Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Filing a VA claim for disability compensation


VA disability compensation benefits are a monthly, tax-free payment to Veterans who were injured, sustained a long-term illness or experienced a worsening medical condition during their military service.

In addition to compensating Veterans whose disabilities incurred while serving in the military, Veterans may also be granted compensation for specific post-service medical conditions that arose because of their military service. Known as presumptive disabilities, these conditions may not have arisen in service but may be granted as service-connected because its occurrence can been linked directly to military service.

VA recently added new medical conditions to a growing list of presumptive disabilities, which you can view here. These conditions can be presumed to have occurred because of an exposure to Agent Orange, ionizing radiation, and service in the Gulf War.

How to file a claim for disability compensation

The COVID-19 pandemic has not halted the claims process. Veterans can still file claims, and VA is still processing them. VA recommends filing a claim online, but it can still be done in person or through the mail. To get started, visit the VA disability compensation webpage and follow the steps listed below.


‘Seed Money’ Explores Monsanto’s Troubling Past and its Impact on the Future of Food


For decades, the company once known as Monsanto has dominated U.S. agriculture. Famous for its Roundup Ready system—which consists of the herbicide Roundup, made with glyphosate, and seeds genetically modified to resist it—the global corporation became the largest seller of seeds in the world by the 1990s. Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company that bought Monsanto in 2018, now faces a number of high-profile lawsuits related to glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential as well as the failures of the Roundup system.

In his new book Seed Money: Monsanto’s Past and Our Food Future, historian Bartow J. Elmore uncovers Monsanto’s record of producing not only Roundup, but also many of the chemicals that make up our modern world: the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in electrical equipment, the defoliants in home-garden herbicides and the Agent Orange used for chemical warfare during the Vietnam War, and the herbicide dicamba.

Elmore traces the company’s record of misleading regulators and the public about the dangers of such chemicals to human health and the environment and explains how the chemicals themselves have become deeply ingrained in our economy and agricultural system for the foreseeable future.


Measures sought to improve efficiency of prevention, treatment of AO related diseases


Vietnamese and foreign scientists, experts and doctors gathered at a conference on December 20 to seek measures to improve the efficiency of preventive measures against and treatment to diseases related to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure.

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnamese and foreign scientists, experts and doctors gathered at a conference on December 20 to seek measures to improve the efficiency of preventive measures against and treatment to diseases related to Agent Orange/dioxin exposure.

Participants analyse the real situation of the diseases in Vietnam, evaluating the results of relevant researches and giving a number of models of preventing and treating diseases related to Agent Orange/dioxin (AO) exposure.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Truong Son said that although the war ended nearly 50 years ago, dioxin consequences have still lingered. AO victims and their offspring have suffered serious diseases and deformities, while medical facilities have yet to meet their demand, he said.

The official said that despite efforts to support AO victims, the prevention and cure of AO related diseases have remained a tough issue that needs further researches.


More toxic exposure to military and their families


Toxic exposures on our military are no new thing, often it is the side effect of chemical war like mustard gas, nuclear or radiation, agent orange, or burn pits. But what I am going to talk about is the exposure to our families inside our own country. This isn’t about PFAS, or the exposures on Fort McClellan or Camp Lejeune, this is about the drinking water at military installations in Hawaii.

There were already reports of residents on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam being sickened, possibly from the water. On November 29, the base commander, Captain Erik A.Spitzer, sent out a message to all military housing residents. He stated: “I can tell you at this point that there are no immediate indications that the water is not safe… We visited several communities and homes last night to get samples of water and we talked with residents who had concerns.”

But it was found that just before Thanksgiving on November 22 a fuel-water mixture totaling 14,000 gallons was spilled from a leak in a drain line on Pearl Harbor.


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Monsanto tees up SCOTUS slugfest over landmark cancer verdict


The Supreme Court could decide this week whether to take up a legal battle that has the potential to upend a watershed victory by a California landowner against the manufacturer of a popular weedkiller.

Monsanto Co.’s petition — should the Supreme Court choose to take it — would throw into question the future of a $25 million verdict a jury awarded to Edwin Hardeman, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after years of using Roundup on his San Francisco Bay Area property, as well as potentially billions more in settlements.

Hardeman’s verdict, which was affirmed this year by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was the test case for thousands of trials over the harm posed by glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup.

Monsanto wrote in its petition for Supreme Court review that the justices should not allow the 9th Circuit’s decision to govern that massive body of consolidated cases.

“Because important federal questions related to Roundup and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that would otherwise be tested in different courts nationwide are instead being resolved solely in a single district, this Court should not wait to grant review,” Monsanto wrote.

Monsanto v. Hardeman is one of thousands of petitions that make their way to the Supreme Court each year. The justices grant just a tiny fraction of the petitions they receive.

The petition is scheduled for discussion during the justices’ conference tomorrow. They could announce a decision by early next week on whether they will hear the case.


Wednesday, December 8, 2021

DARPA wants to ‘slow life to save life’ with program that extends the ‘golden hour’


When troops are wounded, time is precious. That’s why the fast-ticking minutes that follow such an event are called the “golden hour.” Get the right care within the right time and you survive. Wrong care or an evac takes too long — you’re dead.

While major efforts across the government push to advance medical technology in the field and speed up the vehicles that carry troops to top treatment, one new effort is trying something even more ambitious — slowing life to save life.

Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently launched a five-year project dubbed “Biostasis.” The program will “leverage molecular biology to develop innovative ways of controlling the speed at which living systems operate.”

By doing that they hope to extend the “golden hour” before it’s too late.

“At the molecular level, life is a set of continuous biochemical reactions, and a defining characteristic of these reactions is that they need a catalyst to occur at all,” said Tristan McClure-Begley, the Biostasis program manager.

Those catalysts, McClure-Begley said, are proteins and “large molecular machines” that transform chemical and kinetic energy into biological processes.

“Our goal with Biostasis is to control those molecular machines and get them to all slow their roll at about the same rate so that we can slow down the entire system gracefully and avoid adverse consequences when the intervention is reversed or wears off.”

The program starts small, first by aiming at slowing certain processes within cells, then slowing whole cells and later tissue processes, then onto the entire organism, he said.

But the goal isn’t simply to slow processes down but to do it without damaging the processes when they return to normal speed.


See related story below

‘Golden Hour’ needs to become the ‘Golden Day,' Army medical leaders say


ARLINGTON, Virginia – The Army is working on all kinds of ways to defeat, destroy and kill the enemy in what leaders believe will be the next fight — a large-scale ground combat operation with multi-domain implications.

But an even more vexing problem than defeating high-tech enemies is how to handle what most experts agree will be a number of casualties like the United States hasn’t seen since World War II.

At an Association of the U.S. Army forum held Tuesday, top leaders in the Army medical field laid out some of the challenges they’re facing.

“The future battlefield is one of isolation, without the ability to evacuate casualties or get resupply,” said Brig. Gen. Anthony McQueen, commanding general of the Army’s Medical Research and Development Command.

McQueen noted some key demands that need solutions, including more blood on the battlefield to treat higher numbers of wounded, more oxygen and perhaps more medically-trained soldiers to increase the “holding” capacity of keeping wounded in place as the force fights for safe evacuation options.

The goal is to use technologies and procedures to extend the “Golden Hour” — the vital time following injury to ensure survivability — to the “Golden Day,” McQueen said.

“Equipment must become smaller, lighter and more rugged,” he said. “And prolong life until the casualty can reach a higher level of care.”


While Americans See an End to 20 Years of War, VA's Job Has Just Begun


Jen Burch served a seven-month tour in Afghanistan a decade ago.

It has haunted her ever since.

Burch, who was 23 when her tour ended, worked as an operations manager for an Air Force combat engineer unit. She aspired to be a physician. She spent her downtime as a volunteer medic at a Kandahar trauma hospital.

"I saw the worst of war and the best of humanity," she says.

She came home with the service's prestigious Commendation Medal, awarded for acts of valor or meritorious service. She also brought home a case of post-traumatic stress, frequent migraine headaches, and bronchitis and other breathing problems. But help has been slow in coming—both for Burch and for other veterans, she says.

"They need peer community support and easier access to health care and benefits," says the 34-year-old retired Air Force staff sergeant. "Everything moves at this bureaucratic pace."

While many Americans may have seen the end of the forever wars as the cap on two decades' worth of war spending, the job of Veterans Affairs has only just begun—and will continue for decades. But some fear the antagonistic relationship between VA and veterans will continue as advocates are forced to fight bureaucracy to gain benefits, even as VA officials say they're ready to move forward.

"As we look to the future, we're not trying to build a VA that goes back to the old normal," VA Secretary Denis McDonough recently said at the National Press Club. "Instead, we're going to continue to do better for vets, we're going to continue to be better for vets."


Veterans Affairs bureaucrats are keeping vets from using health care outside its troubled system


Once again, Department of Veterans Affairs bureaucrats are making a concerted effort to prevent veterans from using our health-care benefits at community-based providers outside the VA system — despite a law requiring them to do so. 

Seven years ago, while suffering from excruciating pain, I attempted to make a primary-care appointment at a VA hospital. In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, no one at my Durham, N.C., VA facility answered the phone. In January, it took two weeks to get a new provider assigned and an appointment scheduled. The earliest they could offer was April 15, 90 days out.  

At that point, inflamed joints throbbing, I asked if I could use my Choice card, which had arrived in November with the promise it gave me access to private, local health care in the event “the Veteran is told by his/her local VA medical facility that he/she will need to wait more than 30 days from his/her preferred date or the date medically determined by his/her physician.” 

No dice.


Congress-approved commission to begin BRAC-style review of VA facilities


WASHINGTON — A process will begin in 2022 to review Department of Veterans Affairs facilities across the country to determine which buildings to close and where to invest more resources.

The VA will submit its recommendations about the realignment of VA facilities in January, VA Secretary Denis McDonough said Wednesday during a Senate hearing. Those recommendations will go to a commission, which will spend the next year looking at the VA’s plan, conducting hearings, and submitting its own proposals to the White House.

“We’re on the verge of some very big decisions here,” McDonough said.

Congress approved the creation in 2018 of an Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission to work on the “modernization or realignment” of VA properties. As of Wednesday, the White House had selected seven of the nine commissioners, McDonough said.

The commissioners have not yet been named publicly. The law mandates the commission reflects the demographics of VA patients, and some commissioners must have expertise in either the VA health care system or federal capital asset planning and management. Three of the commissioners must be representatives from veterans service organizations.

If the asset-review commission determines a facility no longer meets the VA's needs, it's supposed to recommend how the facility could be reconfigured, repurposed, consolidated, realigned, exchanged, leased, replaced, sold or disposed, the law states.

The commission must send its recommendation to President Joe Biden by Jan. 31, 2023. Biden will then decide to reject the plan or forward it to Congress. Congress can either accept all of the recommendations or vote down the proposal.


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

We're baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack...

We've been away for a while...during a conversion from DSL to Fiber internet service our trusty computer network was down for 11 days...then came the Holiday Week...but the staff is back fat and sassy and ready to get back to producing the Agent Orange Zone on a weekly basis.

More KIWI Vietnam Veterans to receive compensation for Agent Orange Exposure


Minister for Veterans, the Hon Meka Whaitiri announced today that two new conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure have been added to the Prescribed Conditions List.

Under the 2006 Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Crown and representatives of Vietnam veterans and the Royal New Zealand RSA. Vietnam veterans in New Zealand who have these conditions are eligible for an ex gratia payment of $40,000.

Prescribed Conditions are those for which the United States National Academy of Sciences considers there is scientific evidence of association with exposure to Agent Orange. The two new conditions on the list are monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and hypertension.


5 Harmful Side-Effects of Drinking From Plastic Water Bottles


Dangers of drinking water from plastic bottles:

  • Dioxin Production: Direct exposure to the sun. Such heating releases a toxin called Dioxin which when consumed can accelerate breast cancer.
  • BPA generation: Biphenyl A is an oestrogen-mimicking chemical that can lead to a lot of health problems like diabetes, obesity, fertility problems, behavioural problems and early puberty in girls. It’s better not to store and drink water from a plastic bottle.
  • Impact Immune system: Our immune system is immensely affected when we drink water in plastic bottles. The chemicals from plastic bottles are ingested and tend to disturb our body’s immune system.
  • Liver Cancer and Reduced Sperm Count: Because of the presence of a chemical called phthalates in plastic, drinking water from plastic bottles can also lead to liver cancer and a reduction in sperm count.


Can America Afford to Take Care of Its Veterans?


We may have ended combat in Iraq and Afghanistan but the mental, physical, and fiscal costs of those who have borne the battle will linger for many decades.

In taking over the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Secretary Denis McDonough, only the second non-veteran and the second person not confirmed unanimously by the U.S. Senate, faced a series of unprecedented challenges in providing for the needs of the 19 million living veterans. The most critical of these can be placed into six categories: the rapidly increasing size of the department’s budget, the dramatic expansion of the number of veterans eligible for disability benefits, providing benefits for those LGBT personnel with less than honorable discharges, the backlog of compensation exams, the high suicide rate among veterans, and GI bill benefits.


NGO alliance calls waste-to-energy systems ‘incinerators in disguise’


THE Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific said waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities proposed for the Philippines are effectively incinerators, fueled by municipal waste, that release toxic chemicals into their immediate surroundings.

“WTE is simply waste incineration in disguise. It burns tons of municipal wastes to generate a small amount of net energy while emitting massive amounts of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases,” Jorge Agustin O. Emmanuel, a Silliman University expert on managing waste, said at a GAIA briefing.

GAIA is a network of over 800 environment groups in over 90 countries.


Parkinson’s disease awareness: Answering 9 most popular Parkinson’s questions from Veterans


Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s in the U.S. One million Americans live with Parkinson’s today – and of those, approximately 110,000 Veterans with PD receive Parkinson’s treatment through VA.

While the exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, research suggests that its cause can be linked to genetic and environmental factors. For some Veterans living with Parkinson’s, the disease can be associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service.

To make life better for Veterans with Parkinson’s, the Parkinson’s Foundation has a partnership with the VA. Below we answer the top questions asked by Veterans and their family members about Parkinson’s.


Foods to Avoid Completely Blacklist of Dangerous Foods Containing Dioxins and Heavy Metals


Not all of the food you eat is healthy, especially if it comes from foreign countries where it can be difficult to control quality and respect hygiene. The fact is that in 2020, in Italy, almost one food alert was issued per day with as many as 297 notifications sent to the EU, of which only 56 concerned products of national origin, while 160 came from other EU countries and 81 from countries outside the European Union.

This is what emerges from Coldiretti’s dossier on the “blacklist of the most dangerous foods” presented by the association yesterday, at the conclusion of the 19th International Forum on Agriculture and Food, based on the findings of the latest report from the World Health Organization. The EU Rapid Alert System, which, in effect, records alerts for food hazards that have been verified due to chemical residues, mycotoxins, heavy metals, microbiological contaminants, dioxins or additives and dyes in the EU last year.