SERVICE CIRCUIT: October is Agent Orange Awareness month – The Macomb Daily

October is Agent Orange Awareness Month. Faces of Agent Orange, and the Agent Orange Education Campaign, are projects of Vietnam Veterans of America.
VVA National is conducting a petition drive as part of its education campaign. It is asking its nearly 90,000 members in 650 chapters to collect signatures to be presented to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough.
The petitions direct McDonough to support the Toxic Exposure Research Act Public Law 114-315, Sections 631-634 regarding research into the generational health effects of serving in the Gulf War.
Sandie Wilson, a former military and civilian nurse, hopes there will be wheelbarrows full of signed petitions to deliver to McDonough.
Anyone may print or sign one online at vva.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/TERA-Petition_Final.pdf
People may stop in (masks are required) to the VVA Chapter 154 Veterans Support Center at 18025 15 Mile Road, Clinton Township during business hours and sign a petition with their name, city and state. Completed petitions go to VVA national by Oct. 22.
Wilson is a member of VVA Chapter 310 in Ann Arbor and serves on the national VVA Agent Orange committee.
“I have been personally involved in this issue since 1987,” she said.
“Our last battle is for the future generations of innocents,” wrote VVA president John Rowan. “We will go to our graves without honor if we abandon the future generations. If we lose this battle for P.L. 114-315, the child victims die without recognition of their veteran ancestors’ service causations. Our human dignity is at stake. The world will benefit from this research.”
VVA Chapter 310 is part of the Agent Orange Next Gen Campaign selling orange face masks to draw attention to how many Vietnam veterans’ families have been affected by dioxins in herbicides  and raise funds to continue birth defect research. The vets said that during Agent Orange litigation of the early 1980s, 65,000 veterans reported that their children had been born with birth defects or developmental disabilities. Now veterans report that their grandchildren are affected but they say no adequate government studies have been done on the association between the father’s exposure to Agent Orange and adverse outcomes in their offspring.
The VA recently announced the expansion of disability benefits available to veterans who served in Southwest Asia.
McDonough spoke at The American Legion 102nd national convention last month and said his department is focusing on toxic exposures and a way to determine presumptive conditions.
Addressing toxic exposure and burn pits is one of The American Legion’s legislative priorities for the 117th Congress. It has fought for service-connected disability benefits for conditions linked to toxic exposures for decades.
Vets who served in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation New Dawn between March 19, 2003, and Dec. 15, 2011 may be at risk of health problems — in addition to their warfare injuries — caused by toxic chemicals or other hazardous materials in the environment like burn pit smoke, depleted uranium, sulfur fire, chemical warfare agents, and hexavalent chromium. See va.gov/health-care/health-needs-conditions/health-issues-related-to-service-era/iraq-war and then join the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry and the Gulf War Registry.
Veterans who deployed to the Southwest Asia theater may have been exposed to smoke from burn pits and unpaved roads, industrial air pollution, sand, dust, and exhaust from diesel and other internal combustion engines. VA pays disability benefits to veterans who have asthma, sinusitis and rhinitis.
“The exposure of military personnel to toxic substances, both while deployed overseas or stationed at home, has been an ongoing issue across a range of wars and generations,” wrote The American Legion in the statement for the record for the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “These exposures have resulted in conditions and illnesses among veterans which can have long-lasting adverse effects on health and quality of life.”
For veterans who served at Camp Lejeune and their family members, VA provides health care or reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses related to female infertility and miscarriages due to possible links with exposure to the contaminated water there. See publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/ for more.
Vietnam vets have made some progress in their fight for compensation for their own medical issues linked to Agent Orange.
Bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s-like symptoms due to dioxin exposure are newly on the list of presumptive conditions.
Other conditions are: AL amyloidosis, chronic b-cell leukemias, chloracne, diabetes mellitus type 2, Hodgkin’s disease, ischemic heart disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Parkinson’s disease, early-onset peripheral neuropathy, porphyria cutanea tarda, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, and soft tissue sarcomas. To sign up for VA health care, see va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply
Birth defects in their children is a different story.
VVA believes significant numbers of Vietnam veterans have children and grandchildren with birth defects related to exposure to Agent Orange. To remind legislators and the media about the issue, VVA is seeking stories about Vietnam vets’ family health struggles. Send stories via email to [email protected] or call 301-585-4000, Ext. 146.
The VA only presumes spina bifida in children of Vietnam and Korea veterans is associated with veterans’ military service. Because of the Agent Orange Benefits Act of 1996 about a thousand families are receiving benefits for the children of male vets who were born with spina bifida. Women veterans exposed to the herbicide in Vietnam are granted benefits for children who are born with many more medical issues. See publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/birth-defects/children-women-vietnam-vets.asp
The U.S. government says that reviews such as those by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine do not prove that Agent Orange causes birth defects.
Wilson, who also was a pediatric nurse, decried the absence of a national government registry of birth defects of the children and grandchildren of the nation’s veterans. She said such data is recorded only on a county level and are not being looked at as a whole.
NASEM said that in order to explore the issue of birth defects and environmental exposures, a national birth defects registry and national health record would have to be established.
The non-government Birth Defect Research for Children organization does solicit information on children born with anomalies. Since 1990, Birth Defect Research for Children has collected data showing a pattern of birth defects and disabilities in the children of Vietnam veterans. There is a section just for veterans at birthdefects.org/veterans-research.
Send news of service clubs and veterans organizations to Linda May at [email protected] or call landline 586-791-8116.
 

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