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  • AO BWN Battle Exposure

     

    • 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.

    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.

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  • Gillibrand 002

     

    WASHINGTON — The sponsor of legislation that would help certain naval Veterans who served in the Vietnam War obtain compensation for health complications caused by Agent Orange exposure is hopeful the legislation will move forward, despite expressed opposition from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Naval Veterans who served on the shore of Vietnam do not get compensation from the Veterans Administration for complications caused by exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange, said U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.

    The Agent Orange Act of 1991 only allowed compensation for soldiers who served, boots on the ground, inland or sailors who served on inland water ways, but Veteran organizations are pushing Congress to pass legislation that would add sailors stationed just off-shore during the war, arguing it is possible those sailors could have been exposed.

    “I have known Navy Veterans who have died waiting for this legislation to pass,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Flaherty, director of Columbia County Veterans Services. “There are a lot of unhappy Veterans. There is no question in our minds when those planes flew over spraying Agent Orange it affected the sailors on the deck of ships on the shoreline.”

    In the past, Flaherty said the cancer-causing herbicide could have been carried to ships anchored offshore by wind or into ships’ potable water drawn from the ocean and filtered.

    The House of Representatives passed the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act on June 25 with a 382-0 vote.

    The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs has held the bill since June 28.

    “Senator Gillibrand has had productive conversations with Committee on Veterans Affairs Chairman U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., about his concerns and they have discussed ideas for modifications,” according to a statement from Gillibrand’s office. “We are hopeful that Chairman Isakson will produce a bill with small modifications very soon and that the Senate would be able to vote on it without any further delay.”

    The committee held a hearing on the bill Aug. 1 and VA Undersecretary for Benefits Administration Paul Lawrence told members of the committe the department opposes the legislation.

    “We oppose this bill,” Lawrence said. “We know it is incredibly difficult to hear from groups of Veterans who are ailing and ill. There is no conclusive science from the institute of medicine to support claims of exposure.”

    Lawrence arguedthe bill would set a precedent that the department would have to pay Veterans’ claims regardless of the scientific evidence.

    The VA is conducting a health study that compares the health effects on Vietnam Veterans who did not serve inland, including nearly 1,000 Blue Water Navy Veterans, with non-Veteran populations, which will start to be published in 2019, Lawrence said.

    “They have been studying this for 50 years,” Flaherty said. “This is the closest this bill has ever been. It is time to stop stalling, stop studying and give these Veterans what they deserve.”

    Agent Orange exposure can cause many health complications including chronic B-cell leukemias, Hodgkin lymphoma, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda — characterized by liver dysfunction — prostate cancer, respiratory cancers and soft tissue sarcomas, which attacks muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels and connective tissues, and diabetes according to the website for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Randy Staats, of Hudson, served as a deckhand on the USS New Jersey from 1967 to 1969 and was anchored off the Vietnam shore during that time at points all along the coast. Staats suffers from diabetes, a condition he has requested compensation for more than 10 times since 1992 and has been denied every time, he said.

    “They just told me I wasn’t going to get it because Blue Water Navy Veterans are not entitled to it,” Staats said. “They are waiting for most of us to die and then they will give it to us. If it was their kids over there, they would have this thing passed already.”

    FUNDING THEBLUE WATER NAVYBILL

    Lawrence also told committee members in August that the VA opposes the way Congress plans to pay for the bill through increasing fees charged as part of the VA Home Loan programs. Veterans with disabilities are exempt from funding fees.

    “The funding plan for [the bill] is unfortunate,” said Greene County Veterans Service Agency Director Michelle Romalin Deyo. “It is disconcerting that the funding for benefits payable to our Blue Water could be at the expense of other Veterans.”

    Under the bill passed by the House rates for Veterans using the loan programs would be as follows:

    • From 2.15 percent to 2.40 percent of the loan amount for loans with no down payment and first-use of the VA guarantee benefit.
    • From 3.3 percent to 3.8 percent of the loan amount for loans with no down payment on subsequent use of the loan benefit.
    • From 1.50 percent to 1.75 percent of the loan amount for loans with a 5 percent down payment.
    • From 1.25 percent to 1.45 percent of the loan amount for loans with a 10 percent down payment.

    “Though the VA Home Loan Guarantee Funding Fee is only collected from Veterans who are not rated by the VA with a service-connected disability with certain exceptions; that doesn’t mean it won’t affect our disabled Veterans,” Deyo said. “Veterans with pending original claims, will generally not be eligible for the funding fee waiver — not until they have a VA Rating Decision of 10 percent service-connected disabled or greater. The funding fee is already a sizable fee.”

    The increases would take effect Jan. 1 next year and return to current levels after Sept. 30, 2026.

    Funding fees haven’t been raised since 2004.

    “In June, the House unanimously approved the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act 382-0 and the Senate should follow suit immediately to get these Veterans the benefits they deserve,” said U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, who voted for the bill. “After enactment of the Agent Orange Act of 1991, the VA determined that benefits for Veterans made sick by agent orange would only be available to those with “boots on the ground” or served on inland waterways. I believe this determination was wrong.”

    Deyo works with many Blue Water Navy Veterans, and hopes the bill passes soon.

    “We do have a significant population of Blue Water Veterans affected by herbicide exposure-related illnesses considered presumptive for so-called ‘Boots on the Ground’ Veterans,” Deyo said. “So, I am very hopeful that Congress will find another resource, outside of existing VA programs, to make sure our Blue Water Veterans are finally compensated, and all of the corresponding benefits are extended to them and their dependents, without further delay.”

    Source

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  • Glyphosate Monsanto

     

    Lead Trial Counsel Reveals Evidence That Led to Historic Win Against Monsanto

    Last month, a jury ruled in favor of plaintiff Dewayne Johnson1,2,3,4,5 in a truly historic case against Monsanto. Mr. Johnson — the first of over 8,000 cases pending against the infamous chemical company which has since been bought by Bayer AG6,7 — claimed Monsanto’s Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. According to the landmark ruling, Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression” and was responsible for “negligent failure” by not warning consumers about the carcinogenicity of this pernicious weed killer. Monsanto has been ordered to pay $289 million in damages to Johnson.

    In The Highwire video featured below, medical journalist Del Bigtree takes a deep dive into this groundbreaking win, revealing evidence presented to the jury — email correspondence and corporate documents that created a comprehensive narrative of corporate malfeasance and collusion with U.S. regulatory agencies — ultimately leading the jury to give Johnson a quarter of a billion dollars in damages.

    Summary of Monsanto’s Battle to Squash Evidence of Carcinogenicity

    The beginning of the end for Monsanto really began in 2015, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the “gold standard” in carcinogenicity research, reclassified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.”8,9

    This determination was based on evidence showing the popular weed killer can cause Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and lung cancer in humans, along with “convincing evidence” it can cause cancer in animals. In response, Monsanto launched an all-out attack on IARC and its researchers, and even lobbied to strip IARC of its U.S. funding.

    Then, in January 2017, the American Chemistry Council, of which Monsanto is a member, went on to form a front group called Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research,10 the express purpose of which is to discredit the IARC and seek to reform the IARC Monographs Program, which evaluates and determines the carcinogenicity of chemicals.11 As reported by the Union of Concerned Scientists on July 11, 2018:12

    “A rider [was added to] the House version of theHHS [Department of Health and Human Services] appropriations bill that would prevent the National Institutes of Health from lending any financial support toIARC unless it agrees to push for reforms atIARC that have been called for by [industry ally U.S. Rep.] Lamar Smith and the House Science Committee at the bequest of the chemical industry.”

    Monsanto Fought — and Lost — Proposition 65 Cancer Warning Label

    Following the IARC’s determination that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans in 2015, California’s Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced it intended to list glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.

    Monsanto filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When OEHHA refused to cave, Monsanto sued OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and a Fresno, California, superior court judge ruled on their behalf in February 2017.

    Alas, Monsanto continued filing legal appeals to block the cancer warning from being implemented. In its latest attempt, Monsanto tried to have a provision of the law removed that allows the OEHHA from taking scientific findings from outside experts — such as the IARC — into consideration.

    Mere days after Johnson’s verdict, Monsanto lost against California yet again. As reported by Sustainable Pulse:13

    “This decision leaves in place lower court decisions upholding a provision of the voter-approved initiative that allows outside expert scientific findings to be considered when adding chemicals to the public list of carcinogens … ‘Monsanto doesn’t have the right to decide which scientific experts are permitted to inform the public about cancer-causing chemicals.

     

    By refusing to consider this case, the Supreme Court has allowed Proposition 65 to keep working the way voters intended when the initiative was passed in 1986,’ said Avinash Kar, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

    This is another piece of good news, as this means California will be able to require Roundup and other glyphosate-containing products to bear a cancer warning label, and since companies rarely want to go through the extra work of making different product labels for different states, this likely means all Americans will finally be informed of the fact that Roundup is carcinogenic.

    Evidence Shows EPA Colluded With Monsanto to Hide Evidence of Carcinogenicity

    Throughout its legal battles, Monsanto has relied heavily on evidence by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which, despite IARC findings, has continued to maintain that glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic to humans.

    However, internal documents obtained during the discovery process of Johnson’s case revealed the EPA colluded with Monsanto to protect the company’s interests — actually manipulating and preventing key investigations into glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential. You can review key documents from this case on the U.S. Right to Know website.14

    A 2017 Spiegel article15 also delves into some of this damning evidence, which includes correspondence that clearly reveals Monsanto knew Roundup had safety problems, and in more ways than one:

    “The Monsanto researchers also behaved irresponsibly when it comes to the question of Roundup’s absorption into the body,” Spiegel writes. “In their own animal experiments back in 2002, the company’s experts discovered that ‘between 5 and 10 percent’ of the substance penetrated the skin of rats.

     

    The rate was much higher than expected and the result had the potential to ‘blow’ the ‘Roundup risk evaluations,’ reads one email. As a consequence, the author of the email wrote: ‘We decided thus to STOP the study.’ Laboratory animals also absorbed more Roundup ingredients through the digestive tract than had been hoped for.

     

    Above all, the Monsanto papers show that the experts were very aware of a fact that is often lost in the public debate: In addition to glyphosate, herbicides like Roundup contain other dangerous chemicals that are necessary to enable the active ingredient to penetrate hard plant walls, among other things. These ingredients are often more harmful than the active ingredient on its own.”

    Summary of Johnson’s Case

    In the video featured below, Del Bigtree interviews Baum Hedlund attorney Brent Wisner, lead trial counsel for Johnson and thousands of other plaintiffs who believe their Non-Hodgkin lymphoma — a type of cancer that starts in your white blood cells (lymphocytes), which are part of your immune system — was caused by Roundup exposure.

    More than 500 of these cases are currently pending in a multidistrict litigation (MDL) with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.16 While the MDL procedure is similar to a class-action suit in that it consolidates pretrial proceedings, each case will get its own jury trial, and the outcomes will vary depending on the strength of the evidence in any given case.

    Johnson’s lawsuit was filed in state court rather than through an MDL and was granted an expedited trial due to the fact that he’s nearing death.17,18,19 In California, if the plaintiff dies, no punitive damages can be awarded, so Johnson agreed to be the first one to take Monsanto on.

    Johnson, a 46-year-old husband and father of two, sprayed an estimated 150 gallons of Roundup 20 to 40 times per year while working as a groundskeeper for the Benicia school district in California, from 2012 through late 2015.20

    Johnson was diagnosed with a rare and deadly form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma called mycosis fungoides in August 2014. He told his doctor the rash he’d developed that summer would worsen after exposure to the herbicide. His lawsuit, filed in 2016 after he became too ill to work, accused Monsanto of hiding the health hazards of Roundup.

    His court case, presided by Superior Court Judge Suzanne Ramos Bolanos, began June 18, 2018, and ended August 10 with a ruling in his favor.21 As mentioned, the jury awarded Johnson $289 million in damages — an amount that effectively wipes out Monsanto’s reserve fund for environmental and litigation liability, which according to Bloomberg22 totaled $277 million as of August 2018.

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Monsanto’s Corporate Culture and Toxic Legacy

    Wisner is also joined by co-counsel Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has been an environmental lawyer for 30 years, who commented on Monsanto’s “antidemocratic and antihumanistic” corporate ways, saying:

    “We really were up against an industry that has employed all of the techniques pioneered by the tobacco industry.

     

    Over 60 years, Big Tobacco killed 1 out of every 5 of its customers who used its products as directed, was able to avoid any kind of regulatory interference, because it pioneered these techniques of ghostwriting science, compromising science, corrupting public officials, capturing the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution, and Monsanto really was part of the group that pioneered those techniques — and also of using ad hominem attacks.

     

    Monsanto is the same company that was making DDT and masterminded and orchestrated the attack on Rachael Carson … [they] tried to personally destroy her, as she died of cancer. On agent orange, it led the fight to deny rights and deny compensation to tens of thousands of American Veterans who had been exposed inVietnam to this terrible chemical.

     

    I’ve been suing one of Monsanto’s chemicals for 35 years, PCBs, which Monsanto is the only producer of. It contaminated theHudson River. In more recent years, I’ve brought a series of lawsuits against Monsanto because of the PCBs put into caulking in American schools. Half the schools built between 1950 and 1977 have calking in their windows filled with PCBs.

     

    Monsanto knew PCB was carcinogenic and an endocrine disruptor and children should never be exposed to it. And it knew PCB was about to be heavily regulated if it got banned. So, it ordered all of its sales forces to … [get rid of it by selling] it for caulking for schools. This is the mentality of a very corrupt corporate culture.”

    Trial Counsels Discuss the Evidence Against Monsanto

    As noted by Kennedy, until now, Monsanto has had a reputation of being untouchable. Wisner finally broke the magic spell with his phenomenal ability to create a comprehensive narrative, showing exactly how Monsanto has been able to get away with murder, and producing the evidence needed to support that narrative.

    As mentioned, Wisner was able to show corporate correspondence and documents that clearly discussed Monsanto’s inability to prove Roundup is noncarcinogenic. In fact, Monsanto toxicologist Donna Farmer, Ph.D., who in 2016 appeared on the TV show “The Doctors” defending the safety of Roundup, years earlier had written an email stating:

    “The terms glyphosate and Roundup cannot be used interchangeably, nor can you use “Roundup” for all glyphosate-based herbicides anymore. For example, you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”

    Indeed, as Wisner notes, Roundup is not just glyphosate. It also contains a number of surfactants to solubilize it and other chemicals, and the synergistic action between all of these chemicals has actually been shown to be far more toxic than glyphosate alone.

    This was recently confirmed in tests23 conducted by the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP). According to the NTP’s summary of the results, glyphosate formulations significantly alter the viability of human cells by disrupting the functionality of cell membranes. In layman’s terms, Roundup kills human cells.

    Recent research24,25 by the highly respected Ramazzini Institute in Italy also reveals daily ingestion of glyphosate at the acceptable daily dietary exposure level set by the EPA alters sexual development in rats, produces changes in the intestinal microbiome, and exhibits genotoxic effects.

    Wisner made every effort to get Farmer to testify. Not only did she evade being served, when they were finally able to catch her, Monsanto “fought tooth and nail” to prevent her from taking the stand. They ultimately won, and Wisner was not able to get her to testify. Still, email correspondence to and from Farmer was revealing enough.

    Success Became Monsanto’s Downfall

    According to Kennedy and Wisner, the extreme success of Roundup is ultimately what became its downfall. Roundup is now the most widely used agricultural chemical in the history of the world, and its sheer pervasiveness led to increased scientific investigation. With that increased scrutiny by independent researchers, more and more evidence of harm was published.

    Secondly, in 2005 Monsanto started recommending the off-label use of Roundup as a desiccant on non-GMO grains. Essentially, by spraying Roundup on the grain right before harvest, it dries the grain, making it easier to harvest and allows the farmer greater profits, as they’re penalized when grain contains moisture. The greater the moisture content of the grain at sale, the lower the price they get.

    As a result of this successful campaign, farmers began spraying Roundup directly on food preharvest, whereas previously it was primarily used as weed control. This is why we’re now finding glyphosate in just about everything — it’s been found in every processed food tested, in air samples, rain samples, municipal water supplies, soil samples, breast milk and urine.

    Related reading: Toxic Weed Killer Glyphosate Found in Most Foods Sold in the U.S.

    According to Bigtree, two recent studies even revealed the presence of glyphosate in several vaccines, including the pneumococcal, Tdap, hepatitis B (which is injected on the day of birth), influenza and MMR. The MMR vaccine had the highest amounts at 0.8 parts of glyphosate per billion.

    Ironically, one of Farmer’s talking points during her appearance on “The Doctors” was that IARC was looking at the effects of injected glyphosate, which is not how it’s used. Yet now we’re finding vaccines are contaminated with glyphosate, and is in fact injected directly into the bodies of young children.

    Related reading: Monsanto Strikes Again — Tests Confirm Most Vaccines Contain Glyphosate Herbicide

    Kennedy notes the majority of glyphosate used since its inception has actually been used in the last five years alone. And, as contamination has been detected, concern about its safety has been increasingly strengthened. These factors are ultimately what allowed Wisner to present such a compelling case against Monsanto.

    Public Health Impact of Roundup is Likely to be Enormous

    Keep in mind that Johnson’s case is just the beginning. Every day, the law firm of Baum Hedlund is receiving calls from people asking if their cancer might have been caused by Roundup exposure, Kennedy says. Many are farmers, but many are also avid gardeners and people who have used the chemical extensively around their private property.

    Eventually, he believes other disease categories may be added to the growing mountain of lawsuits against Monsanto. Aside from the over 8,000 cases of plaintiffs with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the evidence also suggests glyphosate and/or Roundup may be linked to liver cancer (which is now occurring in children), brain tumors and health problems associated with endocrine disruption.

    Indeed, aside from its carcinogenic potential, independent research has connected glyphosate-based herbicides with a growing list of disturbing health and environmental effects. For example, glyphosate has been shown to:

    Affect your body’s ability to produce fully functioning proteins

    Inhibit the shikimate pathway (found in gut bacteria)

    Interfere with the function of cytochrome P450 enzymes (required for activation of vitamin D and the creation of nitric oxide and cholesterol sulfate)

    Chelate important minerals

    Disrupt sulfate synthesis and transport

    Interfere with the synthesis of aromatic amino acids and methionine, resulting in folate and neurotransmitter shortages

    Disrupt the human and animal gut microbiome by acting as an antibiotic

    Destroy the gut lining, which can lead to symptoms of gluten intolerance

    Impair methylation pathways

    Inhibit pituitary release of thyroid stimulating hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism26,27

    Shocking Evidence of Ghostwriting Revealed During Johnson’s Trial

    In their interview, Bigtree and Wisner discuss some of the most revelatory pieces of information brought up during Johnson’s trial. As mentioned earlier, you can review many of these so-called “Monsanto Papers” on the U.S. Right to Know website.28

    You can also read “Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science,”29 a minority staff report dated February 2018, prepared for U.S. House members of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

    For example, in a November 1, 2015, email, William Heydens, safety lead for Monsanto, writes to John Acquavella, a former employee: “I thought we discussed previously that it was decided by our management that we would not be able to use you or Larry [Kier] as panelists/authors because of your prior employment at Monsanto …” to which Acquavella responds, “We call that ghostwriting and it is unethical.”

    According to Wisner, after IARC published its findings on glyphosate, Monsanto “orchestrated a public outcry” by convening a “panel of independent experts” who reviewed the data and published an analysis of the evidence. “The problem was, they were written by Monsanto employees and former employees,” Wisner says.

    In the email exchange above, Heydens wanted to remove Acquavella’s name from the report so that people would not know he was part of it, and Acquavella was reminding him that this strategy, which is known as ghostwriting, is unethical, and that they could not do that.

    In the end, the report did list Acquavella as an author, but it specifically states that Monsanto had no influence over the report and did not write any part of it. Yet email correspondence shows Heydens actively writing and editing it. All of this evidence was shown to the jury, and these outright lies are ultimately what prompted them to award punitive damages totaling a quarter of a billion dollars.

    In “The Monsanto Papers: Poisoning the Scientific Well,”30 a paper published in The International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, June 2018, Leemon McHenry writes:

    “The documents reveal Monsanto-sponsored ghostwriting of articles published in toxicology journals and the lay media, interference in the peer review process, behind-the-scenes influence on retraction and the creation of a so-called academic website as a front for the defense of Monsanto products …

     

    The use of third-party academics in the corporate defense of glyphosate reveals that this practice extends beyond the corruption of medicine and persists in spite of efforts to enforce transparency in industry manipulation.”

    The Parry Report

    As mentioned, correspondence by Farmer reveals Monsanto had never actually conducted any carcinogenicity or safety studies on the Roundup formulation. In 1999, Dr. James Parry, a geneticist at Swansea University at the time (he died a year later), was hired by Monsanto to evaluate the genotoxic potential of glyphosate.

    After reviewing the available research, Parry found that “glyphosate is capable of producing genotoxicity both in vivo and in vitro by a mechanism based upon the production of oxidative damage.” In his report, known as The Parry Report, he also noted that: “On the basis of the study of Lioi et al … I conclude that glyphosate is a potential clastogenic,” meaning a mutagenic agent that can break, delete, add or rearrange chromosomes.

    In other words, Monsanto’s own expert was telling them they had a serious problem. Parry noted that the real danger appears to be the synergistic effect between glyphosate and other chemicals in the formula, such as the surfactants, and he told the company they had to study the formulated product as a whole. He also listed specific types of studies he felt needed to be done.

    Internal email correspondence reveals other Monsanto scientists discussed ways in which they might be able to “move Dr. Parry from his position” that glyphosate was toxic. Parry, who had signed a secrecy agreement with the company, never published these findings. What did Monsanto do?

    They avoided the toxicity issues simply by never doing any of the research on the formulation. A September 16, 1999, email from Heydens, himself a Ph.D. toxicologist, reads in part:

    “We want to find/develop someone who is comfortable with the genotox profile of glyphosate/Roundup and who can be influential with regulators and Scientific Outreach operations when genotox issues arise. My read is that Parry is not currently such a person, and it would take quite some time and $$$/studies to get him there. We simply aren’t going to do the studies Parry suggests …”

    The Williams, Kroes and Munro Report

    What’s more, Monsanto buried The Parry Report. Regulators were never informed of its contents. Shortly after The Parry Report was concluded, another report was published, called the Williams, Kroes and Munro Report, which was supposed to be a comprehensive review of the genotoxic profile of glyphosate. It found no problems at all, concluding glyphosate is completely safe.

    Guess which report was sent off to regulators and used by the EPA to support its conclusion that glyphosate is nontoxic? You guessed it: The Williams, Kroes and Munro Report, issued in 2000. During trial, Wisner stressed to the jury that all of this is clear evidence of malice. It proves the company had a conscious disregard for human health.

    The Williams, Kroes and Munro Report also appears to have been of Monsanto’s own making. In an email to Farmer dated February 19, 2015, Heydens writes:

    “A less expensive/more palatable approach might be to involve experts only for the areas of contention, epidemiology and possibly MOA [mode of action] (depending on what comes out of theIARC meeting), and we ghostwrite the exposure tox & genotox sections.

     

    An option would be to add Greim and Kier orKirkland to have their names on the publication, but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit and sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams, Kroes & Munro, 2000.”

    As noted by Wisner, not only did Monsanto bury The Parry Report, which revealed they had a serious health problem on their hands, they ghostwrote a report that claimed the complete opposite. That fabricated “evidence” allowed them to sidestep toxicity concerns for the next 15 years.

    “That is fraud … That’s evil,” Wisner says.

    The jury obviously agreed.

    Science Clearly Demonstrates Glyphosate is Carcinogenic

    “I’m 34 years old. I will try these cases until I’m 90 if I have to,” Wisner says. “If I have to put Bayer in bankruptcy, I will. We have the goods here, and it just shows rampant corporate malfeasance.” Monsanto, meanwhile, insists there are 800 studies produced over the last 40 years showing glyphosate and Roundup is safe.

    “It’s garbage,” Wisner says. “The 800 studies they’re talking about are not about whether it causes cancer. They’re looking at stuff that you have to look at — does it cause eye irritation, does it cause your hair to change color, does it cause skin rashes — all these volumes of tests that test all these random things …

     

    But when it comes to cancer, there’s only been about 13 animal studies and about six or seven epidemiology studies. And when you actually look at the data, actually look at the science, and I showed this jury every single one of those studies.

     

    I walked through them one by one … and with the exception of two or three, they are positive … They show clear correlation. They show that glyphosate causes tumors … creates tumors in mice, that it’s causing Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans …”

    One particularly powerful study showed that when people are exposed to Roundup via skin contact (the individuals in this study had been doused with Roundup via aerial sprayings), there’s clear evidence of genetic damage. Every single person that had been exposed to the aerial spray showed evidence off this genetic damage.

    Bayer Bought a Nightmare

    Clearly, Bayer has purchased a nightmare, and may be suffering some buyer’s remorse right about now. Indeed, virtually every single person on the planet is now ingesting and being injected or in some way is exposed to Roundup, and the evidence of serious health consequences just keeps growing. The liability is almost beyond comprehension. Time will tell whether Monsanto’s toxic legacy will put Bayer out of business.

    Related reading: Harvest of Greed – The Merger of Bayer and Monsanto

    In the meantime, it’s up to each of us to take whatever precautions we can to avoid exposure. That includes avoiding using Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides at home, convincing local companies to stop using it in public areas and around schools, and by buying organic foods whenever possible and taking steps to detoxify our bodies.

    Wisner brings up more evidence presented in court, and I highly recommend watching the interview in its entirety. Considering the evidence, it’s really no wonder Wisner won this case, and it surely does not bode well for Bayer-Monsanto, seeing how there are many thousands more cases just like it waiting in the wings.

    And, according to Wisner, he has hundreds of documents that are even more damning than those brought to bear during Johnson’s trial, which was rushed to trial. So, he’s confident he will continue to win these cases and, hopefully, change the world for the better.

    Sources and References:

    Source

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  • DVA 002

     

    Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they strongly oppose passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), which would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 Veterans who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war, and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.

    The Blue Water Navy bill passed the House unanimously in late June and seemed certain to fly through the Senate, given reports of close coordination on the bill between Veterans’ affairs committees, and the House having negotiated a plan to pay for the benefits with major Veteran service organizations.

    On Wednesday, however, with Robert Wilkie installed two days earlier as VA secretary, his undersecretary for benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, delivered a blistering attack on the Blue Water Navy bill, and on a proposal to test providing routine dental care to Veterans, during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

    Lawrence testified that there’s still no credible scientific evidence to support extending Agent Orange-related benefits to shipboard personnel who never went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its rivers. Without such evidence, he said, it would be wrong, and would create a disastrous precedent, to award VA benefits.

    “This committee set the standard to use science to be fair and consistent in cases such as this,” said Lawrence, referring to the Agent Orange Act of 1991. “Once that standard is removed from the equation, it becomes nearly impossible to adjudicate a claim of this type on the merits. The resulting lower threshold sets in motion the prospect of uncontrolled demands for (VA) support.”

    Lawrence, who took charge of Veteran benefit programs in May, warned if HR 299 is enacted, it will “be referenced when other exposure claims are presented to this committee. At that point, Congress will be under greater pressure to accommodate these requests too, regardless of the evidence.”

    It wasn’t immediately clear what damage Lawrence and his top official on post-deployment health issues, Dr. Ralph Erickson, inflicted on the popular Blue Water Navy bill. A majority of senators on the committee still spoke in favor.

    But the Trump administration has reversed signals of support that a beleaguered VA Secretary, David Shulkin, gave Blue Water advocates in March.

    The VA for years had opposed the legislation. The usual hardline softened a year after Shulkin became President Trump’s first VA Secretary when he told Rep. David Valado, R-Ga., lead sponsor of the House bill, “that these Veterans have waited too long and this is a responsibility that this country has.”

    Shulkin noted that the VA lacked scientific evidence that shipboard personnel were exposed to dioxin. But he said his staff was “working hard to look at offsets” — cuts to other parts of the VA budget — to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits.

    “And it is a high priority for us,” he added.

    Two weeks later, Shulkin was fired, deepening a leadership vacuum at VA caused by political chaos at the White House. Trump initially nominated his White House physician, a Navy admiral, to replace Shulkin. The choice soon fell victim to controversy. The House, meanwhile, passed its Blue Water Navy bill after the Veterans affairs committee negotiated with major Veterans organizations a way to pay for it, by raising user fees modestly on VA guaranteed home loans.

    Robert Wilkie became VA Secretary this past Monday. By Wednesday, there was no trace of the accommodating tone on the Blue Water Navy issue that Shulkin had expressed months earlier. Lawrence scorched the bill and its “pay for” plan.

    “VA is opposed to paying for the provisions of this bill by increasing the cost that some Veterans must pay to access their (home loan) benefits. Veterans will either have to finance the VA funding fee with interest, or pay up front with cash. This means fewer Veterans will buy homes or (will) buy homes using non-VA options, potentially opening them to predator lenders,” Lawrence said.

    He further argued that opening Agent Orange benefits to thousands more Veterans would stunt ongoing efforts to reduce the backlog of compensation claims on appeal, adding time and cost to claim processes.

    In written testimony, Lawrence gave fresh estimates on the cost of the Blue Water Navy bill, at total of almost $7 billion over the first 10 years. Some senators pushed back at his attack on the bill, arguing it wouldn’t be needed if VA didn’t set a high bar for these Navy Veterans to gain benefits for conditions on VA’s list of 14 ailments linked to Agent Orange.

    Erickson told senators most of the ailments presumed to be caused by Agent Orange also are tied to aging, therefore VA needs evidence of dioxin exposure for ships at sea. He said a Blue Water Navy review conducted by the Institute of Medicine in 2011 failed to find sufficient evidence of dioxin exposure.

    He and Lawrence dismissed an oft-cited Australian study that was the scientific foundation for that government to award Agent Orange-related benefits to its shipboard Veterans. That study, said Lawrence, was based on an experiment involving distillation of water with presumed levels of dioxin near to shore. It was U.S. Navy policy to take on water for shipboard use more than 12-miles out to sea, to avoid contaminants, Erickson explained.

    Rick Weidman, with Vietnam Veterans of America, made the strongest case in support of Blue Water Veterans. VA officials have misinterpreted the 2011 study, which did find it plausible that shipboard Veterans were exposed to dioxin. Given that Congress already presumes Veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam were exposed, and doesn’t try to calculate level of exposure, that benefit of the doubt should be applied to shipboard personnel too, Weidman said.

    “How much (exposure) makes no difference,” he said. “You don’t know (the) difference for folks who served in the delta versus the central highlands where I served. Who knows? And you can’t put it together 40 years later.”

    VA’s hardline appears to leave Senate Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in a tough spot. Veteran service organizations and leaders of the House Veterans Affairs Committee thought Isakson was set to endorse the bill and shepherd it swiftly toward enactment.

    At the hearing, however, Isakson said “we have more work to do on these issues.” He promised the committee would work “deliberately” to understand all facets of the Blue Water bill, including whether the House plan to raise VA home loans fees was enough to pay for it. Isakson asked Lawrence whether charging non-disabled Veterans an extra $250 on every $100,000 in loan value would cover the cost of extending Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans.

    “Not in our opinion, no,” said Lawrence. Isakson nodded agreement.

    “I did real estate sales my entire life,” Isakson said. “A lot of VA loans, FHA loans. You can make those numbers look like a lot of things. That is not a lot of money” if VA home loan fees are raised, as the House voted, from 2.25 percent of loan amounts to 2.4 percent, for Veterans with active duty service. “It’s variable too, and depends on number of loans that actually are closed” in any year, he said.

    It seems the Blue Water Navy bill will be adrift in uncertainty for at least several more months, its future dependent on how Senate leaders react to stiffened resistance from the Trump administration.

    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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  • VA Rips BWN

     

    Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they strongly oppose passage of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), which would extend Agent Orange disability benefits and health care to between 70,000 and 90,000 Veterans who served aboard ships in territorial waters off Vietnam during the war, and today suffer ailments associated with herbicides sprayed across its jungles for years.

    The Blue Water Navy bill passed the House unanimously in late June and seemed certain to fly through the Senate, given reports of close coordination on the bill between the chambers’ Veterans’ Affairs committees, and the House having negotiated a plan to pay for the benefits with major Veteran service organizations.

    On Wednesday, however, with Robert Wilkie installed two days earlier as VA secretary, his undersecretary for benefits, Paul R. Lawrence, delivered a blistering attack on the Blue Water Navy bill, and on a proposal to test providing routine dental care to Veterans, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing.

    Lawrence testified that there’s still no credible scientific evidence to support extending Agent Orange-related benefits to shipboard personnel who never went ashore in Vietnam or patrolled its rivers. Without such evidence, he said, it would be wrong, and would create a disastrous precedent, to award VA benefits.

    “This committee set the standard to use science to be fair and consistent in cases such as this,” said Lawrence, referring to the Agent Orange Act of 1991. “Once that standard is removed from the equation, it becomes nearly impossible to adjudicate a claim of this type on the merits. The resulting lower threshold sets in motion the prospect of uncontrolled demands for [VA] support.”

    Lawrence, who took charge of Veteran benefit programs in May, warned that if HR 299 is enacted, it will “be referenced when other exposure claims are presented to this committee. At that point, Congress will be under greater pressure to accommodate these requests too, regardless of the evidence.”

    It wasn’t immediately clear what damage Lawrence and his top official on post-deployment health issues, Dr. Ralph Erickson, inflicted on the popular Blue Water Navy bill. A majority of senators on the committee still spoke in favor.

    But the Trump administration has reversed signals of support that a beleaguered VA secretary, David Shulkin, gave Blue Water advocates in March.

    VA for years had opposed the legislation. The usual hard line softened a year after Shulkin became President Donald Trump’s first VA secretary when he told Rep. David Valado, R-Ga., lead sponsor of the House bill, “that these Veterans have waited too long and this is a responsibility that this country has.”

    Shulkin noted that VA lacked scientific evidence that shipboard personnel were exposed to dioxin. But he said his staff was “working hard to look at offsets” — cuts to other parts of the VA budget — to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits.

    “And it is a high priority for us,” he added.

    Two weeks later Shulkin was fired, deepening a leadership vacuum at VA caused by political chaos at the White House. Trump initially nominated his White House physician, a Navy admiral, to replace Shulkin. The choice soon fell victim to controversy. The House, meanwhile, passed its Blue Water Navy bill after the Veterans’ Affairs Committee negotiated with major Veterans organizations a way to pay for it, by raising user fees modestly on VA guaranteed home loans.

    Wilkie became VA secretary this past Monday. By Wednesday, there was no trace of the accommodating tone on the Blue Water Navy issue that Shulkin had expressed months earlier. Lawrence scorched the bill and its “pay for” plan.

    “VA is opposed to paying for the provisions of this bill by increasing the cost that some Veterans must pay to access their [home loan] benefits. Veterans will either have to finance the VA funding fee with interest, or pay up front with cash. This means fewer Veterans will buy homes or [will] buy homes using non-VA options, potentially opening them to predator lenders,” Lawrence said.

    He further argued that opening Agent Orange benefits to thousands more Veterans would stunt ongoing efforts to reduce the backlog of compensation claims on appeal, adding time and cost to claim processes.

    In written testimony, Lawrence gave fresh estimates on the cost of the Blue Water Navy bill, at total of almost $7 billion over the first 10 years. Some senators pushed back at his attack on the bill, arguing it wouldn’t be needed if VA didn’t set a high bar for these Navy Veterans to gain benefits for conditions on VA’s list of 14 ailments linked to Agent Orange.

    Erickson told senators most of the ailments presumed to be caused by Agent Orange also are tied to aging, therefore VA needs evidence of dioxin exposure for ships at sea. He said a Blue Water Navy review conducted by the Institute of Medicine in 2011 failed to find sufficient evidence of dioxin exposure.

    He and Lawrence dismissed an oft-cited Australian study that was the scientific foundation for that government to award Agent Orange-related benefits to its shipboard Veterans. That study, said Lawrence, was based on an experiment involving distillation of water with presumed levels of dioxin near to shore. It was U.S. Navy policy to take on water for shipboard use more than 12 miles out to sea, to avoid contaminants, Erickson explained.

    Rick Weidman, with Vietnam Veterans of America, made the strongest case in support of Blue Water Veterans: VA officials have misinterpreted the 2011 study, which did find it plausible that shipboard Veterans were exposed to dioxin. Given that Congress already presumes Veterans who served anywhere in Vietnam were exposed, and doesn’t try to calculate level of exposure, that benefit of the doubt should be applied to shipboard personnel too, Weidman said.

    “How much [exposure] makes no difference,” he said. “You don’t know [the] difference for folks who served in the delta versus the central highlands where I served. Who knows? And you can’t put it together 40 years later.”

    VA’s hard line appears to leave Senate Committee Chairman Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in a tough spot. Veteran service organizations and leaders of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee thought Isakson was set to endorse the bill and shepherd it swiftly toward enactment.

    At the hearing, however, Isakson said “we have more work to do on these issues.” He promised the committee would work “deliberately” to understand all facets of the Blue Water bill, including whether the House plan to raise VA home loans fees was enough to pay for it. Isakson asked Lawrence whether charging non-disabled Veterans an extra $250 on every $100,000 in loan value would cover the cost of extending Agent Orange benefits to Blue Water Navy Veterans.

    “Not in our opinion, no,” said Lawrence. Isakson nodded agreement.

    “I did real estate sales my entire life,” Isakson said. “A lot of VA loans, FHA loans. You can make those numbers look like a lot of things. That is not a lot of money” if VA home loan fees are raised, as the House voted, from 2.25 percent of loan amounts to 2.4 percent, for Veterans with active-duty service. “It’s variable too, and depends on number of loans that actually are closed” in any year, he said.

    It seems the Blue Water Navy bill will be adrift in uncertainty for at least several more months, its future dependent on how Senate leaders react to stiffened resistance from the Trump administration.

    Source

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  • Grps Fight BWN AO

     

    Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) met Tuesday with Robert Wilkie to try to coax the new VA secretary out of his department’s newly stiffened opposition to a House-passed bill that would extend VA health care and compensation to tens of thousands of former sailors and Marines with Agent Orange-associated ailments.

    “We haven’t convinced him yet,” Brown said in a next day phone interview.

    Without support from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, faces a difficult decision on whether to allow a committee vote this fall on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299).

    “Johnny pays a lot of attention to what the VA thinks, as he should [as] chairman,” Brown said.

    The Ohio senator has had several conversations with Isakson on the Blue Water bill and said he “is about as fair-minded and bipartisan a chairman as there is in the Senate.” But Brown declined to guess what Isakson will decide on HR 299 if the VA secretary continues to oppose the bill.

    “If we get the VA on board, it will make this a lot easier, I’ll just answer it that way,” Brown said of prospects for the bill. “Otherwise, I think it will be hard.”

    We tried polling all 15 senators on the committee to learn what impact VA opposition to HR 299 has had on their support for the bill. A spokesman for Isakson said only that he “is actively working” with the VA, outside stakeholders and his committee “on a path forward on this legislation.”

    Sens. John Boozman (R-Ark.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), noted they are original co-sponsors of a near identical Senate bill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said the bill should be passed and signed into law “without delay.” A “disappointed” Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said he wrote to Wilkie, urging him to reconsider his opposition. And Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said he still is reviewing HR 299 and working with colleagues to do “what is best” for Veterans.

    Meanwhile, pressure on Isakson builds. Every major Veterans’ group and most military associations urged him this week to move the bill out of committee. Their volley of letters responded to Wilkie’s own Sept. 6 letter to Isakson expanding on why VA opposes extending benefits to Veterans who served on ships off Vietnam and have ailments associated with exposure to dioxin in Agent Orange.

    Wilkie noted again that the latest review of available scientific evidence by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), from 2011, concluded that exposure of shipboard personnel to defoliants sprayed over Vietnam “cannot reasonably be determined.” Also, he said, Navy ships were required to draw seawater for conversion to shipboard potable water 12 miles from any river, making the presence of Agent Orange “highly unlikely” and the “dilution factor would have been significant.”

    He also criticized how the House-passed bill would pay part of the cost of expanding benefits to Blue Water Vets by ending an exemption from VA home loan funding fees for certain disabled Veterans, those not rated fully and permanently disabled and seeking jumbo loans. The amount of such loans can start as low $453,100, or as high as $679,650, depending on local housing market prices.

    If HR 299 becomes law, Wilkie wrote, on a home loan of $500,000 “a disabled Veteran could be required to pay $12,000 to the VA in funding fees (plus interest if rolled into the life of the loan) rather … $11,725 as a down payment, which results in home equity.”

    Advocates for Blue Water Veterans argue Wilkie and staff have fallen into a previous pattern of “cherry-picking” information from scientific reports to conclude there is no scientific basis to support extending Agent Orange-related benefits. They also criticize a fresh VA estimate on the cost of HR 299 — $5.5 billion over 10 years — as wildly high and claim VA exaggerates the impact on home-buying Veterans of planned funding fee increases, particularly for disabled Veterans.

    Former surface warfare officer, retired Navy commander and lawyer John B. Wells, who has served as general counsel to the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, considers himself the technical expert on the science and shipboard practices that, he argues, support extending Agent Orange benefits.

    The Slidell, Louisiana, attorney also is executive director of a nonprofit corporation that litigates and advocates for Veterans and trains other attorneys on Veterans’ law. Wells complained to Wilkie that VA staff for Blue Water issues have no naval operational experience or expertise in hydrology, thermodynamics and other relevant sciences for determining how Agent Orange reached sailors at sea.

    “The VA consistently cherry picks through the (IOM) reports taking phrases out of context to support their position,” Wells wrote.

    A conclusion VA ignores from a 2008 IOM report is that the evidence its research committee “reviewed makes limiting Vietnam service to those who set foot on Vietnamese soil seem inappropriate.”

    The same report said: “Given the available evidence, the committee recommends that members of the Blue Water Navy should not be excluded from the set of Vietnam-era Veterans with presumed herbicide exposure.”

    Regarding the 2011 report finding that Agent Orange exposure by Blue Water Veterans “could not reasonably be determined,” it needs context, Wells said.

    “What [IOM] actually said was: This lack of information makes it impossible to quantify exposures for Blue Water and Brown Water Navy sailors and, so far, for ground troops as well,” Wells wrote. Therefore, IOM couldn’t “state with certainty whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

    While the IOM was told Navy ships did not typically make potable water within 12 miles of shore, Wells said it also was told that in exceptional circumstances a ship might take up water for distillation close to the coastline.

    Mike Yates, national commander of Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association, wrote separately to Isakson. Among points he made was that naval gunfire support data show many ships operated within three nautical miles of the Vietnam coast for periods long enough to mandate water distillation. Also, some Navy ships were provided potable water from barges operating from shore, a practice not known to the IOM before it produced its 2011 report.

    More arguments are made in two joint letters to Isakson in mid-September. One is from The Military Coalition, a consortium of 27 Veterans groups and military associations, and another from Veteran service organizations: Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America.

    The second letter reflects a consequential shift of position. The four large Vet groups all now agree they do not support imposing new fees on any service-connected disabled Veteran, even for jumbo home loans. Disabled Veterans “have already paid with their service, and we therefore urge the Committee to strike this provision from HR 299 before passing the legislation.”

    If the senators embrace that change, they would have to find other budget offsets to cover the cost of the bill, which VA contends already were woefully inadequate in the House bill to satisfy balanced-budget law requirements. Also, any change to HR 299 would require the bill’s return to the House to be voted on again, increasing the risk that the 115th Congress will run out of time to pass a Blue Water Navy bill.

    In that case, advocates would have to restart their quest in 2019 with a mix of lawmakers significantly altered by November’s election.

    Source

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