Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Agent Orange...How We Were Killed In Vietnam And Didn't Even Know It.
I am a Vietnam Veteran and I am sick of the way we are treated concerning the Agent Orange Issue, Many of my brothers and Sisters have died from the effects of being exposed to agent orange. For years many of them have fought with the VA about getting compensation for the diseases we are now suffering from. And I for one am sick of it.. So I wrote these two letters to the Pottsville Republican Newspaper over the last couple of months, but they chose not to publish them, Why? I don't know. But here on my blog I can publish them.
Recently we were so close to getting compensation for the effects of what we suffer from and then a Senator From Virginia Jim Webb, A Democrat and Vietnam Veteran himself is trying to stop payment on three new AO presumptive diseases. It really hurts when it comes from one of our own Vietnam Vets, But I guess he puts political garbage ahead of honor, and I hope he is not re-elected to the Senate.
Recently, while looking at photos of the guys I served with in Vietnam 40 years ago and seeing the smiles on their faces, I knew we were all going to make it home. Although the Vietnam war has once again reappeared in my life like a bomb shell. Like many of my brothers and sisters who served in Vietnam I now have a major health issue and have had major surgery for this illness. The illness is related to my time spent in Vietnam and my possible exposure to herbicides, such as agent orange.
It is hard to believe but according to Joe Violante, legislative director for DAV, "If you look at the Vietnam veteran population, the diseases we've contracted and the mortality rate, the only group dying at a faster rate are the World War II veterans," Chairman of Government Affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America John Miterko said, "We're picking up diseases by our '60s that we shouldn't be getting until our late '70s, early '80s.
One thing can be assured, the number of Vietnam veteran deaths has almost doubled since 2001 and, according to Department of Veterans Affairs' projections, will hit 103,890 this year -- approaching 300 a day. That's more than five times the average daily number of U.S. combat deaths during the peak casualty year of the war in 1968. Psychology professor John Wilson, at Cleveland State University, said one difference between Vietnam vets and those who served during World War II is that the older vets had closure -- a recognized victory -- for their conflict. The World War II vets came home heroes and were treated as such, he noted. But for the Vietnam vet there was never an end point, psychologically," The impact of war continues long after the shooting stopped.
But it doesn’t end with only the psychological illnesses suffered by Vietnam vets.. During the Vietnam War nineteen million gallons of Agents Orange, Blue, White, and Purple were sprayed in country (over 6 million acres), and it was applied at up to 14 times the recommended domestic agricultural application rate. Subsequently, these chemicals have been banned in the U.S. due to their intense toxicity, being considered, perhaps, the most potent cancer-causing substance ever studied by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, based on studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, lists 15 conditions -- qualifying veterans for service-related compensation -- that might be connected by exposure to the defoliant. Among them are, diabetes, prostate cancer and various other diseases, and recently as of March 25, 2010, Parkinson's disease, B cell leukemia and ischemic heart disease have been added to the list. Unfortunately many years later many of us veterans have and will be causalities from the Vietnam War.
Fortunately for myself my service officer in the VFW, Carmen DeSanti, informed me of the VA’s proposal to add the three new diseases that are related to agent orange exposure. Without his dedication to the veterans of this state, many Vietnam veterans, myself included would never had known about the current status of these diseases and what help is available.
In closing I want it known that I am not writing this letter to complain. I am writing this letter in the hope that some of my fellow Vietnam veterans, who are suffering from or who think they may have an illness related to their service in Vietnam, get checked by their doctors and the VA medical facilities and get the proper kind of help needed to treat them.
Letter 2 July 25, 2010
Recently ,President Obama stated, in reference to easing the regulations for veterans to get compensation for PTSD that, “The country has a "solemn responsibility" to ensure that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder get the help they need”. As a veteran, I applaud his statement in reference to PTSD, especially for those veterans who suffer now and have suffered from its effects for many years. I hope that he follows through with this “solemn responsibility” and that he, as the Commander in Chief, will not let it fall through the maddening bureaucracy and political wrangling that goes on with the Veterans Administration and Washington politics.
Unfortunately, there is a deeper problem going on in this country right now, the battle over the never ending, long term effects from the exposure to Agent Orange. The Vietnam War ended almost 35 years ago, but for many veterans, battles with disease and other maladies associated with defoliants used in the war are only now beginning. For Vietnam veterans, the realization of the dangers of exposure to Agent Orange can be broken into three segments. First, one is totally unaware of the dangers posed by dioxin-laced defoliants sprayed on us in Vietnam. Then, years later, comes the outrage at the discovery of what harm was done to us while serving in Vietnam. Finally, there is the frustration associated with the bureaucracy that wants to forget vets, and the system that is supposedly set up to help one.
For years, the government dragged its feet in recognizing the connection between wartime service and debilitating diseases that strike Vietnam veterans decades later. The compensation Vietnam veterans now receive for herbicide related illnesses was only gained after years of battling between the distorted views of science and the politics of Washington. Unfortunately , all the while, Vietnam veterans were returning home with an invisible killer that would take years to show itself.
Within the Veterans Administration there is a list of eleven presumptive diseases that the V A records as associated with the effects of being exposed to the defoliants sprayed in Vietnam. Recently, the VA added three new diseases to the list making a total of fourteen diseases. The (VA) has irrefutable facts based on studies made by the Institute of Medicine (IOM ) that proves that Agent Orange exposure causes development of hairy cell leukemia, Parkinson's disease, and ischemic heart disease. For many years, Vietnam veterans suffered and died at an early age from the effects of these diseases caused by Agent Orange.
Being a Vietnam veteran, one gets used to some people, or the government, turning against vets and doing their best to make life miserable. But when one of your own turns against you, it hurts even more. Senator Jim Webb (D), Virginia is just such a person. Webb, a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, has proposed Senate Amendment 4222 to the Senate Bill (HR 4899) Agent Orange Equity Bill for the payment of compensation to veterans and their spouses for their exposure to Agent Orange. Webb wants to stop the payment on claims filed for these new presumptive Agent Orange diseases so that Congress has more time to “study “the VA decision and examine more closely the link found between these diseases and herbicide exposure . He feels there is no connection between these diseases and Agent Orange. How many more studies need to be made? Do thousands of Vietnam veterans have to die each year before the VA acts on behalf of the vets? And now Senator Webb, who deems himself a medical scientist and the champion of the taxpayer, wants to hurt the affected Vietnam Veterans by stopping the paying of compensation. This nonsense constitutes Washington politics with Webb selfishly serving his own political agenda.
If Webb and others delay this compensation, in a few years, thousands of Vietnam vets will have died from the effects of these diseases and, in the view of Webb, their deaths will save the government millions of dollars. Webb has turned his back on his brothers and sisters from Vietnam for the sake of Washington politics.
To you, Mr. President, Senators and Congressmen, and military leaders of this country, if you don’t want to compensate Vietnam vets for being injured in the war or from the effects of Agent Orange afterwards, think hard about your responsibility in sending us to Vietnam in the first place. I contacted Senator Robert Casey, Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Tim Holden about this travesty and its effects on the Vietnam veteran. As of this date, I received two reply's from Senator Specter ,a veteran himself, and Senator Casey showing concern. How sad!
I leave you with this solemn reflection. Whatever happened to the duty of our government to care for injured vets, personified in President Lincoln’s affirmation, “To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and orphan” ?
This is A Letter I Sent to Senator Webb, Democrat, from Virginia who is stabbing the Vietnam Vets who suffer from these diseases in the back. Webb is claiming that these diseases are brought on by poor heath and natural aging., What a bunch of crap.
As a Vietnam veteran suffering for years with Ischemic heart disease, that is NOT brought on by normal aging, I want to say that it is apparent from your arrogant tone and recent self- motivated political actions that you obviously and disgracefully fail to support your fellow Vietnam veterans. You are the point person and orchestrator of the supplement to an amendment to the fiscal 2010 war supplemental funding bill (HR 4899) that requests Congress to “study” ( translate: stonewall, impede, frustrate, deny ) the concerns and long-term costs of expanding the list of presumptive illness related to Agent Orange exposure which include Ischemic heart disease, Parkinson's disease and a rare form of leukemia. You feel, as a layperson, that the science is not strong enough to justify Agent Orange as the cause of the above mentioned diseases. Additionally, you lead the effort to thwart the Veterans Administration `s effort to compensate affected veterans and, in doing so, you deny all vets who suffer from these three diseases their justifiable compensation.
Do you have your head in the sand or in the clouds on this issue and are you devoid of sensibility about the horror stories that Agent Orange has wrought on the health of Vietnam vets? I served in Vietnam during the years 70-71. An athlete before going to Vietnam and for a long time after returning, I now suffer with Ischemic heart disease which was identified in my early fifties. How dare you say that these problems are related to common aging! I have been on different medications for heart related issues since my mid twenties. I recently had triple open heart by-bass surgery. And to think this all started just a few years after I returned home from Vietnam!
How could a reasonable and prudent individual with normal intelligence ignore what has been apparent to just about everyone over the last twenty years concerning Agent Orange? With all the studies completed, and you want more? This farce of your additional “study” insults all of us and is a waste of the taxpayer`s money.
Think about this, Mr. Webb, you, a highly decorated Vietnam Veteran as your biography seems to suggest. Over 300 Vietnam War vets die each day, with an average life span that is ten years less than that of the average non-Vietnam Vet. All this because of natural aging, Mr. Webb?
Your arrogance, selfishness, and fecklessness is to an affront and insult to every vet!
All I got to say to you is that you turned your back on your fellow Vietnam veterans for some hidden political agenda. I will do everything in my power to write to Senators, Congressmen, the President , and Veteran organizations regarding your self serving agenda which includes short changing and cheating well deserving vets of rightful compensation . I will write and call fellow veterans in Virginia and my family and friends who live in Virginia and encourage them to vote you out of office. Do you think your fellow veterans will vote for you again? Remember, there are still Vietnam veterans alive and you are a pariah and a disgrace and disappointment to all veterans. Shame on you for your betrayal of vets!
John Stuart Richards
I WROTE THIS LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE POTTSVILLE REPUBLICAN AND WAS PRINTED ON SEPT 10, 2010 CONCERNING THAT WORTHLESS ARTICLE WRITTEN BY AP WRITER MIKE BAKER.
In reading the article in The Republican-Herald printed on Aug. 30, titled "Diabetes now tops Vietnam vets claims," I was angry and dismayed with the way the writer, Mike Baker from the AP, reported this subject.
But being a Vietnam vet has made me much stronger over the years, so I regrouped and decided to address his less than accurate claims. This typical diatribe, filled with inaccuracies, accompanied by his feckless reporting, mirrors the same stereotyping that plagues Vietnam vets since the war ended in 1975.
If people like Mr. Baker cannot attack our honor, our service or our courage, they will try their utmost to write inflammatory articles aimed at undermining the public's sentiment and hence, undermine the important and well-deserved support vets earn.
Recently, the VA passed a regulation that will pay deserving Vietnam veterans compensation for the years of sickness brought about by the effects of exposure to Agent Orange. And now, during times of national economic distress facing this country, some feel it is an opportunity to try and stop these deserving payments by writing inflammatory articles that are baseless in fact, such as Mr. Bakers'.
A fellow Vietnam vet and brother suffering from the effects of Agent Orange recently wrote the following in reply to Mr. Baker's article:
"There have been pros and cons on this war since the '60s and we Vietnam vets don't really care. These are the things we do know. We went to Vietnam and we did our job. We came home. Some of us got sick with these presumptive diseases at an early age. The government has said there is a chance that our poor health may have been caused by Agent Orange.
"They also say they want to pay us for our disabilities. We didn't ask for any of this. We didn't ask to go to Vietnam; we didn't ask to get sick. We didn't blame our sicknesses on AO, and we didn't beg for money because of it. We didn't make the rules that sent us there; we just played by their rules. That's what we will do now, we will play by the rules. For those of you in the world who think the rules are wrong, then change them. The one thing we as Vietnam veterans want to say to the naysayers is just leave us alone. We didn't make any of these decisions; they are made by the government, not us.
"Mr. Baker and the rest of the anti-veteran establishment, how about getting off our backs and after 40-plus years just say 'THANK YOU' and 'WELCOME HOME.' "
I echo the words of my fellow vet. When you or Mr. Baker see one of us Vietnam vets, just say "Thank you" and "Welcome home."