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Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Signed into Law: The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act

Patricia Kime, writer for Military.com, reported early last Wednesday that after decades of negotiations, President Donald Trump signed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act into law late Tuesday.

The sailors, Marines and other service personnel who served off the coast of the Republic of Vietnam have been fighting for the passing of H.R. 299 for decades. Before this legislation, the specific diseases connected to Agent Orange exposure exposure were recognized only for ground troops. This new law extends that recognition to all those who served off of the coast of the Republic of Vietnam and Cambodia between January 1962 and May 1975.

This change in legislation stands to benefit an estimated 90,000 veterans who were exposed to the chemical herbicide agent produced by Monsanto in the 1960’s. The medical conditions of these veterans who served off the coastline will now receive the same considerations as ground troops and will have their disability compensation fast-tracked. Agent Orange-associated illnesses range from respiratory cancers to Parkinson’s, heart disease and certain types of diabetes. 

Veterans who have previously had claims denied are now eligible to resubmit along with those who were deployed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone from 9/1/67-8/31/71. An additional group covered by this new legislation is the children of veterans who served in Thailand from 1/62-5/75 who were born with spina bifida. 

Not everyone is celebrating this new legislation. The Military-Veterans Advocacy group has some significant concerns about the wording of H.R. 299. The bill covers Blue Water veterans that were up to 12 miles off the shores of Vietnam and Cambodia. The concern of the Military-Veterans Advocacy group is for the Blue Water veterans who are outside of this perimeter of the predetermined area but still within the South China sea and subject to the waters and chemical runoff of the heavily impacted Mekong River. Military-Veterans Advocacy has previously filed a lawsuit against the federal government on behalf of the Blue Water veterans over the denial of benefits. 

Rep. Mark Takano, (Democrat, CA) is one of the original drafters of the legislation. He also chairs the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Takano has been quoted as saying that Congress has now “righted a terrible injustice.”

“We can finally tell the tens of thousands of veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War but wrongly denied benefits that justice is finally coming.” 

While the signing of the legislation should absolutely be viewed as a victory for all Blue Water veterans, this win does not mean the end of the war. Provisions are now in place for tens of thousands of additional veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. However, the work is not complete until every benefit is available to every exposed veteran, no questions asked.  

With additional benefits come additional costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that these changes could cost as much as $1.1 billion over 10 years but the Department of Veterans Affairs has a much higher estimate of $5.5 billion. Non-disabled veterans can expect additional fees on VA-supported home loans (less than a percentage point). 

 

VA Study Shows Parasite May be Killing Vietnam Vets

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By Debbie Gregory.

A slow-killing parasite may have been brought home from the jungles of Southeast Asia by many Vietnam veterans. The government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or undercooked freshwater fish while serving  in Vietnam might be at risk.

Vietnam veterans have faced numerous health challenges, including exposure to Agent Orange.

Of the 50 blood samples examined in a pilot study commissioned by the VA at Seoul National University, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies.

Liver fluke is a collective name of a polyphyletic group of parasitic trematodes under the phylum Platyhelminthes. They are principally parasites of the liver of various mammals, including humans. Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide.

Liver fluke can lay dormant in a person for up to fifty years before swelling and inflammation of the bile duct occurs. This can lead to, intense pain, jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, cancer and other symptoms. The symptoms generally appear only when the disease is in its final stages. The ironic thing about this is that liver fluke parasites can be easily removed from the body if the condition is treated early on. Untreated, the inevitable will happen over time but there are no early symptoms to warn a potential victim.

America’s involvement in Vietnam lasted from 1957 until 1975. Approximately 2,700,000 American men and women served.  It was the first war in which the US failed to meet its objectives. It was also the first time America failed to welcome its veterans back as heroes. Many veterans were attacked personally by their fellow countrymen, who opposed the war.

The VA has treated approximately 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma over the past 15 years.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VFW UnMet Needs Program Assists Servicemembers and Recent Vets

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By Debbie Gregory.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) traces its roots back to 1899, when veterans of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection arrived home wounded or sick. There was no medical care or veterans’ pension for them, and they were left to care for themselves.

Veterans from these wars banded together and formed the VFW. As the nation’s largest organization of combat veterans, the VFW understands the challenges veterans, service members and military families can face and believe that experiencing financial difficulties should not be one of them. That’s the premise behind the VFW’s Unmet Needs program.

Unmet Needs is there to help America’s service members who have been deployed in the last six years and have run into unexpected financial difficulties as a result of deployment or other military-related activity.

The program provides financial aid, up to $5,000, to assist with basic life needs. The funds are disbursed in the form of a grant paid directly to the creditor, so there is no repayment required.

To date, Unmet Needs has distributed over $5.4 million in assistance to qualified military families, with almost half of those funds going directly toward basic housing needs.

The needs of our nation’s veterans, service members and their families should never go unmet. The VFW’s Unmet Needs program offers a hand up, at a time when finances are at a low.

Through the VFW advocacy, the organization’s voice had been instrumental in establishing the Veterans Administration, creating a GI Bill for the 20th century, the development of the national cemetery system and the fight for compensation for Vietnam vets exposed to Agent Orange and for veterans diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome.

Please review the Unmet Needs eligibility criteria to see if you or someone you know qualifies for a grant through the Unmet Needs program.

If you’re eligible, APPLY TODAY.

Contact Unmet Needs at 1-866-789-6333 or by email at [email protected] with any questions.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

VA Considers Adding to List of Agent Orange-related Conditions

agent orange

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is considering the addition of several diseases to the list of health conditions thought to be connected with Agent Orange exposure. Agent Orange was one of the herbicides used by the U.S. military to defoliate rural/forested land in Vietnam, depriving the Vietcong guerrillas of food and cover, and clearing sensitive areas, such as base perimeters.

The VA began recognizing diseases associated with herbicide exposure in Vietnam beginning in 1991

A VA working group is working to determine whether bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms should automatically make a Vietnam veteran eligible for VA disability benefits and healthcare.

There is a list of 15 diseases already in place, which include: Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, soft-tissue sarcoma, chloracne, type-2 diabetes mellitus, light chain amyloidosis, ischemic heart disease, chronic B-cell leukemia, and Parkinson’s disease. Also on the list is spina bifida in the children of veterans, with 1,153 descendants receiving benefits.

Some 1 million Vietnam veterans are enrolled in the VA health system, and based on one year’s data, 5,484 veterans have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, 15,983 suffer from hypothyroidism and approximately 1,833 have Parkinson’s-like symptoms. Additionally, 307,324 Vietnam veterans in the VA healthcare system have high blood pressure.

VA recommends that veterans who have an illness they believe is related to Agent Orange exposure file a claim; they are considered on a case-by-case basis if the illness is not on the presumptive condition list.

Should new diseases be added to the list, the regulation would go into effect 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

If a veteran dies of a condition determined to be a presumptive condition after the veteran’s death, VA will provide dependency and indemnity compensation benefits to eligible spouses, children and parents of that veteran.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Research Links Agent Orange Exposure to Bladder Cancer and Hypothyroidism

 

vietnam agent orange

By Debbie Gregory.

Millions of Vietnam War veterans were exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide that contained dioxin and other dangerous toxins and potential cancer-causing agents. The military used the herbicide to wipe out the foliage and trees to impede the enemy’s ability to hide.

Exposure to the chemical has resulted in increased rates of cancer, and nerve, digestive, skin, and respiratory disorders, in particular, higher rates of acute/chronic leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, throat cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, Ischemic heart disease, soft tissue sarcoma and liver cancer.

Now a new review of Agent Orange research has uncovered evidence that bladder cancer and hypothyroidism are more strongly linked to exposure to the herbicide than previously thought.

The 1,115-page review released by the Institute of Medicine on the health effects of Agent Orange also recommended the Veterans Affairs Department grant service-connected presumption to veterans with “Parkinson’s-like symptoms,” not just those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease related to Agent Orange exposure.

“There is no rational basis for exclusion of individuals with Parkinson’s-like symptoms from the service-related category denoted as Parkinson’s disease,” members of the IOM panel wrote in the report.

The upgrade for bladder cancer and hypothyroidism from the category “inadequate or insufficient evidence” to “limited or suggestive evidence,” of a link, as well as the recommendation to include Parkinson’s-like symptoms to the service-connected list could pave the way for thousands of veterans to receive health care and disability compensation from VA.

The report, released March 10, was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Institute of Medicine is part of the private nonprofit National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Military Connection: Will there be a class action law suit at Fort Detrick?

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By Debbie Gregory.

The area around Fort Detrick, in Frederick, Maryland, may be the site of a cancer cluster. The Army has denied over 100 claims seeking millions of dollars in reimbursement for cancer deaths and other serious illnesses at the Garrison. The illnesses were allegedly caused by chemicals buried and/or tested decades ago.

The claim denials pave the way for what will more than likely result in a federal lawsuit. Area B is 399-acre former waste-disposal site that was named one of the most polluted sites in the country in 2008 by the federal government when it was added to the Superfund list and given priority funding for cleanup efforts.

Former televangelist Randy White established the Kristen Renee Foundation, named for his daughter, who grew up near Fort Detrick and died of brain cancer in 2008. Kristen’s mother, White’s ex-wife Debra Cross, died of kidney cancer in November 2014.

According to Lanessa Hill, spokeswoman for Fort Detrick, the U.S. Army Claims Service transmitted letters last month denying 106 out of 110 allegations filed.   There are four outstanding cases that have not yet been decided.  Two of these cases were filed by people arguing that they couldn’t sell their homes due to the fear of contamination. The remaining two are health claims that lack documentation, this according to Hill.

Thomas Jackson, an Army Claims Service attorney,  said the Claims Services denials were rooted in part on the lack of environmental regulations barring Fort Detrick from burying chemical waste in unlined pits decades ago. The government recently used a similar strategy to defeat a lawsuit declaring that Fort Detrick groundwater pollution reduced the development value of neighboring private property in the area.

In 2011, concerns raised by White’s group prompted an investigation by state public health officials. They found no significant evidence of cancer clusters within 2 miles of Fort Detrick.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: Will there be a class action law suit at Fort Detrick?: By Debbie Gregory

Military Connection: New Agent Orange Claims: By Debbie Gregory

Agent OrangeVeterans who were exposed to a blend of tactical herbicides commonly referred to as “Agent Orange” may be eligible for a variety of benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These benefits include disability compensation, healthcare, and monetary payments to survivors and dependents.

Benefits will be given to Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange because the VA and federal law presume that certain diseases and ailments found among Veterans are the result of exposure to the herbicides. The VA has amassed a list of units, commands and areas of operation that have commonality for claims of Agent Orange exposure. Under the VA’s “presumptive policy,” Veterans who served in these units, commands and areas of operation who complain of similar illnesses get a fast pass to benefits

The VA requires a medical diagnosis that confirms recognized diseases associated with Agent Orange Exposure, evidence of service in recognized service assignments, and competent evidence that the disease started within time limits specified by the VA.

If a Veteran claims to have a disease caused by Agent Orange exposure and does not fit within these parameters, he or she must show an actual connection between the disease and Agent Orange exposure during military service.

A group of Veterans,  all of whom flew on C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, have diseases and ailments that fit in the VA’s criteria for the presumptive policy. What doesn’t fit is their time and area of service.

During the war, C-123’s were used to spray Agent Orange. After the war, the same planes were used to transport cargo and personnel. Though these Veterans were not on board the planes while they were spraying the herbicide, they say that there was residue, sometimes in giant globs, still on and inside the planes. They are trying to get their claims approved and possibly their area of service added to the presumptive list.

These Veterans have had their claims repeatedly denied by the VA, despite their evidence and the significant number of them suffering with illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure.

This is an example of why it is vital for Veterans to file claims with the VA. Even though your claim could get denied, if an abundant number of Veterans with the same military background happen to suffer from similar ailments, new diseases and areas of operation could be added to the list of the presumptive policy.

Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their Families. We are the go to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go to site.

Military Connection: New Agent Orange Claims: By Debbie Gregory