Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

Agent Orange: The Settlement Details you need to know

There have been a variety of settlements made to Agent Orange victims since the chemical warfare in Vietnam ceased over 40 years ago. While some settlements had immediate payouts, there may be funds still available, depending on your condition and infliction. The VA is providing assistance, benefits and care for Veterans who have health implications as a result of Agent Orange exposure.

Initially, the Agent Orange Settlement Fund was a result of a class action lawsuit brought against the manufacturers of the chemical agents used in the Vietnam War by the Veterans of the war and their families. This fund and lawsuit did not involve the VA or the government in any way.

Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange may be eligible for a wide variety of VA benefits. These benefits may include disability benefits for diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange exposure. These diseases include:

 

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

Additionally, survivors of exposed Veterans and depends may also be eligible for benefits. Fortunately for Veterans, there is no need to prove Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange exposure is presumed if a Veteran was in Vietnam from January 9, 1962 until May 7, 1975. This includes both time on land and time aboard a ship that operated in the Vietnam waterways. Also covered by this presumption are veterans who were in or near the Korean demilitarized zone from April 1, 1968 to August 31, 1971.

Veterans can apply in person at their local office or online: https://www.ebenefits.va.gov/ebenefits/homepage. If you need any additional information about your possible disability benefits, please visit the VA’s site: https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-postservice-agent_orange.asp.

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Agent Orange: The Fallout

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

The chemical warfare efforts of Operation Ranch Hand were active for just 10 years of this country’s military history. Those 10 years of active efforts have had nearly 50 years of fallout, and the impact on future generations still remains unknown.

When the military began the chemical warfare airstrikes, the focus was on reducing ground cover utilized by the Viet Cong and Northern Vietnamese troops and destroying crops that would be used for sustenance. US Military, manufacturers and scientists were aware of the dangers that the dioxins posed to the humans and animals exposed, but there wasn’t a pressing concern as the toxins were being used on the enemy. Science overlooked the impact on US military personnel and long term impact on the environment. Air Force researcher Dr. James Clary has been quoted on the subject. “When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to the dioxin contamination in the herbicide. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide.”

As Veterans returned home, they began to report a variety of health issues. Initial reports were primarily skin issues, but the list grew to include type 2 diabetes, miscarriages, birth defects and more.

The VA continually updates its list of afflictions, conditions and diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure. This is the most up-to-date list of recognized conditions:

AL Amyloidosis

Chronic B-cell Leukemias

Chloracne

Diabetes Mellitus Type 2

Hodgkin’s Disease

Ischemic Heart Disease

Multiple Myeloma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Parkinson’s Disease

Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-onset

Porphyria Cutanea Tarda

Prostate Cancer

Respiratory Cancers

Soft Tissue Sarcomas

In addition to the number of illnesses reported by American Veterans and their families, the list of afflictions that have impacted the Vietnamese continues to grow. Most notable and heartbreaking are the images of children born with severe birth defects. While many assume the impacts ended after the war, in truth, children are still coming into this world with physical and mental handicaps as a result of their grandparents’ exposure to Agent Orange in the 60s.

Globally, we need to be aware of the impact that Agent Orange had on our ecosystem. If genetic abnormalities in humans were caused by exposure and still continue to be prevalent, there is a high likelihood that the dioxin would be found in our food that originated in that area.

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Agent Orange: Facts to know

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Operation Ranch Hand was the codename for the US program that ordered over 20 million gallons of herbicide to be spread over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia during a ten-year span of the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was the most commonly used herbicide. Intended to be the primary agent in the destruction of the forest cover in these countries, it was an extremely powerful herbicide that not only caused the desired deforestation but also has since been known to cause a multitude of devastating conditions for the local people and returning US Soldiers.

Operation Ranch Hand was aggressive chemical warfare designed to reduce food supplies for strategic cover being used by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops. The over 20 million gallons were spread across nearly 4.5 million acres. While seemingly a strategic win at the time, the fallout would prove to be a blemish on the face of American warfare history.

Operation Ranch Hand utilized six different herbicides. Produced by well-known American manufacturing companies, such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical, the herbicides were marked by colors on their packaging drums and subsequently referred to as those colors – Agent Orange, Agent Pink, Agent Green, Agent Blue, Agent White and Agent Purple. Agent Orange was the most used, most potent and most altered – with four different variations, including Super Orange. Agent Orange and its variations account for almost two-thirds of the herbicide use during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange’s active ingredients caused plants to lose their leaves. TCDD, a type of dioxin, was not an intentional ingredient but instead a byproduct of the manufacturing process. The TCDD found in Agent Orange is the most dangerous and deadly of all dioxins.

It has been nearly 50 years since the US Government stopped using Agent Orange and other herbicides in chemical warfare. Despite the time that has passed, many of those exposed – both Vietnamese and American – still face the physical repercussions and fallout.

 

Navy & Marine Corps Take Iceland by Storm…

Navy & Marine Corps Take Iceland by Storm…

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

More than 7,000 American Sailors and Marines arrived in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík last week – and local businesses were completely unprepared. The Americans were there to participate in NATO’s Trident Juncture, but upon docking, made a swift course to the city’s local watering holes.

Bar owners did their absolute best to accommodate the onslaught of thirsty Americans, but they were no match for the Naval and Marine Corps servicemembers. Bars quickly found themselves facing a crisis: they were out of beer.  Iceland, a country of less than 350,000 citizens, was unaware of the strains that so many American servicemembers would put on its alcohol reserves.

As bars in Reykjavík ran out of supplies, they quickly reached out to neighboring businesses for assistance. It wasn’t long before even the back up supplies were depleted and Icelandic bars were tapped out of brew.

Fortunately, a local brewery, Ölgerð Egils Skallagrímssonar, came to the rescue and began to provide emergency beer supplies for businesses who were serving the Americans.

Iceland may have been unprepared for the American invasion – but the businesses handled the shock well and and were gracious and giving hosts. To their credit, the American Sailors and Marines gave a swift boost to local economy while keeping the tomfoolery and shenanigans to a minimum!

Super Typhoon Devastates US Territories

Super Typhoon Devastates US Territories

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

Military forces across the globe are combining efforts to bring aid and relief to areas impacted by Super Typhoon Yutu, particularly Saipan and Tinian.

The Super Typhoon, a Category 5 storm, made landfall last Thursday and immediately took out power and clean water supply for the local residents. As the winds, which reached nearly 180 mph, ravaged the provinces, residents found themselves with limited shelter as many there were many reported cases of roofs being ripped from the housing structure.

The path of the storm spared Guam, which became key to aid and assistance efforts. Guam quickly became the home base for relief operations. Prior to the storms of September and October, FEMA had reported that relief supplies included more than 100,000 liters of bottled water and more than 127,000 packaged meals.Since their initial report, supplies have more than doubled. While even these increased amounts don’t seem like enough to make an impact, it is an excellent reserve on hand and will ensure that victims of Super Typhoon Yutu will have access to adequate food and water. The supplies are already being distributed to those impacted by the storms.

Commonwealth officials are reporting that the impacted regions will likely be without power for months. This report solidifies the thought that US Military operations – which include the Coast Guard, Marine Corps., Air Force, Navy, Army Corps of Engineers and more – will be on site and working together for many months to come.

 

Flu Facts: What you need to know this season

Flu Facts: What you need to know this season

Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso

We are rapidly approaching the holiday season, and carving pumpkins turns into carving turkeys and decking the halls, we all need to be reminded and aware of the uninvited guest: Influenza. There are a few important things you need to remember about the flu:

  1. The “flu” or influenza is caused by the Human Influenza A, B and C Viruses
  2. Symptoms typically appear 1-4 days after exposure
  3. Symptoms include fevers of over 100 degrees, cough, nasal stuffiness, weakness, congestion, muscle aches, general fatigue, sore throat, chills and sweats
  4. Symptoms often last for at least a week or two, sometimes longer
  5. You are contagious for about a day before you have symptoms and for about a week after your symptoms start
  6. You get the flu by breathing. Tiny droplets are inhaled and spread the virus.

If you bring yourself to the doctor within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms, antivirals can be prescribed and may significantly decrease the duration of your illness. It is critical that you pay attention to your symptoms and react quickly to minimize the impact of your illness.

The best way to attempt to prevent the flu is by receiving a flu vaccination. That, combined with consistent hand washing and limiting contact with individuals known to have the flu, will limit the spread of the virus.  

Flu vaccinations are completely covered by insurance and many major chains are incentivizing customers to stop in and receive the vaccine while they shop.

It is critical to get the Flu vaccine before the flu is spreading throughout your area. The earlier in the season that vaccination occurs, the more likely you are to receive maximum protection. The CDC recommendation is that vaccinations be received in October. This year, many communities are reporting cases of the flu already, and some have even reported deaths attributed to the flu.

It takes two weeks from the time of vaccination for the antibodies to develop against the flu. While many are skeptical of vaccination, the flu vaccine does not “cause” the flu. It does, however, give the body the best protection against a virus that does, in fact, kill.

 

Another Order for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The Reuters News Agency reports that Belgium has chosen Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth jets over the Eurofighter Typhoon to replace its aging F-16s, a move that would cement the U.S.-made war plane’s position in Europe.

The country has been deliberating for months over a multibillion-dollar purchase of 34 new fighter jets, with a late October deadline looming. Lockheed spokeswoman Carolyn Nelson did not confirm that a purchasing decision has been made, but if so, Belgium will become the 12th country to buy the radar-evading F-35 fighters and could help to strengthen the U.S. aerospace company’s position in potential offers from Switzerland, Finland and Germany.

News of the order comes not long after all F-35 fighter jets were temporarily grounded. The F-35 Joint Program Office said the U.S. and its international partners had suspended flights of the Joint Strike Fighter, also known as the Lightning II, until a fleet-wide inspection of the aircraft’s fuel tubes were completed. Officials ordered the inspection following a nonfatal crash on Sept. 28 in Beaufort, South Carolina. The F-35 Joint Program Office reported earlier this month that the majority of the single-seat, single-engine jets have resumed flight operations.

The most expensive weapons program of its type, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been under development for decades by the U.S. and its allies and is set to enter a round of testing to determine if the jet is indeed ready for action worldwide. The highly anticipated initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) tests will start in November 2018 and conclude in July 2019. There are collectively more than 240 F-35s among the Marines, Air Force and Navy.

Over 500 Immigrant Recruits Expelled from the U.S. Army in One Year

Over 500 Immigrant Recruits Expelled from the U.S. Army in One Year

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

During a 12-month period the U.S. Army discharged more than 500 immigrant enlistees who were promised a path to citizenship.

The enlistees were part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) recruiting program, which allows legal noncitizens to join the military in exchange for expedited U.S. citizenship.

The recruiting program was put on hold in 2016 amid concerns that recruits were not being screened sufficiently, and the Army began booting out those enlistees last year.

The Army submitted its list of discharged servicemembers to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia last month, putting the number at 502 service members who enlisted under MAVNI discharged between July 2017 and July 2018.

Of the discharged immigrants, more than 100 were told their entry-level performance and conduct was subpar and 48 were dismissed because of an adverse security screening. Others were dismissed for reasons ranging from personal problems to encounters with police.

The names of the service members and other personal information were redacted from the list to protect their privacy.

All the enlistees had committed to active duty or reserves; many had been regularly drilling and training with their recruiters in preparation for boot camp while awaiting security clearances.

More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving.

Because of the long wait caused by new screenings, dozens of immigrant recruits already in the pipeline were discharged or had their contracts canceled. The ensuing complaints and lawsuits led the Army to halt the discharges and reinstate at least 36 recruits.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has gone on the record as to his support of the MAVNI program.

“We need and want every qualified patriot willing to serve and able to serve,” Mattis said.

Recovery a Long Process at Tyndall Air Force Base

Recovery a Long Process at Tyndall Air Force Base

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

As the recovery from Hurricane Michael continues, many of those who were forced to evacuate from Tyndall Air Force Base – Service members, civilians, family members – are searching for answers about their future. Where they will be able to live, where their military job will post them.

In a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon earlier this week, Air Force officials stressed that recovering from the worst hurricane to hit a base in years, if not decades, will be a long, difficult process. While things are much improved at Tyndall over the last few days, they said it will likely be years before the Florida base will be back to where it was before the storm landed its direct hit. The National Hurricane Center said the storm reached Category 4 status, with 150 mph winds as Hurricane Michael made landfall. Tyndall at one point was in the eye of the storm.

Brig. Gen. John Allen, the Air Force’s director of civil engineers, compared the damage to what Hurricane Katrina did to Mississippi’s Keesler Air Force Base in 2005.  “I’ve been through a hurricane and a hurricane recovery before, but not on the magnitude of this,” Allen said. “You can imagine what kind of an effort lays ahead of us.”

Many decisions have yet to be made, such as how to care for the 11,000 Tyndall AFB evacuees. Some remain local, but others temporarily relocated with friends and family across the country — and it’s still unclear when they might be able to start returning home.

“We’re going to have to make some serious decisions on which families come back to that base or not,” said Air Force spokesman Brig. Gen. Ed Thomas. “There will be families that will be displaced from the base until we make a decision on where they’re going to PCS to, who will come back to the base. And then they will have their household goods picked up from Tyndall and moved to another location.”

Just a few days ago, the Air Force started opening up five-hour windows to allow evacuees to return to their homes, assess the damage, and take out valuables or other household goods.

 

Pilots Can Control Multiple Simulated Aircraft Telepathically

Pilots Can Control Multiple Simulated Aircraft Telepathically

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

For the first time ever, the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has announced that it has demonstrated the use of telepathic thought from a human brain embedded with a specific kind of computer chip that allows a person to command and control simultaneously three types of drone aircraft by mental thoughts while watching the drones on a screen, as demonstrated in a DARPA simulator.

DARPA’s  interface enables a person to control everything from a swarm of drones to an advanced fighter jet using nothing but their thoughts and the special brain chip.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” said Justin Sanchez, who directs DARPA’s biological technology office, at the Agency’s 60th-anniversary event in Maryland.

The military has been leading interesting research in the field since at least 2007. A 2012 grant provided DARPA with $4 million to build a non-invasive “synthetic telepathy” interface that uses a skin-tight cap loaded with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to pick up electrical signals in the user’s brain’s motor centers.

In 2015, the technology enabled a paralyzed woman to steer a virtual F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with only a small, surgically-implantable microchip. In the last three years, the technology has further advanced.

“We’ve scaled it to three [aircraft], and have full sensory [signals] coming back. So you can have those other planes out in the environment and then be detecting something and send that signal back into the brain,” said Sanchez.  

This is another step forward in the rapidly advancing field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) for a variety of purposes, including brain-based communication, control of prosthetic limbs, and even memory repair.

The technology has led to the development of the Luke arm, a prosthetic arm that connects to the motor cortex and functions like an actual biological arm. It has received FDA approval, and is going to be available for anyone who has suffered an amputation.