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  • BWN Vets 43 Yrs Later

     

    • Tens of thousands of Navy Veterans are excluded from VA benefits related to Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam war.
    • A bill making its way through Congress would extend benefits to cover blue-water Veterans, who were stationed in ships off the Vietnamese coast.
    • Early this month, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie sent a letter to lawmakers asking to stop the bill, saying its provisions are based on sympathy instead of science.
    • Veterans and their advocates are firing back, flooding the Senate with letters supporting the bill.

    Veterans groups are pushing a bill making its way through Congress that would extend VA benefits to tens of thousands US Navy Veterans who were potentially exposed to Agent Orange while serving off the coast of Vietnam. The bill is the latest glimmer of hope for Veterans who have fought for decades to receive the benefit, and would finally recognize their exposure to the toxic herbicide but come at an estimated cost of $5.5 billion to US taxpayers.

    The VA is attempting to delay this provision, saying that this vast increase in health care costs should only come after more study, which is likely to publish next year.

    "Science does not support the presumption that blue water Navy Veterans were exposed to Agent Orange," said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a letter to the Senate. The letter is yet another roadblock facing Vietnam Veterans who claim their health has suffered due to exposure.

    But the Veterans are fighting back. As of Thursday morning, Sen. Johnny Isakson, chairman of the Veterans affairs committee, has received at least three letters from advocates urging the Senate to pass the bill. They say the VA is "cherry-picking" evidence and overestimating the bill's true cost.

    Operation Ranch Hand

    Agent Orange was one of several chemical herbicides used during the Vietnam War to destroy enemy cover and food crops. Although primarily delivered via aircraft, the defoliant was also carried on vehicles, back-mounted equipment, and sprayed from ships.

    Operation Ranch Hand lasted about a decade before a scientific study reported that one of the chemicals caused birth defects in lab animals. The military stopped its use of herbicides in 1971; throughout the next decade Veterans began reporting instances of cancer and birth defects in their children.

    The legitimacy of their claims would be argued for the next 20 years, until the Agent Orange Act of 1991 directed the VA to conduct research into the chemical's potential side effects. In the decades since, Vietnam Veterans have slowly started to gain recognition of their Agent Orange exposure and its sometimes life-threatening consequences.

    As recently as 2010, the VA extended the list of diseases it would recognize as being linked to the herbicide. Just three years ago, the agency started accepting claims for Veterans who served in Agent Orange-contaminated aircraft in the post-Vietnam era.

    But since 2002, the VA took what advocates and Veterans say was a step backwards by invalidating claims presented by blue-water Veterans, saying there was no conclusive scientific evidence that the Vets, who served in warships off the coast, were ever exposed to Agent Orange.

    VA: Too much money, not enough science

    The question is whether the Veterans were exposed to the herbicide through chemical runoff that made its way into the South China Sea and was then converted into drinking water through the ships' distillation plants.

    Where the ships were located makes all the difference.

    The VA discredits arguments that US ships made water close enough to land to have used contaminated water. According to the Institute of Medicine, which is now known as the National Academy of Medicine, any chemical runoff would likely have been diluted by coastal waters before reaching the ships' intakes. But, as reported in extensive coverage by ProPublica, Veterans have said ships often distilled water well within that range.

    Surprisingly, both sides of the ordeal - the VA, which claims blue water Veterans were not exposed and Veterans advocacy groups that say they were - use the same IOM study to argue their side.

    That's because the IOM merely states it is "possible" the Navy Vets were exposed.

    The VA now says that's exactly why they should wait before extending benefits to blue-water Veterans.

    In a Senate hearing on August 1, Dr. Paul Lawrence, the VA under secretary for benefits, noted this as just one of three reasons the VA opposes the bill.

    One of the provisions would increase the fee charged to borrowers under the VA's home loan program. Lawrence said the VA is opposed to "increasing the costs that some Veterans must pay to access their benefits."

    He also maintained that the increased loan fees could not offset the costs associated with an extension of Agent Orange-related benefits. Secretary Wilkie's letter reinforced this idea, stating that Congress had underestimated the health care costs by a whopping $5.4 billion. He also argued that the addition of tens of thousands of eligible Veterans would only exacerbate an already extensive backlog of Agent Orange-related claims.

    These arguments echo one made in July, just days before the Senate hearing, by former VA Secretary and Vietnam Navy Veteran Anthony Principi. In an op-ed published in USA Today, Principi argued that Congress should stand on the side of science and pass "sensible laws that maintain the integrity of our legislative process."

    Veterans and advocates say that's 'poppycock'

    The Veterans won't face this battle alone.

    The Senate is hearing from a resounding chorus of supporters who say the VA is using a typical stall tactic.

    "These Vietnam Veterans have waited too long. It is time for us as a country to do the right thing," former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin wrote. Dr. Shulkin, who was fired by President Donald Trump in late March, said this bill is not driven by sympathy as the VA claims, but by a conscientious desire to uphold "our country's responsibility for caring for those who have borne the battle."

    Another letter, cosigned by four Veterans organizations, pointed out that it was the VA's "erroneous decision" to disqualify blue-water Veterans in the first place, and that the science is on their side.

    "The IOM found that there is not a scientific basis to exclude blue water Navy Veterans," the letter said.

    In his letter addressed to the Senate, Dr. Shulkin recognized the legitimacy of both sides of this nuanced issue.

    "The answer must not be to simply deny benefits," he wrote. "When there is a deadlock, my personal belief is that the tie should be broken in favor of the brave men and women that put their lives on the line for all of us."

    The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act soared through the House of Representatives with a vote of 382-0. When - or even if - it will become law now rests in the hands of the Senate which, as of Thursday, has yet to decide.

    Source

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  • Da Nang

     

    The dioxin contamination of soil in Da Nang was worse than expected, experts said at a conference reviewing the cleanup on Tuesday.

    The event, organized by the National Steering Committee for Post-war Clearance of Ordnance and Toxic chemicals and USAID, shared some details on dioxin cleanup at the Da Nang International Airport, a U.S. air base during the Vietnam War.

    Pham Quang Vu, head of the Air Force and Air Defense’s Military Science Division, said earlier calculations had underestimated the actual contamination at the airport.

    He said the actual amount of contaminated soil is 162,500 cubic meters and not 72,900 cubic meters as earlier estimated.

    Anthony Kolb, chief of USAID’s environmental remediation unit, explained that experts only took soil samples from the surface and from that determined the depth to which the dioxin could have penetrated.

    The dioxin had percolated three meters deeper than expected, he said at the conference in Da Nang.

    Vu said the miscalculation could be attributed to the fact this was the first time this particular technology was used to remove dioxin from the soil on such a large scale. It involves heating the contaminated soil while covering it in concrete.

    The finding could help make future dioxin assessments more accurate, especially at another ongoing cleanup project at the Bien Hoa Air Base in the southern province of Dong Nai. Bien Hoa is considered one of the worst dioxin-contaminated spots, with some 850,000 tons of soil feared contaminated.

    "We expect to cleanse 500,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil in Bien Hoa, meaning 50 hectares of land," Chung said.

    Since 2012, when the Da Nang project was initiated, it has cleaned 94,600 cubic meters of soil at the airport, reducing the dioxin level from 1,200 parts per trillion (ppt) to below 150ppt, and has placed 68,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil in the southwestern part of the airport, which contained less than 1,000ppt of dioxin, under long-term management. Dioxin concentration of 100ppt is considered high.

    Kolb of USAID said 32.4 hectares of land has been cleaned.

    "This project is the most ambitious we have ever undertaken."

    Da Nang has been off the official list of dioxin contaminated spots in Vietnam after the cleanup, Vu said.

    The cost of the work is budgeted at around $108.5 million, with $106 million coming from ODA grants.

    Vietnam still has 28 dioxin hotspots, including airports in several cities and provinces which were used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

    The government hopes to complete the task of decontaminating the country’s soil by 2030.

    Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds were contained in Agent Orange, which was sprayed by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971 to clear jungle hideouts of Vietnamese soldiers. Some 80 million liters of the deadly defoliant are said to have been sprayed over 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of Vietnamese territory.

    The chemical, which stays in the soil and at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations, was later found to be capable of damaging genes, causing deformities in the offspring of exposed individuals.

    The Vietnam Red Cross estimates 2.1 to 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals that have been linked to cancers, birth defects and other chronic diseases since the war.

    Source

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  • Monsanto Court Ruling

     

    Viet Nam News - HÀ NỘI — Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have once again had their hopes for justice rekindled. But despite the recent landmark ruling against Monsanto in a San Francisco court, major obstacles remain on the path towards justice.

    On August 11, the US court ruled that the multinational agrochemical corporation was liable for the health issues of a former groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, who claims that Monsato’s weed-killer product (Roundup) contains carcinogens that cause his cancers.

    The company was ordered to pay US$289 million as compensation for past and future economic losses and punitive damages to the American citizen, in a closely watched case that bears many similarities to the legal battle waged on behalf of Vietnamese victims.

    The US chemical group Monsanto has long been associated with the Agent Orange devastation in Việt Nam.

    It was one of the main suppliers of more than 80 million litres of herbicides which contain Agent Orange that US troops sprayed over southern Việt Nam in the period from 1961-71, to clear out the dense tracts of tropical jungles that served as the hideouts of the Vietnamese military forces.

    Of the total volume, 44 million litres were Agent Orange, containing nearly 370 kilograms of dioxin. Studies have showed that only 80 grams of dioxin in the water supply system of a city of 8 million could kill off the entire population, still, Monsanto and other chemical groups insist that their products were not harmful to humans’ health.

    The Government of Việt Nam estimates that around 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic substance. Three million people have grappled with debilitating diseases including various types of cancers, neural damage and reproductive failures. Birth deformities and mental impairments continue to haunt even the third and fourth generation of descendants of those originally exposed to dioxin, fourty years after the war ended.

    Legal fight

    Quách Thành Vinh, Chief of Office and Director of Liaison Lawyers Office for the Hà Nội-based Việt Nam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), said that the court ruling set a fortuitous legal precedent that will help settle similar cases in which victims of chemical toxins seek compensation, including the association’s own case.

    The association filed its first class-action suit in 2004, which pinned the blame on a total of 37 US chemical manufacturers – including Dow Chemical and Monsanto. However, the case was rejected three times by American courts, which claimed that there was no legal basis for the plaintiff’s claims. The courts said that since the chemical companies produced these herbicides on request by the federal Government, they could not be held liable for their effects.

    The court also ruled that at that time, there was little concrete evidence establishing a causal relation between the herbicide Agent Orange and the health issues of the victims.

    Fortunately, recent scientific achievements have made it much easier to identify whether the illnesses were caused by the dioxin.

    In the US, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences has identified 13 diseases related to Agent Orange occurring in American Veterans after their service in Việt Nam. Vietnamese-based researchers established a list of 17 diseases caused by exposure to dioxin, signed by Minister of Health Nguyễn Thị Kim Tiến in 2008.

    In addition, as their immune systems were debilitated by the toxin, the Vietnamese victims also easily fell ill to a siege of other diseases that a healthy person could easily overcome.

    The association is gearing up for the next legal endeavours on behalf of nearly 3 million Vietnamese victims.

    But numerous American lawyers sympathetic to the cause and persistent in their pursuit of justice have urged Vietnamese plaintiffs to wait for a second lawsuit, Vinh from VAVA said.

    The enlisting of American lawyers was critical as the case involves complaints against US-based companies, according to US laws and US judges will be presiding, according to Vinh.

    “Their expertise with the US legal system and their support for us will certainly help tip the scales in our favour.”

    Next steps

    The association, aside from litigation attempts, is still tirelessly working to bring justice to the Vietnamese victims by seeking support from influential politicians, scientists and progressive-minded people across the world, and lobbying sympathetic lawmakers in the US to draft bills asking the US Government to accept responsibility for the devastation in Việt Nam as well as to take part in clean-up efforts and help the victims.

    Merle Ratner, the American co-ordinator of the US-based Việt Nam Agent Orange Relief & Responsibility Campaign, agreed that the ruling given by the US court holds “historical significance” and important implications.

    Frequently hailed by Vietnamese media as a faithful friend of the Vietnamese people, Ratner has been a constant presence in the years-long legal battles against chemical manufacturers.

    However, the fight against Monsanto still has a long way to go, at least until the final verdict of the appellate court is handed down, as Monsanto has already announced its intention to appeal the decision, she said in an interview.

    In 2009, an international court opened in France to deal with the AO matter and Vietnamese victims. However, both the US Government and sued companies refused to appear.

    On April 18, 2017, the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, the Netherlands, after six months of investigation and two days of testimony, decided that Monsanto was guilty of ecocide, causing long-term consequences on the ecosystem of various nations, including Việt Nam.

    But Monsanto rejected the ruling.

    The multinational giant, no stranger to controversy and legal suits, has always denied that it is to blame for the consequences of Agent Orange, saying that the weapon “was only produced for, and used by, the government,” and pointing out that it was just one of nine manufacturers of the same toxin supplied to the army during the period of 1965-69.

    Despite claiming blamelessness, the chemical giant still agreed to settle out of court to compensate American war Veterans who filed a class-action suit against the company with $180 million. Meanwhile, Vietnamese suffering continues to be disregarded.

    The Vietnamese Government each year spends more than VNĐ10 trillion ($431.1 million) to provide monthly allowance and cover health care and physical rehabilitation expenses for victims of Agent Orange.

    Currently, the US has organised several clean-up operations at some of their former military bases such as the Đà Nẵng airport or Biên Hoà airport, provide humanitarian assistance for people with disabilities in Việt Nam, including victims of Agent Orange, but these efforts still can not fully make up for the devastation, pain and loss that Agent Orange causes in Việt Nam.

    The Government of Việt Nam, in an official response last week, said it welcomed the $289 million verdict against Monsanto and asked that Monsanto, along with other suppliers of herbicides for the US Army during the bloody war in Việt Nam, offer proper redress for the Vietnamese victims.

    “No matter how difficult and prolonged this case might be, we won’t ever give up on it, for the sake of the millions of Vietnamese victims,” said Vinh of the Agent Orange Victims’ Association said. — VNS

    Source

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  • Vet with HBP

     

    WASHINGTON — New research linking Veterans’ high blood pressure with wartime exposure to chemical defoliants could dramatically expand federal disability benefits for tens of thousands of Vietnam-era troops.

    The findings, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, conclude that “sufficient evidence” exists linking hypertension and related illnesses in Veterans to Agent Orange and other defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand and South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s.

    They recommend adding the condition to the list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with Agent Orange exposure, a group that includes Hodgkin’s Disease, prostate cancer and Parkinson’s Disease. That’s an upgrade from past research that showed a possible but not conclusive link between the toxic exposures and high blood pressure problems later in life.

    If Veterans Affairs officials follow through with the recommendation, it could open up new or additional disability benefits to thousands of aging Veterans who served in those areas and who are now struggling with heart problems.

    Veterans who struggle with high blood pressure issues are eligible for health care at VA facilities. But the illness is eligible for disability benefits in only select cases.

    Adding an illness to VA’s presumptive list means that Veterans applying for disability benefits need not prove that their sickness is directly connected to their time in service. Instead, they only need show that they served in areas where the defoliant was used and that they now suffer from the diseases.

    That’s a significant difference, since proving direct exposure and clear health links can be nearly impossible for ailing Veterans searching for decades-old paper records.

    A change in the designation of hypertension by VA could also add significant new costs to the department’s disability payout expenses.

    In 2010, when then Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki expanded the list of presumptive illnesses for Agent Orange exposure to include ischemic heart disease and Parkinson's, the department estimated additional costs of more than $42 billion over a decade.

    It’s unclear how many Veterans suffer from high blood pressure and would be eligible for disability payments if the change is made. In a statement, VA spokesman Curt Cashour said the department “is in the process of evaluating this report and appreciates the work” of the group.

    Regardless the cost, officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars are already calling for VA officials to move ahead with adding hypertension to the list.

    “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Agent Orange made Veterans sick, it made their children sick, and it brought pain and suffering and premature death to many,” VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said in a statement. “Even though it’s been a half century since they were exposed, the results of that exposure is something they continue to live with daily.”

    Over the last year, advocates for “blue water” Navy Veterans — sailors who served in ships off the coastline of Vietnam — have been fighting with department officials over a decision to deny them presumptive status in Agent Orange related claims.

    VA officials have insisted that scientific evidence does not exist linking their illnesses to exposure to the defoliant miles away from the Vietnam mainland.

    The new study is available at the National Academies Press website.

    Source

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  • Vets claiming AO

     

    WASHINGTON - The Veterans Benefits Administration denied Vic Vreeland’s disability claim even though a VA doctor told him that exposure to Agent Orange while he served in the Air Force in Guam could be the cause of chronic numbness and pain in his hands and feet.

    It took 609 days from the time the Cedar Creek Veteran filed his claim until a rejection notice arrived in August. While he waited, Vreeland created a website that has become a hit among Veterans, judging by the more than 100,000 page-views this year.

    DenyDenyUntilTheyDie.com, it’s called.

    “If you’ve got a bullet hole, they’re not going to deny you. But these things you can’t see, they’ll tell you it didn’t happen,” said Vreeland, 73, who also suffers from heart disease.

    Thousands of Veterans with similar ailments prepared for a stinging defeat in Congress’s waning hours Thursday as two Senators blocked legislation enabling Navy Veterans who served on ships during the Vietnam War to claim Agent Orange benefits like those awarded automatically to soldiers and marines who served on the ground.

    The Senate posture was galling to many Veterans because the House had passed the legislation in June — 382-0. Veterans fighting the VA over exposure to toxins had reason this year to believe that a new day was at hand when former Department of Veterans Secretary David Shulkin expressed support for their cause. But Shulkin was fired in the spring.

    Beyond benefiting as many as 90,000 Navy Veterans, the legislation was widely viewed as opening a door to Veterans of other wars with toxic wounds.

    They include Gulf war combatants who claim cancers from oil smoke and exploding munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans who attribute their cancers and respiratory problems to the destruction of chemicals, weapons, and even body parts in burn pits.

    On Thursday morning, a dozen House members flanked by leaders of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Veterans advocates made a last-ditch appeal.

    “Senators have to look at one another and ask, how many people are going to die if they have to wait another year for this to pass?” asked Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., a sponsor.

    The tax-free disability awards Veterans seek are calculated according to severity of the condition and can range from $100 monthly up to $2,000. Advocates view the payments as potentially the difference between ailing Veterans living in comfort or barely scraping by.

    Vreeland is among hundreds of Veterans who contend that they suffer from cancers, heart ailments and other afflictions from exposure to herbicides while they served at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, a key U.S. installation since the mid-20th century.

    With few exceptions, the VA denies their claims for compensation, telling Veterans that no records of Agent Orange use or storage on Guam can be found, an analysis of dozens of recent VA rejections shows.

    Findings by the Government Accountability Office could give an estimated 50,000 Guam Veterans more ammunition. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, reported last month that a ship carrying drums of Agent Orange docked in Guam. While no records tell what happened to the defoliant, the GAO reported the presence of Agent Orange-like chemicals on the island, as have other studies.

    The GAO report offered a reminder that the multi-billion-dollar disaster of Agent Orange from a half-century ago lingers even though the government has paid benefits to nearly 570,000 Veterans and 200,000 survivors for Agent Orange-related illnesses, records show.

    What’s more, the government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to clean up Agent Orange contamination around the world. Congress appropriated $222 million through last year to clean up hot spots in Vietnam, and a report last month by the Congressional Research Service cited a government estimate that cleaning up a single airfield near Saigon could cost as much as $900 million.

    The GAO put its finger on the problem of many Veterans denied disability benefits: shoddy government record-keeping. The Pentagon’s record of Agent Orange locations outside of Vietnam “is inaccurate and incomplete,” the report said.

    “Without a reliable list with complete and accurate information, and a formal process for the Defense Department and VA to coordinate on communicating this information, Veterans and the public do not have quality information about the full extent of locations where Agent Orange was present and where exposure could potentially have occurred,” the report said.

    In 1991, president George H.W. Bush signed the Agent Orange Act into law, providing benefits to Vietnam-era Veterans with symptoms of 14 ailments associated with exposure to the dangerous defoliant, including cancers and heart disease. An estimated 18-20 million gallons of herbicides including Agent Orange, were sprayed over three million acres of land to destroy enemy cover in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in Operation Ranch Hand from 1961-1972.

    But a decade later, the VA excluded Navy Veterans who served on ships offshore, contending there was insufficient evidence their health problems stemmed from their Vietnam service.

    The bill that passed unanimously in the House was sinking in the Senate under the weight of opposition from the VA. The Veterans’ agency claimed that the legislation could cost the government over $6 billion in the coming decade, require new staff to handle tens of thousands of claims and set a precedent for providing benefits absent clear scientific proof their ailments were war-related.

    A protest march in Washington this month and a hand-carried plea to the White House asking President Donald Trump to intervene thus far could not overcome concerns of Senate fiscal hawks.

    On Dec. 10, sponsors failed on the Senate floor to dislodge the bill from committee and pass it unanimously. Two GOP senators — Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Mike Lee of Utah — invoked a parliamentary procedure that prevented further action, according to Veterans’ advocates.

    “It is dumbfounding to me,” said Navy Veteran Richard Shafer, of Crosby, a radarman on a ship that anchored in Da Nang Harbor in Vietnam. Like other Navy Veterans, he contends that he was poisoned by shipboard water systems polluted by Agent Orange, which the VA disputes.

    Shafer has suffered from prostate cancer, systemic heart disease and Type 2 diabetes - illnesses associated with Agent Orange - but the VA rejected his compensation claim.

    Source

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  • Pfc Milton L. Olive

     

    The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnished the first Medal of Honor (MOH) Medallion for the private headstone of Pfc. Milton L. Olive III, a decorated Vietnam-era war hero, during a ceremony Nov. 1 at West Grove Cemetery in Lexington, Mississippi.

    With the passage of Public Law 114-315 on Dec. 16, 2016, Congress authorized VA’s National Cemetery Administration (NCA) to issue, upon request, a medallion, headstone or marker signifying a Veteran as an MOH recipient who served on or after April 6, 1917, and is buried in a private cemetery with a private headstone or marker.

    VA Secretary Robert Wilkie saluted Olive for his selfless bravery during a battle in the Vietnam conflict.

    “Private First Class Olive was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor for his service during the Vietnam War after he heroically used his body to cover a grenade to save the life of his fellow soldiers,” Wilkie said. “The Medal of Honor Medallion illustrates VA’s commitment to ensuring all who see this symbol will know of the courageous sacrifice of our nation’s distinguished service members.”

    For information on applying for the MOH Medallion, visit this link. Information on all types of VA headstones, markers and medallions can be found at this link.

    VA operates 136 national cemeteries and 33 soldiers’ lots and monument sites in 40 states and Puerto Rico. More than 4 million Americans, including Veterans of every war and conflict, are buried in VA’s national cemeteries. VA also provides funding to establish, expand, improve and maintain 111 Veterans cemeteries in 48 states and territories including tribal trust lands, Guam, and Saipan. For Veterans not buried in a VA national cemetery, VA provides headstones, markers or medallions to commemorate their service.

    Source

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  • Glyphosate Ban

     

    THE WORLD agriculture sector is bracing for Vietnam to implement a full ban on the herbicide glyphosate.

    Last month Vietnamese government officials announced a ban on glyphosate imports, which is normally seen as a precursor to a full ban.

    There has been speculation a full ban could be announced as early as the next week, however there is furious negotiation from international parties unhappy with the potential ban.

    Vietnamese agriculture minister Nguyễn Xuân Cường has been a strong supporter of further regulation of chemical use in the south-east Asian nation.

    The Vietnamese chemical regulator has declared glyphosate safe for use, but it does not appear to be swaying the government.

    Chemical use is a controversial subject in Vietnam with the memories of the damage caused by Agent Orange, a dioxin-based product, in the Vietnam War still painful for many, with a report from 2017 saying over three million Vietnamese people are still affected by Agent Orange / dioxin.

    Official Vietnamese news agencies reported the decision to ban glyphosate imports was made following a US court ruling that glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide was responsible for a man's cancer.

    The court ruling was the second to decide there was a link between glyphosate and cancer, but the crop protection sector has argued the decisions should not be taken as a de facto ruling on glyphosate safety as the decision making juries do not have a scientific background.

    Australia is keenly monitoring the situation in Vietnam, as it could have major repercussions on trade.

    Vietnamese use of Australian wheat has soared in recent years to the extent it is now regularly one of the top five buyers of Australian wheat each year.

    Rather than operating under a maximum residue limit (MRL) system in terms of the presence of glyphosate, a ban on the product in Vietnam would automatically mean a zero tolerance approach on any traces of glyphosate in grain imports.

    This would be in contravention of the trade policies agreed upon in the Trans Pacific Partnership, of which both Australia and Vietnam are both signatories.

    Matthew Cossey, chief executive of CropLife Australia, said he was concerned about the potential for the situation to escalate to a full ban.

    "This decision could devastate Vietnamese farmers and lead to serious consequences for Australian farmers and the export of Australian agricultural commodities, with Vietnam our second largest wheat export market," Mr Cossey said.

    "We are very concerned that Vietnam appears to have not considered its international obligations in regard to trade."

    There are concerns the decision may see Vietnamese farmers increasingly turn to the black market for unregulated herbicides smuggled in from China.

    Source

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  • Vietnam Veterans 001

     

    I wonder how many out there lived through Vietnam. A war we couldn't win. Played out politically as much as in Southeast Asia's dense and malaria-ridden jungles. Extreme heat one day, relentless and soaking rain the next.

    Drift back 50 years. It's 1968. The week of February 11.

    The place: Vietnam. And the streets of America.

    As war raged in Vietnam, passions raged on America's streets.

    February 11 to February 17 was the deadliest of the war. The Tet Offensive it was called. I can still hear Walter Cronkite saying it. Night after night. I didn't know what Tet meant, but I knew the offensive was very bad.

    North Vietnam and the Viet Cong staged surprise attacks at military and civilian command centers. Turns out it was named after the Vietnamese New Year - the day the attacks were launched.

    Dead Americans: 543. Wounded: 2,547.

    Many, maybe most, were convinced the war was lost in '68. College campuses exploded and pro- and anti-war protestors battled on the streets of America. The White House and Lyndon Johnson were in crisis mode.

    Meanwhile, by the end of 1968, 16,592 American soldiers were dead.

    That's a slice of the horror our men and women in Vietnam experienced.

    The last American troops left on March 29, 1973.

    Fifty-eight-thousand-two-hundred-twenty Americans didn't make it home with them.

    No Hero's Welcome for those who did. Americans took out their hatred for the war on them. Veterans were spat upon. Assaulted. Cursed. Treated like the enemy. "Those who died deserved to die," bitter Americans shouted at them.

    Drift back home, to 2018.

    Frank Siller is a Staten Island guy who does good things. You might have heard of his brother, Stephen. Frank was supposed to play golf with his off-duty firefighter brother on Sept. 11, 2001. Except he didn't because Stephen had the guts to forget he had the day off and run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to save lives at a flaming World Trade Center, only to lose his own.

    Frank and his family turned that horrible loss into an organization - the Tunnel to Towers Foundation - that does good things.

    Vietnam is 8,653 miles from Staten Island. But the place lives in the minds of many Staten Islanders still today. It lives within 85 families who lost a Staten Island son in Vietnam. It lives in the minds of Staten Island Viet Veterans fortunate to come home, thought to be about 1,000.

    Frank wants Staten Island Vietnam Veterans to know we care, and salute what they did for their country, when their country challenged them to serve. He is using his annual Veterans' Day Golf Classic & Dinner to do just that.

    This year, Veterans' Day is a Sunday so Frank is doing his event the following day, Monday, Nov. 12.

    He wants every Vietnam Veteran on Staten Island to attend. Frank and his team have been working with Veterans groups like the Marine Corps League and Tori Chapter, Vietnam Veterans of America, to spread the word.

    I'm writing this note to Staten Island to do the same. If you know a Veteran, share this. If you know a family who lost their hero in the war, share this. If you are a Veteran, come Nov. 12. There's a very special price break for Veterans who want to play golf, or just go to the dinner in the Hilton Garden Inn.

    Veterans - or anyone who wants to attend to salute them - can call or email Gene DiGiacomo at 917-693-7834 or /My%20Documents/VFC%20Newsletters/This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Gene will give you all the particulars.

    What makes this year's event extra special is that money raised goes toward building "smart homes" for catastrophically injured service members.

    The Sillers are slated to build a "smart home" for a Staten Island Vietnam Veteran - Sgt. Michael Sulsona, the first Vietnam Vet to get one. It'll be in New Dorp.

    A "smart home" is designed so a Veteran in a wheelchair, for example, can function easily through how the home is designed with specially designed appliances.

    And it is totally mortgage-free.

    Sgt. Sulsona stepped on a land mine in Vietnam in 1971. He lost both legs above the knees.

    But he survived. And because he did, he went on to get a master's degree, has written 23 plays, many of them award-winners, appeared in the movie "Born on the Fourth of July," and now is an ambassador for Tunnel to Towers, providing guidance to other injured service members.

    That's why the Nov. 12 event is so important. Without the support of giants like Home Depot and General Motors and without the support of Staten Islanders like you, people like Staten Island's Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Sulsona, who gave of himself to our country because our country called, might erase the sad homecoming Vietnam Veterans received so many years ago.

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  • VN War Mem Vandalized

     

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (KTVU) - A vandal in San Jose has defaced a memorial dedicated to honor local fallen heroes of the Vietnam War. The “Sons of San Jose” memorial is located on West Santa Clara Street, near the SAP Center.

    Whoever defaced the memorial used some sort of paint, that's etched into the black granite. It will likely cost thousands of dollars to restore it back to its original state.

    Mike Salas served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. He’s part of the San Jose War Memorial Foundation, which helped erect the monument.

    “These are sacred grounds,” said Salas. “This is where people come to have closure and it should be left alone.”

    Salas rushed over Sunday morning as soon as he heard a vandal tagged the front panel sometime overnight Saturday.

    “If they only understood the cost of freedom and the cost of courage that these men died for so they can be out here, they wouldn't touch it,” said Salas.

    Dennis Fernandez is the foundation's president. He also served in Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He said, the memorial was erected in 2013 to recognize 142 servicemen from San Jose. It cost almost half a million dollars from in-kind donations.

    “I’m hurt both for all the work that's been put into it and for not respecting those people that are on that wall and their families who are still here. It's a slap in the face,” said Fernandez.

    The vandalism comes as the country is in mourning over the passing of Senator John McCain, a celebrated Vietnam War hero.

    “I don't think there's any correlation between the two,” said Fernandez. “I just think it's some gang bangers. They knew that was facing the street. My guess is that they don't even know there was a Vietnam War. “

    Eight of the fallen were classmates of Salas's and Fernandez’s at San Jose High School. The foundation hopes to have it repaired by Veteran’s Day.

    “When I look at this, I’m representing the names,” said Salas. “I get angry inside. It hurts.”

    Two years ago, a vandal slapped red paint on the memorial costing $3,000 to fix it. Anyone who wants to help donate can contact the foundation at www.sjwarmemorial.com.

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  • VNV Donates Kidney

     

    Two Vietnam Veterans who reunited nearly 50 years after they served in the Air Force together now share more than war stories.

    Doug Coffman donated a kidney to Jim McGee on Tuesday, just three months after they reunited since last seeing each other in 1971 at training in California, FOX5DC reported. The two U.S. airmen were catching up at a memorial service for a fellow Vietnam Veteran when Coffman learned McGee needed a new kidney.

    “We have not seen each other face-to-face until we met in Monterey [California] about three months ago, which was an excellent time," McGee told FOX5DC. "Doug, at that point, volunteered a kidney, and to me, it's the gift of life."

    McGee — a retired foreign service officer from Florida and former U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe and Madagascar — underwent dialysis three times per week while waiting for a new kidney. He added that he could’ve waited another three to five years if he didn’t reconnect with Coffman.

    "Our blood and tissue type match is good," Coffman said. "And to me, it just is living proof that we're all part of one human family. The chances of our match — I don't know what the odds were, but we beat them."

    Coffman and McGee were admitted MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and underwent the operation on Tuesday. The surgeon said Coffman, 70, had kidneys “like a 35-year-old.”

    McGee told FOX5DC that he’s grateful for the kidney transplant.

    "It means that I can continue the things that I'm so passionate about trying to move ahead," McGee said, about the operation. "One of the things that I'm most passionate about right now is making certain that everyone understands that there's a national crisis — 100,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants, another 15,000 for liver transplants.

    “It's people like Doug who stepped forward and make the difference. That's the real story here today,” he said.

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  • AO Children

     

    Angelica Caye Kuhn was on the road to becoming a nurse.

    The mother of two was working as a patient care technician nearly two decades ago when one day she heard a pop in her back.

    She was in pain for days and, after several tests, she was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a spinal cord defect common in children of male Vietnam Veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange. The daughter of a combat Vietnam Veteran who served in 1969 until 1970 in areas that were the most heavily sprayed with Agent Orange, Kuhn said most of her life she struggled with neurogenic stomach and bowel issues that were often misdiagnosed.

    Her father years later would later be diagnosed with several heart conditions and diabetes all related to Agent Orange exposure.

    Kuhn eventually received her nursing license and went back to work, but her career was short-lived. Since then, she has had 28 different surgeries and is now legally disabled.

    "I am a hostage and a prisoner," she wrote in an email to ABC News. "Imprisoned by my handicap. All because of a KNOWN toxic chemical that was dumped on my unsuspecting father and millions of other unsuspecting members of our military, who have/are paying with their lives and the lives of their children!!!"

    More than 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, children of the men and women who served say they are battling a new war for benefits as they grapple with the impact of toxic exposure which has wreaked havoc on their lives.

    Agent Orange is a term that is used to describe a series of odorless herbicides that were used by the military to defoliate hiding places, fields and rice paddies that were used by the Viet Cong for survival.

    Almost 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was sprayed in Vietnam, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    The chemical was also used at several U.S. military posts in America, Southeast Asia, and Canada, according to the agency.

    Earlier this year, the agency recognized publicly for the first time that some service members were exposed to dioxin because C-123’s that were used to spray the Agent Orange was still being used by the Air Force and Air Force reserves in the U.S. until 1986.

    Five years after the C-123’s were taken out of service, "The Agent Orange Act" passed in Congress allowing returning men and women to receive medical compensation for their illnesses.

    The VA declared specific conditions ranging from diabetes to cancer, directly tied to presumptive exposure to Agent Orange and dioxin.

    The VA recognized over a dozen medical conditions for children of women who served in of Vietnam. However, for the children of the men who served in Vietnam, only Spina Bifida is recognized as being directly connected to Agent Orange exposure.

    The VA did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment.

    In 2017, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., introduced legislation in Congress to allow the VA to recognize more medical conditions from children and grandchildren of male Veterans. The bill is still being considered but hasn’t gone to a vote.

    The Vietnam Veterans of America, a nonprofit, has been advocating for decades for the government to assist Veterans with issues as it relates to Agent Orange and has held over 300 town halls on the issue.

    Their project Faces of Agent Orange focuses on children and grandchildren of both male and female Veterans with filing claims with the VA.

    The group says they are attempting to help the government have an accurate database on the long-term effects of the chemical exposure.

    “You can't review science that doesn't exist and nobody was funding the science on the children the grandchildren,” said Mokie Porter, the communications director for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. announced that it had completed a clean up the dioxin saturated soil the area surrounding Da Nang Airport, an area heavily sprayed with Agent Orange according to Vietnamese and American officials.

    And in October, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis traveled to Vietnam to visit Bien Hoa Air Base a spot that is undergoing a $390 million soil restoration project headed by U.S. Agency for International Development.

    The Vietnamese claim that 4 million people were exposed to Agent Orange and 3 million of its people suffer from medical conditions that were caused by the exposure from the Vietnam War.

    Despite the efforts to decontaminate the soil, the U.S. vehemently denies that the number of Agent Orange illnesses are that high, which according to the Vietnamese includes children of men and women who were exposed to the dioxin following the war.

    Betty Mekdeci, the executive director of Birth Defect Research for Children, a Florida-based non-profit says she’s collected data since 1986 on birth defects from toxic exposure. Because more men served in Vietnam, Mekdeci says she has received more data specifically showing birth defects in the descendants of male Veterans.

    Her organization has collected data from nearly 10,000 Veterans, 2,000 children of Vietnam Veterans and 300 grandchildren of Veterans. Many of the medical conditions she’s seen in grandchildren of Veterans aren’t physical.

    Mekdeci says she’s seen issues with ovaries, endocrine, learning and attention deficit disorders and cancer.

    “We don't have ten years to look at these things. These kids are having problems right now and we need to get on it right now not ten years from now.” She says that the scientific community should focus on assisting children of Veterans instead of studying them.

    Kuhn, who is an administrator of a Facebook group for second and third generation children with Agent Orange exposure, says many of her fellow members are suffering from rare medical conditions “it’s happening to us in droves.”

    “It’s always things that aren’t normal," she said. With my condition, the doctor will tell you that it is something so rare that you hardly see it.”

    Kuhn said she applied for VA benefits in 2000 and was granted only partial benefits. She appealed the VA’s decision saying that she met the criteria and was legally disabled.

    Kuhn says after a call to the Denver VA office of Spina Bifida, a VA employee asked if she was able to feed herself. Kuhn says after replied, yes, she says the VA employee said since she could feed herself, she didn’t need any additional help from them.

    Kuhn says she has appealed the VA’s ruling and has successfully won twice but has been denied seven years of back pay.

    Kuhn said she often relies on wheelchairs and canes to move around and because her husband works to support her family she is often alone at home.

    She says the VA has denied her request pay for a stair lift so she can be mobile in their two-story home and has denied her request for hand controls so she can drive her car. Kuhn says that although she is entitled to VA social worker due to her condition, she has yet to receive one and currently doesn’t have a home health aid despite numerous requests.

    Kuhn’s family members say they have also suffered medical problems.

    Her mother developed a rare blood condition and was diagnosed with a toxic liver. And Kuhn's daughter suffers from a connective tissue disorder.

    Under the VA guidelines, Kuhn’s daughter would not be covered for VA benefits because her grandfather was a male Veteran who served in Vietnam.

    Dr. Kenneth Ramos, the chairman of 2014 Congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on Veterans and Agent Orange, says that the majority of the generational studies done by the scientific community regarding agent orange has been focused on women and not men.

    Ramos says that changes in technology will help answer questions on transgenerational inheritance. But it won’t answer all of the questions right away.

    “The biggest challenge that you face with current generational inheritance is the length of time that it takes for you to see the facts,” he said in order to fully study the impact on future generations research would have to be started from scratch.

    Dr. Michael Skinner, with Washington State University’s Center for Reproductive biology, has studied the transgenerational health effects of dioxin exposure using animals and says women who served in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange could have passed the dioxin to children for at least 15 to 20 years after they returned home.

    “The problem with dioxin or Agent Orange is that it stays in the system for a very long period of time.”

    He also says through his research he’s seen dioxin passed through sperm to the offspring in animals. His concern is not with the Veterans who returned home or their children, but with their grandchildren.

    “We have examples where there is no disease in the first generation but there's huge numbers of disease and the third generation,” he said.

    On Thursday, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will release their report as a part of the congressionally mandated biennial reviews of the evidence of health problems that may be linked to exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

    The report will address “possible generational health effects that may be the result of herbicide exposure among male Vietnam Veterans” according to the organization. The Vietnam Veterans of America, however, says regardless of the outcome of the report they will continue to educate and advocate for its members and their descendants.

    In the meantime, Kuhn said she'll continue to push for awareness.

    "It's been a nightmare," Kuhn said and vowed to continue fighting for awareness. "You have to fight them because if you don't they will run over you big time and a lot of people you know they just give up and walk away and you can't do that."

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  • Timothy Lieser

     

    Washington (VNA) – Although Vietnam and the US have seen encouraging outcomes of cooperation in dealing with war aftermath, there are much for them to do in the field, said Timothy Lieser, senior advisor at the US Senate Appropriations Committee.

    In an interview with Vietnam News Agency’s correspondents in the US, Lieser, who is also foreign policy assistant at Senator Patrick Leahy’s Office, said he understood the war pain through what he witnessed during his visits to Vietnam.

    Like some US Senators such as Patrick Leahy and late Senator John McCain, he saw the need to work to support both sides in overcoming consequences of the war and help Vietnamese people who still are suffering from the war pain.

    Lieser shared difficulties in the beginning as not every American understands the huge damage that the war left in Vietnam as well as the significance of reconciliation.

    Furthermore, some members of the US administration even opposed the implementation of the work, and argued that it was necessary to focus on US matters and the demands of US war Veterans rather than that of other country.

    However, that was the right time to help the community and US people to get better understanding in historical matters between the two countries as well as the need to put aside the past to build trust and bilateral cooperation, he stated.

    According to Lieser, in early 1980s, there were prospects and opportunities to collaborate with Vietnam in the field as bilateral trust was improved and projects to support Vietnam were launched.

    US Senator Patrick Leahy paid great attention to the work and ensured that there was always budget for programmes in Vietnam.

    Through years, more and more people have come to know the post-war catastrophe that both nations have been suffering, and supported the work that those like Senator Leahy have been doing over the past 30 years.

    According to Lieser, over the past years, the US and Vietnam has reached encouraging results in a number of issues such as searching for US and Vietnamese soldiers missing in action.

    The US side has supported the Vietnamese Government in improving technique to search for remains of Vietnamese soldiers, dealing with unexploded ordnances and assisting the disabled people in areas contaminated with Agent Orange/dioxin and those who get injured by leftover bombs and mines.

    However, there are still much to do and the two sides should continue cooperate with each other to further promote assistance programmes in Vietnam, including the decontamination of dioxin a Bien Hoa airport.

    Lierser said that the US considers dealing with war aftermath as a priority in the relations with Vietnam along with other priorities in trade, security cooperation, environment, and climate change, as stated by US leaders during their visits to Vietnam.

    The US will continue implementing its commitments to assisting Vietnam in overcoming war consequences, he added.-VNA

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