Wednesday, March 2, 2022

VA will propose adding rare cancers to the presumed service-connected list as related to military environmental exposure

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs intends to propose adding certain rare respiratory cancers to the list of presumed service-connected disabilities in relation to military environmental exposure to particulate matter.

VA determined through a focused review of scientific and medical evidence there is biologic plausibility between airborne hazards, specifically particulate matter, and carcinogenesis of the respiratory tract, and that the unique circumstances of these rare cancers warrant a presumption of service connection.

Based on these findings, VA’s Secretary is proposing a rule that will add presumptive service connection for several rare respiratory cancers for certain Veterans. The cancers under consideration include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the larynx.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the trachea.
  • Adenocarcinoma of the trachea.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the trachea.
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma of the lung.
  • Large cell carcinoma of the lung.
  • Salivary gland-type tumors of the lung.
  • Sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung.
  • Typical and atypical carcinoid of the lung.

“This is the right decision. The rarity and severity of these illnesses, and the reality that these conditions present a situation where it may not be possible to develop additional evidence prompted us to take this critical action,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “We’ll continue to hold ourselves accountable to Veterans to provide more care, more benefits and more services to more Veterans than ever before.”

VA intends to focus its rule on the rare respiratory cancers above in Veterans who served any amount of time in the Southwest Asia theater of operations and other locations. VA will invite and consider public comments as part of this process.

Once rulemaking is complete, VA will conduct outreach to impacted veterans and survivors to inform them about potential eligibility.

Dioxin cleanup underway at Seabee Base in Gulfport


GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - If you drive 28th Street in Gulfport, you probably have wondered what has been going on in the northwest corner of the Seabee Base.

The area, known as Site 7, is being cleared and cleaned to remove any remaining Dioxin. It’s a dangerous chemical found in Agent Orange, a tactical herbicide used during the Vietnam War that has since been linked to certain cancers and other illnesses.

From 1968 to 1977, the Air Force stored more than 15,000 drums of the herbicide on the Seabee Base. Some of the drums leaked over time, contaminating surrounding areas.

Gulfport was actually the largest storage area for the chemical in the continental United States before it was shipped to Vietnam.

Over the years, the chemical has been removed from areas outside the Seabee Base and brought to a containment site on base which has been contained under one foot of concrete. That area is now used as a mobilization site for Navy heavy equipment.

This 18-acre site, which was a landfill, had exposure from low-level dioxin that was removed from surrounding ditches and placed there. The overall cleanup has been going on for 40 years.

“This is a fairly substantial milestone for the environmental restoration program on board NCBC Gulfport. That all of the sites that were identified have been remediated and put into a long-term status with not only the Navy, but also with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality,” explained J.D. Spalding with Naval Facilities and Engineering Command Southeast.

Spaulding called this phase of the cleanup, “the end of an era” that was established in the 1980s.


What Lies Beneath - Vets worry polluted base left them ill


FORT ORD NATIONAL MONUMENT, Calif. (AP) — For nearly 80 years, recruits reporting to central California’s Fort Ord considered themselves the lucky ones, privileged to live and work amid sparkling seas, sandy dunes and sage-covered hills.

But there was an underside, the dirty work of soldiering. Recruits tossed live grenades into the canyons of “Mortar Alley,” sprayed soapy chemicals on burn pits of scrap metal and solvents, poured toxic substances down drains and into leaky tanks they buried underground.

When it rained, poisons percolated into aquifers from which they drew drinking water.

Through the years, soldiers and civilians who lived at the U.S. Army base didn’t question whether their tap water was safe to drink.

Rusted barrels rest outside barracks at Fort Ord on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Fort Ord, Calif. Hundreds of Fort Ord veterans are being diagnosed with rare blood cancers, according to a database compiled by a former soldier and shared with The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

But in 1990, four years before it began the process of closing as an active military training base, Fort Ord was added to the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of the most polluted places in the nation. Included in that pollution were dozens of chemicals, some now known to cause cancer, found in the base’s drinking water and soil.

Decades later, several Fort Ord veterans who were diagnosed with cancers — especially rare blood disorders — took the question to Facebook: Are there more of us?

Soon, the group grew to hundreds of people who had lived or served at Fort Ord and were concerned that their health problems might be tied to the chemicals there.

The Associated Press interviewed nearly two dozen of these veterans for this story and identified many more. The AP also reviewed thousands of pages of documents, and interviewed military, medical and environmental scientists.

There is rarely a way to directly connect toxic exposure to a specific individual’s medical condition. Indeed, the concentrations of the toxics are tiny, measured in parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of an immediate poisoning. Local utilities, the Defense Department and some in the Department of Veterans Affairs insist Fort Ord’s water is safe and always has been.