Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Begging for bucks






Wally: Who determines what diseae's or ailment's is agent orange. I have several health issues and when i get a agent orange exam they tell me it is not on the list, yet I know there are other vets witht he same problems. I know the doctor I see at the exam does not record the symtoms. Why can't we see someone who monitors the health issue to verify it might be agent orange related. I was told the way health issues make the list is when the population of all viet nam vets have a higher number of health issues than the regular population. I know I was sprayed with agent orange why should my health issues be diluted with vets that were not exposed?
Senator Patty Murray: We worked hard last year to defeat an amendment in the Senate that would have changed the VA standard for determining presumptions for Agent Orange because some wanted to just "save money" I knew that was wrong and we beat that amendment. We will have to remain vigilant this year as well. Research is going on as we speak and hopefully we will be able to better help you and many more in the future.
That was Senator Patty Murray conversing with veterans last week and we'll come back to that in just a moment. First, if you need to know how ugly the Agent Orange issue got on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, you can refer to the September 23, 2010 snapshot reporting on that day's hearing when Senator Jim Webb had his little hissy, when Senator Roland Burris insisted that "budget shortfalls" do not mean you cut needed health benefits for veterans and, as Senator Burris said that, Senator Jon Testor, with an angry look on his face, rose and stormed out of the hearing. Earlier Testor had been backing up Webb who was furious that VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was attempting to see to it that the victims of Agent Orange got the help they needed.
And we're going to drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease. Could? A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA. Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight." Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican). It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
Veteran Jim Webb did everything he could to prevent victims of Agent Orange and Burn Pits from receiving the medical treatment they needed. That's why he can't run for re-election. Veterans in Virginia pulled their support in 2010 over the Agent Orange issue. His decision not to seek re-election has to do with the fact that he doesn't have the votes to win. And he shouldn't after what he did. There's an important lesson there: A veteran isn't necessarily the one to elect to Congress if you're concerned about veterans issues.
Back to Senator Patty Murray's remarks. She made them last Thursday at a Town Hall. It was the first of its kind for veterans, being able to speak with the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and from their home or work or library. It was a Virtual Town Hall which Disabled American Veterans sponsored. A full transcript of the exchange can be found here. Face to face contact is always best, yes. And that's why Murray takes part in Town Halls frequently. But the Virtual Town Hall allowed her and veterans from around the country to meet up online and that was especially helpful to veterans who may have issues with mobility. Many issues were raised, from VA charging for services that they are supposed to provide for free, the need for better transitioning of Wounded Warriors, the long wait time for medical appointments for mental treatment. One question dealt with an issue on many veterans minds.
Jeremy K.: We have about 2 million combat veterans who are going to be coming back, or are already back, from Iraq and Afghanistan. Too many of them are sick and injured and will need VA. Given the government's debt, is VA going to have the money and people to meet those needs while continuing to serve 5-6 million older veterans?
Senator Patty Murray: There is no doubt that we as a nation must address the issue of our national debt. However we send our men and women into combat and should never allow our budgets to be an excuse for not providing them with the care that has been promised. We will be getting the Presidents budget next week, and I will be looking at it very carefully to make sure we are meeting the needs of our nation's veterans.
Veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan have health needs. Martin C. Evans (Newsday) is apparently the only reporter at a major daily newspaper to cover yesterday's Burn Pits Symposium at Stony Brook College. Evans reports that the Army sent Veronique Hauschild from their "Public Health Command" to speak and she insisted that the military needs to do its own studies and added, "I don't want to say there's not a problem because I believe there is." But that "I" is herself and not the official position of the Army. Her presence is encouraging, however. It attests to the reality that the Pentagon can no longer outright dismiss the very real damage of burn pits. If the government study (a bunch of subsidized scientists refusing to disclose their government funding as they posed as independent) from last fall had been a success, the Pentagon would not have felt the need to send someone to the conference. But the pushback on that non-scientific nonsense and the increased public awareness of the damage from burn pits was so great that the paper is pretty much dead and rebuked.
Evans notes a study Dr. Anthony Szema did "published in the September issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, area soldiers who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were found to be about seven times more likely to display signs of damaged lungs than enlistees who never served there." Last week, Kelley B. Vlahos ( explained:

We've been following the issue of toxic environmental exposure of U.S. servicemen and women here at since 2009. Mounting evidence strongly suggests that the unregulated open-air burn pits used to incinerate everything from medical waste to batteries and rubber tires, has contributed to the fine particulate matter found carried in the dust, including metals and bacteria, and has something to do with the dramatically changed health of returning veterans.

"What makes healthy individuals who have never had asthma end up in wheelchairs on oxygen, or a 34-year-old non-smoker who has near-normal [physical fitness tests] but is short of breath and has lungs that are totally destroyed? These are the problems we are trying to solve," exclaimed Dr. Anthony Szema, Stony Brook University Medical Center Assist Professor of Surgery, in a recent interview for the Army Times.

Szema recently wrote about a soldier serving both in Iraq and Kuwait who has lung tissue riddled with fine particles of titanium, iron and copper. He published his findings recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It is part of his ongoing study of soldiers suffering from unexplained illnesses.

This particular soldier, according to the report, is suffering from nonspecific interstitial pneumonitis, a rare and dangerous type of pneumonia that afflicts people for no known reason, cannot be treated and is 60 percent fatal within the first six months of diagnosis, according to Wikipedia. What we know about the soldier is where he was stationed, and that he came into contact with "the laundry facility, improvised explosive device blasts, sandstorms, burn pits and the occasional cigar."

In Iraq violence continues, AP notes a Baghdad bombing has claimed 1 life and left six other people injured. In addition, Reuters notes 1 Asaish was shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Monday, the corpse of 1 woman was discovered in Baquba (strangled), 2 corpses were discovered elsewhere in Baquba (the two are thought to have been killed in 2006). Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports military General Aziz Hamzah was shot dead in Baghdad, a second Baghdad bombing left two peple injured and a Mosul bombing claimed 3 lives and left nineteen people injured.


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