An AO Proposal That Did Not Make It … For Our Children

An AO Proposal That Did Not Make It…

 Submitted late, it never made it to committee, no less the ‘floor.’ Still, having merit, being too late for the Convention does NOT mean it is too late for something to be done.

 WE could start the ball rolling; I stand ready to champion this task. All I need is the right volunteers to help.

 That said…

 Not For Us, For Our Children and Theirs…
“There Is Strength In Numbers, And If We All Work Together As A Team, We Can Be Unstoppable.”
— Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder Free The Children

 Resolution Submitted by: Walter Schmidt, Life Member, Chapter 82 — Dated: July 6, 2013
Responsible Committee: Agent Orange

Talking Points:

–    Over 20 years ago, it was known dioxin causes birth defects in children of exposed parents.
–    After over 2 decades of research VA has only associated 1 birth defect with dioxin exposure.
–    1969, National Institute of Health confirmed the extremely toxic dioxin compound could cause malformations and stillbirths in mice.
–    1987, Ranch Hand scientists confirmed that birth defects report shows that birth defects among Ranch Hand children are double those of children in the control group.
–    1990, Adm. Zumwalt’s May report stated there is adequate evidence to conclude there is a relationship between exposure to Agent Orange and … birth defects, among other things.
–    2010, the AO/DOTS Committee issued “Birth Defects Position Paper,” which includes “Children are our future,” and “This is an important “NOW” issue.” Since that report was issued, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled … did not change.
–    2011, VVA Annual Report: “AO town hall meetings were held to explore issues surrounding exposure to AO.” VVA opened a FaceBook page, Faces of Agent Orange. “Many Vietnam veterans have serious illnesses related to AO. Their children and grandchildren have birth defects related to it.” Since the first posting to this FaceBook page, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled … did not change.
–    How long must we wait, how many studies must be done. For years we have spoken with a single voice, or in small groups heard by just a few, to little or no avail. It is time for a different approach.

Therefore…

–    We must “all” become more actively involved with obtaining for our children that to which our military service should entitle them.
–    Organizations have adopted a Key-Person program to ensure that their voice is not only heard but that the message carried by their voice is acted upon; it is time the VVA do the same.
–    A Key-Person program would maintain regular and continuing individual personal contact with each Member of Congress and every selected State Legislator.
–    The program would accomplish this through the development and maintenance of a cadre of politically sophisticated and knowledgeable members across the country.
–    VVA and State Councils would keep Key-Persons up-to-date in all legislative and political issues affecting the VVA through an Advocacy Center and email Action Alerts.
–    Implementation of the Key-Person Program would occur in three phases.
–    Phases I, a test in 10 states (e.g., NYS: over 5,000 VVA members & over 200 elected officials).
–    Phase II, the presentation, at the 2014 VVA Leadership Conference, of an implementation-plan for the remaining, not yet implemented in, states.
–    Phase III, the preparation and presentation of the necessary Constitutional (National) and By-Law (State Council and Chapter) changes to make permanent the Key-Person Program, with these changes to be voted on at our 2015 VVA Constitution Convention.
–    The first task of our Key-Person Program, the situation with which our children are faced due to the VA’s lack of recognition of what has been known by so many of us, for so long now.

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Not For Us, For Our Children and Theirs…
“There Is Strength In Numbers, And If We All Work Together As A Team, We Can Be Unstoppable.”
— Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder Free The Children

Submitted by: Walter Schmidt, Life Member, Chapter 82
Dated: July 6, 2013
Resolution endorsed by Chapter: NOT YET OFFERED
Resolution endorsed by State Council: NOT YET OFFERED
Date endorsed by State Council Delegates: N/A
Responsible Committee: Agent Orange
Resolution endorsed by Committee: NOT YET OFFERED
Revision existing Resolution: NO

Issue: Over 20 years ago, it was already known by some that dioxin causes birth defects in the children of parents exposed to it. Many of those who served in our armed forces and were exposed to dioxin know of this horror first hand. Yet what is the Department of Veterans Affairs continuing position on this. “A male or female Veteran’s child may be eligible if … [t]he child has been diagnosed with a form of Spina Bifida.” “A female Veteran’s child may be eligible if … [t]he child has a [variety of] birth defect[s].” “[However,][t]hese diseases are not tied to herbicides, including Agent Orange, or dioxin exposure, but rather to the birth mother’s service in Vietnam.” Simply put, after more than two-decades of research the VA has only associated one birth defect with exposure to dioxin, one of the active-ingredients in the herbicides used in Vietnam. This position was unacceptable over twenty years ago and is especially unacceptable today, after what we have learned during these past twenty-plus years.

Background: While the issue started over 50 years ago (http://wp.me/p12t3D-g/), let’s move forward to a little over 20 years ago. It is May 5, 1990, and the “Report To Secretary Of The Department Of Veterans Affairs On The Association Between Adverse Health Effects And Exposure To Agent Orange – Classified Confidential Status (Declassified) – As Reported by Special Assistant Admiral E.R. Zumwalt, Jr.” was issued (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-2d). The original manually typed manuscript runs over 50 pages. A reconstituted version of that report runs over 30 pages. At the beginning of the report, Admiral Zumwalt wrote, “After reviewing the scientific literature related to the health effects of Vietnam Veterans exposed to Agent Orange as well as other studies concerning the health hazards of civilian exposure to dioxin contaminants, I conclude that there is adequate evidence for the [VA] Secretary to reasonably conclude that it is at least as likely as not that there is a relationship between exposure to Agent Orange and the following health problems … birth defects.” Further on in his report the Admiral notes, “By October, 1969, the National Institute of Health confirmed that 2,4,5-T [contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), an extremely toxic dioxin compound]could cause malformations and stillbirths in mice…” “While birth defects did significantly increase in Saigon, critics contend that Saigon was not an area where the preponderance of defoliation missions were flown and argue that such increases were due primarily to the influx of U.S. medical personnel who kept better records of birth defects. Subsequent studies in Vietnam confirm the incidence of increased birth defects among civilian populations exposed to Agent Orange.” “Although Dow Chemical Company, the primary manufacturer of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, denied this teratogenicity (causing of birth defects), Dow’s own tests confirmed that when dioxin was present in quantities exceeding production specifications, birth defects did occur.” “For example, in 1987 Ranch Hand scientists confirmed to Senator Daschle that an unpublished birth defects report shows that birth defects among Ranch Hand children are double those of children in the control group and not “minor” as originally reported in l984. This increase in birth defects takes on added significance when one considers that the original CDC birth defects study, which found no increase in birth defects, merely examined birth defects as reported on birth certificates, rather than as reported by the child’s parent or physician. The CDC never recorded hidden birth defects, such as internal organ malformations and other disabilities that only became apparent as the child developed. Consequently, it is very likely that the CDC’s negative findings on birth defects were also vastly understated.” Remember, that was issued in May of 1990.

In January 2010, the AO/DOTS (Agent Orange/Dioxin And Other Toxic Substances) Committee, issued a draft “Birth Defects Position Paper” (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-2L). It begins, “Children are our future.” Here are several further excerpts, “What is the future of the children of Vietnam veterans and other veterans with toxic, service-related exposures?” “It is clear that the health impact of exposures on our veterans’ children, grandchildren, and future generations is of the utmost importance.“ “Given the lack of research [accepted by the VA], there are real concerns that the birth defects issue in the offspring of Vietnam veterans’ children will still be debated forty years from now. We cannot let this happen. In forty years, none of us will be around to fight for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren. This is an important “NOW” issue.” In the three years since that report was issued, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled… did not change.

In July, 2010, in an attempt to give Congress a better understanding on what our exposure to dioxin laden herbicides in Vietnam was doing to us, the VVA provided Congress with five letters (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-2o). In the first letter, John Rowan wrote: “In 1978, a veteran named Paul Reutershan told an interviewer, in what was to be one of the most memorable quotes from the Vietnam War, “I died in Vietnam and didn’t even know it.” Several months later, Mr. Reutershan died. The second letter, from Rick Weidman, dealt with the 1990 Zumwalt Report. Rick wrote: “Please find below a short summary of the Zumwalt Report (1990).” Included in the summary, “Hearings on and investigation into the Agent Orange issue have revealed that nearly every study on the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange has been riddled with ‘deception, fraud, and political interference.’” Letter three, also from Rick, included: “Please find below some highlights of the Agent Orange Act of 1991 (Public Law 102-4), the legislation which mandated compensation for veterans [and their children] who suffer from maladies related to exposure to dioxin, the malicious chemical compound used in Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam and elsewhere by the United States military.” Letter four, also authored by Rick concerns the “Agent Orange Relative Presumptive Service-Connected Health Conditions.” The fifth and final letter, the fourth to be penned by Rick Weidman, deals with the system by which disability compensation is awarded to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange [and] who suffer from the health conditions that the Department of Veterans Affairs has determined are “presumptive service-connected.” In the three years since these letters were presented to Congress, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled… did not change.

Taken from page 6 of the VVA’s 2011 Annual Report (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-2Z): “Agent Orange town hall meetings, hosted by VVA chapters and state councils nationwide, were held to explore issues surrounding exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals.” “VVA has laid much of the groundwork for legislation within the next year or two that will assist many veterans and families currently suffering from AO-related illnesses. VVA will continue this work until we get it done.” It should be noted that in The VVA Veteran March/April 2006, there is an article entitled, “The VVA Chapter 25’s Guidelines For Putting On A Successful Town Hall” (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-2U). The Article develops 18 items in a Town-Hall-Meeting checklist. The checklist begins with, “Identify the priority legislative issue that will be the subject of your Town Hall Meeting,” and ends with, “Adopt a resolution. This resolution should formally request immediate adoption of specific legislative action.” In the two years since 2011, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled… did not change.

As was said in the 2011 Annual Report, “VVA will continue [its] work until we get it done.” On May 18, 2011, the VVA opened a FaceBook page, Faces of Agent Orange as part of its Agent Orange Education Campaign (http://www.wp.me/p12t3D-33). Taken from their ABOUT page, “Many Vietnam veterans have serious illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure. Now, their children and grandchildren have birth defects related to it.” “To alert legislators and the media to this ongoing legacy of the war, we are seeking real stories about real people.” In that regard, I know a fellow Hicksville High School grad, named Joe. I call him friend, I call him brother, he can call me to ‘cover his back’ at any time; no questions asked. What he and his wife endure I would not wish on my worst enemy. Their real story should go a long way to alert legislators and the media to the ongoing legacy of the war. More about Joe’s story can be found at (http://www.vva.org/Committees/AgentOrange/Ingino.pdf). And, more about other families’ real-stories can be found at (http://www.vva.org/Committees/AgentOrange/#FAO). In the two years since the first posting to this FaceBook page, the VA’s position on to what our offspring are entitled… did not change.

How long must we wait, how many studies must be done, how many real-stories must be compiled before our children and their children are provided the medical services that our service in Vietnam SHOULD have already caused them to be entitled. For years we have spoken with a single voice, or in small groups heard by just a few, and to little or no avail. It is time for a different approach.

Therefore…

Be It Resolved, That: We must “all” become more actively involved with obtaining for our children that to which our military service should entitle them. As Craig Kielburger, Co-Founder of Free The Children, an organization to stop child slavery, has said, “There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable.”

We do not need more time being spent on the oversight of internal affairs. We do not need more internal discussions on issues about which there have already been endless internal and external discussions. We do not need to develop more policies or procedures. And we certainly do not need to allocate any of our limited resources to building our organization for the future. Many, if not most of us are reaching the proverbial “three-score and ten” years of age. For us our future is now.

Our 65,000 members must take highly-visible, positive action today… if we intend to help provide for our children’s tomorrows.

Many other organizations have adopted a Key-Person program in order to ensure that their voice is not only heard but that the message carried by their voice is acted upon; it is time the VVA do the same. Our Key-Person program would be a cooperative effort of National and the State Councils. Some of the responsibilities of a Key-Person include (1) maintaining personal contact with their assigned member of Congress (usually someone with whom the member already shares a personal, business, or political relationship) and a Key Person Coordinator, (2) staying current on issues affecting the VVA, (3) taking immediate action to contact their member of Congress or State Legislator when National or State Council issues an “action alert” concerning a particular issue, (4) promptly summarizing and reporting to their State Council and National Key Person Coordinator the nature and results of each contact, including potential legislative opportunities and problems, and (5) attending political events for National or State Council as needed or when requested.

Simply stated, the Key-Person program would be established to maintain regular and continuing personal contact with each Member of Congress and each State Legislator. The program would accomplish this through the development and maintenance of a cadre of politically sophisticated and knowledgeable members across the country with the ability to influence Members of Congress and State Legislators, in minimal time, when action is needed on an issue affecting the VVA and its members and our families.

The Key-Person program would be a vitally important supplement to the efforts of National and State Councils because it:

– Reinforces for the Members of Congress and State Legislators that the views expressed by National and State Councils are representative of the views of the Representative’s constituents;

– Heightens the Representative’s accountability to his or her constituents and provides a double avenue to influence public policy decisions; and

– Localizes in the Representatives’ mind, the political impact of enacted legislation.

Key-Persons should be well versed in all legislative and political issues affecting the VVA. In a sense, each Key-Person is a lobbyist who must be able to communicate the VVA’s positions to Members of Congress and State Legislators clearly and understandably.

VVA and State Councils would keep Key-Persons up-to-date through an Advocacy Center. When issues arise where timely contact and feedback are needed, Action Alerts are sent to Key-Persons (generally via email).

Responsibilities of the Key Person Coordinator at both the National and State Council levels include: (1) Seeing that contacts with Members of Congress and State Legislators are made in a timely (and often time-sensitive) manner, (2) answering questions, providing information and counseling Key-Persons, (3) Summarizing Key-Person reports and promptly reporting to the State Council and National on actual and potential situations, with their associated opportunities and problems, (4) Recruiting Key-Persons and their replacements. When recruiting Key-Persons, the geographic and demographic characteristics of the state should be kept in mind. The recruitment effort should be directed toward having Key-Persons in all legislative districts, (5) attending political events as needed and when requested, and (6) helping distribute VVA correspondence (that is, Action Alerts) to appropriate Key-Persons.

In summary, the Key-Person Program is the establishment of effective communication links between the VVA and elected representatives through personal rapport.

The implementation of the Key-Person Program would occur in three phases, with the third phase being the preparation and presentation of the necessary Constitutional (National) and By-Law (State Council and Chapter) changes to make permanent the Key-Person Program, with these changes to be voted on at our 2015 VVA Constitution Convention.

The overall implementation of the Key-Person Program, Phases I, II, and III would occur under the auspices of an ad hoc committee whose responsibilities would include (1) the design of the Key Person Coordinator position/program at both the National and State Council levels, (2) the implementation of the Key Person Coordinator position/program at the National level, (3) the design and implementation in the first test State the Key-Person Program and its first task (perhaps New York State which has over 5,000 VVA members and over 200 elected officials), followed by (at least) nine other states, (4) the development for and the presentation at the 2014 VVA Leadership Conference, an implementation-plan for the remaining, not yet implemented in, states, and (5) the development of the aforementioned Constitution and By-Law changes.

The first task of our Key-Person Program will be the situation with which our children are faced, due to the VA’s lack of recognition of what has been known by so many of us, for so long now. The vehicle used should be a set of short letters, introduced by our President John Rowan, similar to those issued in July 2010, but with one difference. The set of letters would be reviewed with each federal and selected state elected official, personally, by their VVA Key-Person representative.

“There is strength in numbers, and if we all work together as a team, we can be unstoppable,” but only if we are working together at “doing” a thing. The last twenty-plus years, if it has taught us anything, should have taught us that when it comes to the benefits to which our children should be entitled because of our military service, there are those who are more than willing to let the “talking about” such a thing, go on as if it… was unstoppable.

That was the proposal. What I need now is all the AO Chairs from all NYS VVA Chapters to email me at wschmidt@oysterbay-ny.gov – more then to follow.

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VVA Faces of Agent Orange Facebook Page

Faces of Agent Orange (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faces-of-Agent-Orange/187669911280144) is part of the VVA Agent Orange Education Campaign, a project of Vietnam Veterans of America.

The following is taken from their ABOUT page.

Many Vietnam veterans have serious illnesses related to Agent Orange exposure. Now, their children and grandchildren have birth defects related to it. Learn more about the struggle to identify the effects of Agent Orange and find treatment for those who served, their children and their grandchildren.

To alert legislators and the media to this ongoing legacy of the war, we are seeking real stories about real people. If you wish to share your family’s health struggles that you believe are due to Agent Orange/dioxin, send an email to mporter@vva.org or call 301-585-4000, Ext. 146.

A copy of the full-content of the ABOUT page can be found here.

But these are just words ABOUT the FACES. To put some ‘flesh’ to those words…

I know a fellow Hicksville High School grad, Joe. I call him friend, I call him brother, he can call me to ‘cover his back’ at any time; no questions asked. What he and his wife endure I would not wish on my worst enemy.

Joe served with the First Infantry Division in 1969-70. In 1971, he met the woman who was to be his wife. In 1972, they married. His wife would suffer through several miscarriages, but eventually they had six children, one of whom lived for only a brief time. All of his children have asthma; all of them showed learning disabilities in their school years. In later years, there would be a grandson, but he, too, would be diagnosed with health issues — hearing difficulties and autism. None of the birth defects or illnesses had shown up anywhere in Joe’s family medical history or his wife’s.

In his own words, “Talking about it now, you just get choked up,” he said. “Sometimes you want to punch something, you know? You just keep blaming yourself.” “I thought I was just another regular Vietnam vet with some PTSD problems and stuff,” he said. “Then everything started weighing on me more with my children.” “We blame ourselves,” he said. “It bothered me immensely. It really bothered me. Just the idea of it.” “Vets need to get their stories out about children, and let the country know what they’re going through, and what their children are going through.

Joe’s full story can be found here.

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VVA AO Town Hall Meetings – 2011 Annual Report

Taken from page 6 of the VVA 2011 Annual Report…

Agent Orange town hall meetings, hosted by VVA chapters and state councils nationwide, were held to explore issues surrounding exposure to Agent Orange and other toxic chemicals, including scientific information, health effects, and methods of educating the public and elected representatives about the issues of Vietnam veterans, their children, and their families. VVA remains in the lead on Agent Orange, seeking new legislation mandating further enhancements to funding Agent Orange research, epidemiological studies, epigenetic studies of veterans and their progeny, and research into other toxins to which veterans of many generations have been exposed. VVA has laid much of the groundwork for legislation within the next year or two that will assist many veterans and families currently suffering from AO-related illnesses. VVA will continue this work until we get it done.

The full report can be found here.

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VVA Veteran March/April 2006 Guidelines For A Successful Town Hall

The full title of the March/April 2006 article is: ‘The VVA Chapter 25’s Guidelines For Putting On A Successful Town Hall.” It develops 18 items in its Town Hall Meeting checklist.

Here are the first and last items.

1. Identify the priority legislative issue that will be the subject of your Town Hall Meeting.  [T]he issue may be national in scope, or it may involve a state or local VVA concern, requiring action by a state legislature or local government body. The issue will determine the focus and target of the meeting.

18. Adopt a resolution. This resolution should formally request immediate adoption of specific legislative action. Send copies of this resolution to all targeted elected officials and local news outlets. The Town Hall Meeting can be a very effective tool for VVA activists in seeking widespread support for policy initiatives that have been designated a priority by VVA at any governmental level.

The full article can be found here.

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AO/DOTS Committee Draft Birth Defects Position Paper January 14, 2010

Alan Oates, Chairman AO/DOTS (Agent Orange/Dioxin And Other Toxic Substances) Committee, issued a draft “Birth Defects Position Paper 1/14/2010,” which runs 14 pages. What follows are some quotes from that document.

Children are our future. We have all heard that common saying. What is the future of the children of Vietnam veterans and other veterans with toxic, service-related exposures? There is a growing realization that both maternal and paternal toxic exposures play a role in the birth defects of the children and future generations of the exposed individuals. Research in the field of epigenetics also points toward toxic exposures turning on or off genes that, when passed on to the child, could lead to the onset of diseases later in life. We now know that when we send service members in harm’s way, battlefields toxins also place the future offspring of those service members in harm’s way.

It is clear that the health impact of exposures on our veterans’ children, grandchildren, and future generations is of the utmost importance to VVA and it members. As such, it must be given the highest priority by our committee. It is also clear that both maternally mediated and paternally mediated birth defects are equally important to the committee. While there is a large body of work on the impact of maternally mediated birth defect, there are limited studies on birth defect mediated by the fathers. The committee has concerns about the VA’s limitations on the coverage of birth defects.

Given the lack of research, there are real concerns that the birth defects issue in the offspring of Vietnam veterans’ children will still be debated forty years from now. We cannot let this happen. In forty years, none of us will be around to fight for our children, our grand children, and our great-grand children. This is an important “NOW” issue.

The complete text of this document can be found here.

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