LVMAC Tidbits

Lejeune Update … Depression Hits Older Veterans … Latest Agent Orange Info … HIV Test encouraged

Vet Toxic Exposure … Lejeune:  A Senate bill (S.277) (Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act of 2011) would make it easier for veterans and their families affected by contaminated water aboard base to receive medical assistance.  It has the support of 22 National and state organizations.  It is NC senators who introduced the bill.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, at least 500,000 people may have been exposed in the 30-year period from 1957 to 1987 to a host of toxic chemicals, including known human carcinogens benzene and vinyl chloride, as well as drying cleaning solvents and degreasers.  It’s the largest DoD environmental contamination on record.

Specifically, the  bill would provides hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care for any illness acquired by veterans and family members who were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, while the water there was contaminated by volatile organic compounds, including known human carcinogens and probable human carcinogen.

The bill was introduced and read twice in late February, referred to the Veterans Affairs Committee, and is now being reported out to the Congress without amendment as of 29 June.

Meanwhile the DoD (Navy?)  study is not due survey completion till after December 2011.

Primary Source:  RAO Bulletin, 1 Jul 2011 and  <http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d112:1:./temp/~bdIh9F:@@@L&summ2=m&|/home/LegislativeData.php|>

Depression Reports for those over 65 are high: According to the VA‘s National Registry for Depression, 11% of Veterans aged 65 years and older have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, a rate more than twice that found in the general population of adults aged 65 and older. The actual rate of depression among older Veterans may be even higher, since not all Veterans with depression receive a diagnosis from their health care provider.  The danger is it can lead to other complications, including suicide.

Veterans or family members who recognize any of the symptoms in this story should see their VA health provider. They can also call the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 for confidential help.

Primary Sources:  Veterans Today article 24 Jun 2011; http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml and http://nihseniorhealth.gov/depression/toc.html.

Agent Orange and the Blue Water Navy:  It has been nearly a month since the Institute of Medicine released its report on Agent Orange exposure and so-called Blue Water Navy veterans from Vietnam, yet the Department of Veterans Affairs says it is still reviewing the document. That‘s not surprising, for the report is chock-full of non-conclusions, unknowns and uncertainties.

“The committee could not find enough data to determine whether or not Blue Water Navy personnel were exposed to Agent Orange-associated TCDD,” the report said, using the initials for dioxin, the toxic chemical in Agent Orange that has been linked to many diseases. Indeed, the report was so full of caveats that the committee all but conceded that its report would not resolve the debate over who was exposed to, and potentially sickened by, dioxin. “Given the lack of measurements taken during the war and the almost 40 years since the war, this will never be a matter of science but instead a matter of policy,” the authors wrote.

Nevertheless, advocates for the deep-sea sailors argue that the report provides them powerful ammunition for gaining benefits that have already been given to troops that actually set foot in Vietnam. Indeed, one group argues that the lack of conclusiveness in the report actually bolsters the case that all Vietnam veterans, regardless of whether they served on the ground, in the air or miles off the coast, should be treated the same.

By some estimates, as many as 800,000 service members could be eligible for expanded benefits if the legislation passes, with the cost potentially running into billions of dollars. But Mr. Wells said the number of eligible Blue Water veterans who are still alive could be fewer than 60,000. The debate continues.

Meanwhile there is a new list out as of May 2011. Go to http://veteransinfo.tripod.com/newlistofships.pdf . More vessels that operated primarily or exclusively on Vietnam‘s inland waterways; ships that temporarily operated in these inland waterways or docked to the shore; and ships that operated in Vietnam‘s close coastal waters for extended periods with evidence that crewmembers went ashore have been added.  If a veteran’s service aboard one of these ships can be confirmed through his military records during the specified time frames, exposure to herbicides can be presumed and service-related benefits may be available for Agent Orange-related ailments.

Primary Source: RAO Bulletin, 1 Jul 2011 and  New York Times James Dao article 16 Jun 2011 ++

New Federal Benefits Handbook for Veterans, Dependents and Survivors is out: No hardcopies are currently available, but it is posted to lvmac.wordpress.com blog site.

VA Urging Veterans to Get Tested for HIV: VA is the largest single provider of HIV care in the country, taking care of approximately 24,000 Veterans with HIV a year.  VA has the latest and best treatments available for HIV, enabling VA patients with HIV to live healthier, longer lives.  VA’s goal is to diagnose HIV infection as soon as possible, in order to get patients into excellent care.

Primary Source: <http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2123>

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As of 20 July 2011

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