Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Agent Orange Hearing

Thursday, September 23, I had planned to spend all day with the CSPAN Senate Hearing.  It was not to be, and my hospital choice had only one CSPAN, just the House.  Here I am, over a week late giving my summary of the hearing from internet news media.

Writer: Bob Brewin
Long-time defense reporter who now blogs for NextGov.

In July, the Veterans Affairs Department awarded IBM a $9.1 million contract to develop within three months a system to process claims for Vietnam veterans suffering from diseases stemming from exposure to the Agent Orange defoliant sprayed in that country by the Air Force.
VA presumes all 2.6 million veterans who served in Vietnam had exposure to Agent Orange.
High Speed Claims Processing
The new approach to Agent Orange will add 240,000 claims to its case load, which is why it tapped IBM to build a separate system to process machine readable claims that veterans submit electronically. 
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki hailed the approach as "a new way of doing business and a major step forward in how we process the presumptive claims we expect to receive over the next two years."
Veterans Claims have built up drastically in recent years.  I was told at one point by a veterans official that there was a three-year back log of cases.  I was told by a credible government official that the Atlanta VA had floors full of cabinets of claims. - Bill

Writer: Luke Johnson of  American Independent

On August 31, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs approved three new ailments to the list of “presumptive” causes within the Agent Orange Act — ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease and hairy cell leukemia. The VA will be able to process new claims — as well as compensate earlier ones — at the end of October unless Congress votes to block it. 

Alan Simpson told the Associated Press about the Agent Orange Act rule-making authority, “The irony (is) that the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess.”
Not content to just fight a war, today's Vietnam Veterans are expected by Simpson to resolve the financial mess, supposedly to forfeit their just health claims. - Bill
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) have also raised other concerns about the new measure.
“At some point we will have to look at the definition of exposure,” Burr told the AP.
Burr's idea reminds me of Dose Reconstruction used in nuclear radiation exposure, which affected me at the Nevada Test Site. The radiation idea was to quantify health damage according to the dose measured by imperfect media. Genetic damage doesn't work that way.  It's common sense, as with alcohol.  One person may have a higher tolerance than another, but it's stupid to try to quantify the relationship. - Bill
The key word is exacerbate: Did Agent Orange make the problem worse?  The veteran may have eventually contracted a disease, but Agent Orange accelerated it. - Bill
The Vietnam War ended May 15, 1975.  It took over 15 years to finally arrive at the Agent Orange Act. To attempt to rewrite the established law of almost 20 years is an insult to every Vietnam Veteran. - Bill

Politico, writer unidentified
Charleston Gazette

The Hearing, September 23

The hearing brought some touching moments. Shinseki, who served himself in Vietnam, repeatedly referred to the infantry soldiers then as “the youngsters.”
“We are asking the secretary to play God,” exclaimed Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, “At the end of the day, we used the poison and we poisoned our own people.”
Despite the cost-- tens of billions of dollars over the next decade-- no one in the Senate committee showed any appetite for rolling back Shinseki’s decision on heart disease.
“The Vietnam War cost $740 billion. And caring for the veterans drafted to fight that war is a fraction of that $740 billion,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.). “We didn't question then. We don't question now. “
In the exchanges with individual members, Sen. Jim Webb stood out as the most assertive. 

Writer: Ben Evans of Associated Press

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Thursday, Sept. 23,  defended an expensive proposal to extend disability payments to Vietnam veterans who get heart disease, saying studies show a significant link between the ailment and the toxic defoliant Agent Orange.

Shinseki told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the law requires his agency to grant automatic benefits for diseases that are scientifically associated with Agent Orange. It leaves him no discretion to weigh costs or other considerations, he said, such as the fact that heart disease occurs commonly in men in their 60s and is strongly linked to smoking, poor diet and other factors.

Shinseki, a Vietnam veteran wounded in combat, said six of nine rigorous studies reviewed by the agency showed strong associations between the herbicide and heart disease. The evidence "more than satisfies" the law's requirements, he said.

Writer: LEO SHANE IIIStars and Stripes since 2004, capitol hill & white house

Senators posed tough questions to Veterans Affairs officials Thursday over the decision to compensate thousands of veterans for additional illnesses linked to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam, but the lawmakers said they will not push to revoke those payments.

Veterans groups have hailed the decision as a long-overdue recognition of the impact of the defoliants used in Vietnam, and defended the department’s process.
“These decisions were not made lightly,” Shinseki said. “Veterans and their families have waited decades while science has revealed new details about Agent Orange exposure.

Writer: TOM PHILPOTT, formerly with Army Times, now with

This article similar to others, but you may enjoy veteran comments at the bottom. - Bill

I'm open to discussion about veteran claims and compensation, Agent Orange Law, and simple, common sense justice. Leave a comment.  If you want an answer I will need contact info. - Bill

William A. Ricks 
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1 comment:

BillRicksofSoperton said...

For those interested in watching 3 hours of hearing, follow this CSPAN link: