the remaining provisions of that noble law, as specified and intended for the wellbeing of and for the American people. 

Please circulate this petition. Ask your fellow Americans (friends, family, neighbors, fellow veterans and non-veterans alike) to sign it. For every 100 signatures submitted, you will receive an Agent Orange face mask. 

Vet Benefits Expansion Prompts Hiring Push at VA

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The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring new staff within its Veteran Benefits Administration (VBA) to support the adjudication and disbursement of benefits related to agent orange and other toxic chemical exposure.

Since January, the agency has sought to expand benefits to veterans who suffered damage to their health as a consequence of exposure to napalm and other harmful chemical agents. In addition to the support provided for Vietnam War veterans, these benefits will also extend to veterans who faced similar exposures during the Gulf War.

VA has just begun processing these new claims as of September, noted Secretary McDonough at a recent press conference in Washington, DC.

“We’ve started processing claims for the new presumptive conditions related to toxic exposure for Vietnam War and Gulf War vets," he said.

Ensuring these claims are evaluated and distributed in a timely manner will require additional manpower within the Veterans Benefits Administration, with the agency now undergoing a considerable hiring push to fulfill this demand.

“VA has begun an aggressive effort to hire 2,000 more employees to process these claims,” McDonough said.

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Answering Your Questions About Prostate Cancer in African American Men

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One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. But the risk for African American men is higher—75% higher.

“Starting in your early to mid-40s, engage in this discussion with your family doctor,” says, Oncologist Dr. E. Ronald Hale. “Be diligent about having regular prostate screening tests done.”

What are the risk factors?

According to Dr. Hale, the risk for prostate cancer in African American men is 75% higher than in white men who are the same age. And African American men have twice the risk of dying from it.

Typical risk factors include unhealthy eating and lack of exercise, which can increase the likelihood of developing prostate cancer and other potentially dangerous medical conditions.

Veterans of the Vietnam War should be also aware of their elevated risk.

“Men who served in Vietnam, or otherwise had any Agent Orange exposure should absolutely undergo regular testing,” Dr. Hale says. “That should also be reported to their local Veteran’s Affairs Hospital.”

And while prostate cancer has no known early warning signs, you can do a few things to help lower your overall risk.

How can you lower your risk?

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VA Extends disability deadline for Gulf War vets

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has extended the time limit for Gulf War veterans to claim presumptive disability for certain chronic illnesses related to their military service.

The illnesses, commonly referred to as “Gulf War Syndrome,” are considered “presumptive” by the VA, meaning veterans claiming a disability related to them are not required to prove they were caused by military service.

While there is no time limit for claiming disability benefits from the VA in normal circumstances, some presumptive conditions do come with time restrictions.

According to the Disabled Veterans Of America (DAV) Gulf War Syndrome affects approximately 200,000 veterans of the 650,000 service members who served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

To qualify as disabling, a covered illness must have caused illness or symptoms in the veteran for at least six months and:

• Occurred during service in the Southwest Asia theater of military operations from Aug. 2, 1990, to the present. This also includes Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-2010) and Operation New Dawn (2010-2011), or;.

• Been diagnosed as at least 10% disabling by the VA after service.

Originally the VA was scheduled to stop awarding benefits to new Gulf War veterans with a related disability diagnosis that was given after Dec. 31, 2021. However, the VA has extended that cutoff date to Dec. 31, 2026.

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Slowing Housing, Food Allowance Raises Could Save the Pentagon Billions, Congressional Report Says

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Slowing increases to housing and food allowances for service members by switching a crucial benchmark could save the Pentagon billions, the Congressional Budget Office reported Thursday.

The idea proposed in the report involves tying those allowances to the same benchmark used for basic military pay raises.

The Defense Department is required to use the Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment cost index, or ECI, to adjust basic pay, which makes up 70% of the military's regular pay expenses. The only exception is when Congress approves a bigger pay raise.

But housing allowance rates are set annually by the defense secretary, using data on rental housing vacancies in each location. Food allowances are set annually based on the Agriculture Department's index for food prices.

These methods combined have resulted in troops' compensation growing beyond what the DoD envisioned, according to the CBO report released Thursday.

The Pentagon's goal was for troops to be paid at the 70th percentile of earnings for comparable civilians, meaning 30% of civilians in similar jobs would earn more than troops.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2021

ATTENTION! Contact your local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter to SIGN

Samaritan CME Live Webinar September 22: Agent Orange - Health Effects on Veterans

 


“Agent Orange: Health Effects on Veterans”

 

Mitchell Turker, PhD, JD

Professor, Medical Genetics, OHSU

 

September 22, 2021 12:30-1:30pm

MS Teams Meeting 

(Contact Kyle @ veterans@samhealth.org)

       

Activity Objectives:

  • Review what is known about health effects from exposure to Agent Orange and its most toxic ingredient, dioxin
  • Explain why we do not have a complete picture of the health effects from Agent Orange exposure
  • Explain the regulatory approach that was created to deal with Vietnam Veteran concerns that their long-term health was negatively impacted from their exposure to Agent Orange and other defoliants

 

Samaritan Health Services is accredited by the Washington State Medical Association to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

 

Samaritan Health Services designates this live activity for a maximum of one (1) AMA PRA Category 1 CreditsTM. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

 

Dr. Turker and the planners for this educational activity have no relevant financial relationships to disclose with ineligible companies whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients.

When Rivers Are Contaminated, Floods Are Only the First Problem

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As floods increase in frequency and intensity, chemicals buried in river sediments become “ticking time bombs” waiting to activate.

Hurricane Harvey flooded or damaged at least 13 Superfund sites in 2017, sending cancer-causing compounds into Texas waterways.

Dioxins—the category of chemicals that includes Agent Orange—have been banned in the United States since 1979. But that doesn’t mean they’re gone. Like in the plot of countless scary movies, dioxins and other banned chemicals are just buried beneath the surface waiting to be unearthed.

A new perspective paper in Journal of Hazardous Materials calls attention to an understudied area: the remobilization of pollutants buried in riverbeds. Chemicals have a knack for binding to sediments, meaning chemical spills in rivers frequently seep into sediments instead of flowing downstream. Future layers of silt bury the pollutants and hide the problem.

But persistent chemicals in riverbeds are “ticking time bombs,” warned Sarah Crawford, an environmental toxicologist at Goethe University Frankfurt and lead author of the paper. The buried chemicals can easily be remobilized. “It just takes one flood event,” she said.

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Blue Water Vietnam veterans are getting benefits payouts, but not always the right amount

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By Leo Shane III - Blue Water Vietnam veterans are getting their disability benefits paid out by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but it might not be exactly how much they deserve, according to a new watchdog report.

The VA Inspector General’s Office found that while department staff have done a good job at getting benefits flowing to newly eligible veterans covered by the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act two years ago, nearly half of the claims decisions investigators reviewed from 2020 were “inaccurate.”

The mistakes total an estimated $37 million: about $12 million in underpayments based on veterans eligibility and $25 million more in excess payments to individuals.

“Employees did not always know how to correctly process these claims, particularly determining accurate retroactive effective dates for evaluations,” investigators stated in the IG report, released late last week. “[Benefits officials] should increase oversight to help ensure employees processing these claims clearly understand how to correctly evaluate and decide them.”

Benefits for ‘blue water’ veterans finalized after years-long fight

The move ends a years-long fight to get faster disability benefits for up to 90,000 Navy veterans who served in Vietnam.

In a statement, VA officials told the Inspector General that they have improved training in recent months and put in place “special focused quality reviews” to address the problem.

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Out of context: Many exhibits at National Air Force Museum lack key details

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The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Museum near Dayton is stunning.

Where else can you stroll through the actual plane that flew FDR to Yalta in 1945, or the one that flew Harry Truman to meet an insubordinate Douglas MacArthur on Wake Island in 1950, or the one that flew Dwight D. Eisenhower to Switzerland in 1955 for the first peacetime meetings between the Soviets and Western powers?

You can also walk through the plane that ferried JFK to Dallas in November 1963 — and brought back his lifeless body along with new President LBJ after Kennedy was felled by an assassin’s bullet.

So much history made tangible — and that’s just in the Presidential Gallery far at the back of the museum’s four huge hangars.

From cloth-covered planes pioneered by the Wrights at nearby Huffman Prairie to spaceships that descended from them, a breathtaking array of the technology that has dramatically reshaped modern life is on display in those yawning spaces.

Oh, and did I mention that admission is free?

When I first visited as a child, all was awe walking among primitive biplanes and sleek, supersonic fighters.

But returning to Ohio a few years ago, much older and a little better read, I spotted some holes. Many of the captions accompanying the exhibits omitted key details, enough in some cases to be misleading.

I know. This is the Air Force’s museum and it would be silly to expect it to present a completely objective account of itself.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Long-Term Environmental Impacts of Pesticide and Herbicide Use in Panama Canal Zone

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The opening of the Panama Canal in 1913 transformed ocean-shipping and the availability of internationally-traded goods, shortened travel time between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, increased ship tonnage, and sparked the growth of port authorities on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Panama Canal. Historically, the United States was number one and China was number two in tons of cargo that pass through the canal annually in the high stakes game of import and export markets. Prior to the construction of the Panama Canal, the most efficient way to cross the 82-kilometer isthmus, between the Port of Panama City on the Pacific and the Port of Colon on the Atlantic, was by mule trails through tropical forests and river transportation. Since the construction of the Panama Canal through tropical forests in the 1910s, pesticides have been essential for managing mosquitoes as well as controlling wetland vegetation that blocked lakes, rivers and the canal. The primary objective of this research study is to document the long-term environmental impacts of pesticide and herbicide use in the Panama Canal Zone. Many of these chemicals, including 2, 4,-D, 2, 4, 5-T and DDT, have a long half-life under water and some, like arsenic (As), have no half-life. Pesticides and chemicals flowed into Lake Gatun via surface runoff either in solution or attached to the sediment during the rainy season. The by-product 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is an unanticipated contaminant created during the manufacture of the herbicide 2,4,5-T. TCDD can bio-accumulate in fish and birds and enter into the human food supply. The extent of the current chemical and pesticide contamination on former U.S. military base grounds and in Lake Gatun is unknown. Systematic soil sampling of current and former military bases, chemical disposal sites and Lake Gatun or the Panama Canal sediments is needed to determine if mitigation is necessary.

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Parkinson’s Foundation Consensus Statement on the Use of Medical Cannabis for Parkinson’s Disease

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With the growing availability of medical marijuana and other medical cannabis products in the United States, there has been a marked increase in its use for various medical conditions. Currently, medical cannabis is legal in 33 states and the District of Columbia, as well as the U.S. territories Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these, 17 states list Parkinson’s disease (PD) as a qualifying condition: CA, CT, FL, GA, IL, IA, MA, MO, NH, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, SC, VT and WV. Cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp products (defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol - THC) are legally available in all 50 states.

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More Vets Reaching Out for Crisis Line Help Amid Afghanistan Collapse

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Calls and texts to the Veterans Crisis Line have increased significantly amid the end of U.S. operations in Afghanistan in recent weeks. But Veterans Affairs officials say that’s good news, not bad.

“The more that we can do to normalize discussions about crisis and about suicide and how it’s okay to reach out for help, the better,” said Dr. Lisa Kearney, director of crisis line operations. “I’m thankful for it, hopefully we can … make it easier for folks to reach us.”

Calls to the crisis line jumped about 7 percent over the last three weeks compared to August 2020. Online chats with crisis line staff are up almost 40 percent. Texts to the emergency service are up about 98 percent.

That time frame coincides with international headlines chronicling the fall of the democratic government in Afghanistan, the return of Taliban rule and the chaotic end to U.S. military operations there.

However, Dr. Matthew Miller, National Director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program, cautioned against assumptions that all of the increase is from veterans of the recent wars traumatized directly by the events overseas.

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National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month [Sept. 2021]

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Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer diagnosed in men, and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, after lung cancer.

 The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It is about the size of a walnut and surrounds part of the urethra (the tube that empties urine from the bladder). The prostate gland produces fluid that makes up part of semen.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), almost all prostate cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms. Advanced prostate cancer can cause men to urinate more often or have a weaker flow of urine, but these symptoms can also be caused by benign prostate conditions.

Because of effective screening options for prostate cancer, the disease is often caught before it spreads, and as a whole, survival rates are good for this type of cancer.

The NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program estimates that more than 248,530 men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and 34,130 men will die of the disease in 2021.

Prostate cancer is more common in older men. It is more likely to occur in men with a family history of prostate cancer and in men of African-American descent. Other risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. In the United States, about 11 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetimes.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Agent Orange - A Primer

Jack McManus is a Vietnam Veteran who served in Operation Ranch Hand. Watch and listen as he explains the history of Agent Orange.



Birth Defect Research for Children - Because Every Birth Defect has a Cause

The Agent Orange Next Gen Campaign

During the Agent Orange litigation, 65,000 veterans reported that their children had been born with birth defects or developmental disabilities. Now veterans are also reporting that their grandchildren are affected. Yet, no government studies have been done on the association between the father’s exposure to Agent Orange and adverse outcomes in their children.

Since 1990, only Birth Defect Research for Children has collected data showing a pattern of birth defects and disabilities in the children of Vietnam veterans.

The Agent Orange Next Gen Campaign will draw attention to how many veterans’ families have been affected and raise funds to continue birth defect research.

Join the Vietnam Veterans of America Charles Kettle Chapter 31 in showing your support for the children and grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans affected by Agent Orange. Wear an Agent Orange Next Gen mask. For each $10 mask sold, a donation will go towards research connecting Agent Orange exposure to the birth defects and illnesses that veterans’ children and grandchildren are facing every day. Please help by ordering your mask today.


Is there a link between Agent Orange exposure and CLL?

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Agent Orange was an herbicide the American military used to clear leaves and other vegetation during the Vietnam War. More than 12 million gallons were sprayed in Vietnam, according to the Aspen Institute.

The name Agent Orange comes from the colored stripes on the 55-gallon drums it was kept in.

Reports of potential health problems due to Agent Orange exposure started emerging in the late 1970s. The herbicide has now been connected to dozens of health problems in United States veterans including:

The Red Cross, as reported by the Aspen Institute, also estimates more than 3 million Vietnamese people have developed health complications, including 150,000 birth defects, due to Agent Orange contamination.

Are those exposed to Agent Orange at risk for CLL?

In 2002Trusted Source, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs added CLL to the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.

Of the 195 veteransTrusted Source who were diagnosed with CLL from 2001 to 2010, a disproportional 17 percent were exposed to Agent Orange, according to a retrospective cohort study published in 2014.

Researchers have found that the average age of CLL diagnosis in people exposed to Agent Orange was 61 versus 72 for people who were not exposed.

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Understanding VA’s current claims backlog environment, future growth

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VA’s claims process has undergone a tremendous positive evolution over the past eight years. It is now a ‘paperless’ system thanks to the Veterans Benefits Management System and the digitally based National Work Queue system. This evolution, led by VA’s dedicated claims teams across the country, resulted in a claims backlog of over 600,000 claims in 2012 fall below 100,000 by 2017.

VA defines backlog as the number of claims pending over 125 days.

Two events have occurred that will, however, result in significant claims backlog increases in the near term.

First, unprecedented claims processing delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a current claims backlog of approximately 180,000, more than double its pre-COVID-19 backlog levels. After in-person work restrictions at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) caused a significant growth in the number of outstanding requests for military records, VA collaborated closely with (and continues to collaborate with) NARA to retrieve and scan records into VA’s electronic claims processing system.  Mitigating these COVID delays will take more time.

Second, VA is beginning to now process claims related to two significant benefits changes for Veterans enacted by law and expect these new processes have an impact on VA’s ability to deliver benefits within 125 days.

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VA Secretary Appoints New Veterans Law Judges to Adjudicate More Appeals for Veterans

The VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals has appointed 20 new veterans law judges to deliver more veterans appeals decisions — bringing the total to 113. Most of the new veterans law judges will arrive prior to the end of Fiscal Year 2021, with additional judges to be appointed in Fiscal Year 2022. The judges will receive extensive training from mentor judges to prepare them for their new responsibilities and will be supported by a cadre of attorney-advisors and professional staff as they adjudicate appeals.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

DOD Identifies Marine Corps, Navy and Army Casualties in Afghanistan

 

Aug. 28, 2021

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of 13 service members who were supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. They died Aug. 26, 2021, as the result of an enemy attack while supporting non-combatant evacuation operations in Kabul, Afghanistan. The incident is under investigation.   

For the Marine Corps, the deceased are: 

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts. 

Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California. 

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California. 

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska. 

Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana. 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas. 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri.  

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming. 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California. 

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California. 

Staff Sergeant Darin T. Hoover, Cpl. Hunter Lopez, Cpl. Daegan W. Page, Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, and Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui were assigned to 2nd  Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.

Sgt. Nicole L. Gee was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th  Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo was assigned to 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Naval Support Activity Bahrain. 

For the Navy, the deceased is: 

Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio. Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak was assigned to 1st Marine Regiment, 1st  Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, California.

For the Army, the deceased is: 

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee. Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss was assigned to 9th PSYOP Battalion, 8th  PSYOP Group, Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Study identifies potential link between Soldiers exposed to blasts, Alzheimer’s

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. -- Research shows that Soldiers exposed to shockwaves from military explosives are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease -- even those that don’t have traumatic brain injuries from those blasts. A new Army-funded study identifies how those blasts affect the brain.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in collaboration with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, now known as DEVCOM, the Army Research Laboratory, and the National Institutes of Health found that the mystery behind blast-induced neurological complications when traumatic damage is undetected may be rooted in distinct alterations to the tiny connections between neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain particularly involved in memory encoding and social behavior.

The research published in Brain Pathology, the medical journal of the International Society of Neuropathology, was funded by the lab’s Army Research Office.

“Blasts can lead to debilitating neurological and psychological damage but the underlying injury mechanisms are not well understood,” said Dr. Frederick Gregory, program manager, ARO. “Understanding the molecular pathophysiology of blast-induced brain injury and potential impacts on long-term brain health is extremely important to understand in order to protect the lifelong health and well-being of our service members.”

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How Veterans Affairs is helping to lead the way on prostate cancer research

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Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer among America’s veterans population. An estimated 500,000 veterans are living with a prostate cancer diagnosis today. So it makes sense that the Veterans Health Administration would make prostate cancer research a priority. One of the latest developments is a partnership with the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Among other things, it’s helped to fund research into precision oncology – treatments that are tailored to each patient’s specific physiology. Dr. Matt Rettig is the chief oncologist at the VA of Greater Los Angeles. He joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to talk about some of the research questions VA’s trying to answer.

Interview transcript:

Dr. Matt Rettig: Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed major malignancy amongst veterans. In fact, it’s the most common major malignancy amongst males in the general US population, with somewhere around 200,000-250,000 new cases per year. Currently, there are approximately 500,000 veterans who are alive with a diagnosis of prostate cancer, and about 16,000 to 17,000 of them who have the most advanced stage of the disease, that is called metastatic prostate cancer, meaning it’s spread beyond the prostate to another organ. So it’s a big problem. It’s associated with a lot of complications, what we call morbidity, as well as unfortunately, mortality. And so it’s a high priority malignancy for the VA so that we can better understand it and better treat it for our veterans.

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VA Spotlights Special Benefits for Elderly Wartime Veteran Population

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WASHINGTON — As a follow up to National Financial Awareness Day, August 14, the Department of Veterans Affairs is launching an awareness campaign to inform elderly wartime Veterans and their families of their lesser-known va logo300pension, funeral, burial, and survivor benefits.

“VA’s pension benefit helps Veterans, and their families cope with financial challenges by providing supplemental income,” said Acting Under Secretary for Benefits Thomas Murphy. “Currently, only 189,800 wartime Veterans and 139,800 surviving spouses are using their needs-based pension benefits that are meant to ease the burden on them, their families and caregivers. We need to ensure all of our wartime Veterans and their survivors are aware of their benefits.”

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Friday, August 20, 2021

Journalist Joe Galloway, chronicler of Vietnam War, dies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Longtime American foreign correspondent Joseph L. Galloway, best known for his book recounting a pivotal battle in the Vietnam War that was made into a Hollywood movie, has died. He was 79.

A native of Refugio, Texas, Galloway spent 22 years as a war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International, including serving four tours in Vietnam. He then worked for U.S. News & World Report magazine and Knight Ridder newspapers in a series of overseas roles, including reporting from the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Galloway died Wednesday morning, his wife, Grace Galloway, told The Associated Press, after being hospitalized near their home in Concord, North Carolina. He is also survived by two sons and a stepdaughter.

“He was the kindest, most gentle and loving man,” Grace Galloway said. “He loved the boys and girls of the U.S. military. He loved his country.”

With co-author retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, Galloway wrote “We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young,” which recounted his and Moore’s experience during a bloody 1965 battle with the North Vietnamese in the Ia Drang Valley. The book became a national bestseller and was made into the 2002 movie “We Were Soldiers,” starring Mel Gibson as Moore and Barry Pepper as Galloway.

“Joe has my respect and admiration — a combat reporter in the field who willingly flew into hot spots and, when things got tough, was not afraid to take up arms to fight for his country and his brothers,” Gibson said Wednesday.

Galloway was decorated with a Bronze Star Medal with V in 1998 for rescuing wounded soldiers under fire during the la Drang battle. He is the only civilian awarded a medal of valor by the U.S. Army for actions in combat during the Vietnam War.

Galloway also served as a consultant for the 2016 PBS documentary “The Vietnam War,” directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. They said he will be missed.

“Joe was a very brave and courageous reporter and phenomenal storyteller the likes of which they don’t make anymore,” Burns and Novick said in a joint statement. “We were lucky he came into our lives and made our understanding of the Vietnam War that much more vivid.”

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