A process long overdue

A process long overdue
VA&R Deputy Director Joe Wilson testifies about the health effects of the Vietnam War before members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Photo: Craig Roberts

In his testimony before Congress on May 4, American Legion staffer Joe Wilson reminded congress that one of the Legion's top priorities is "to assure that long overdue, major epidemiological studies of Vietnam veterans, who were exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, are carried out."

Wilson, deputy director of The American Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, reminded the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs that The American Legion had collaborated with a Columbia University research team that has developed a powerful method for characterizing exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. A 2003 report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), "Characterizing Exposure of Veterans to Agent Orange and Other Herbicides Used in Vietnam," was based on the team's research.

"In its final report on the study, the IOM urgently recommends that epidemiological studies be undertaken - now that an accepted exposure methodology is available. The American Legion strongly endorses this IOM report," Wilson told the committee, chaired by Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif.

Such a health study has yet to be carried out, according to Wilson, although VA estimates that about 900,000 Vietnam veterans are eligible for treatment of Agent Orange-related diseases: Type II diabetes, Hodgkin's Disease, ischemic heart disease, Parkinson's Disease, prostate and respiratory cancers, and some forms of soft-tissue sarcoma.

In his testimony, Wilson also addressed the issue of diseases that affect children of Vietnam veterans, including Type II diabetes and spina bifida. "It is The American Legion's contention that more conclusive research be conducted to determine if the effects of exposure to herbicides in Vietnam affected the offspring of those who served," Wilson said.

The American Legion believes the latest IOM report on Agent Orange supports the inclusion of "blue water" Navy veterans within presumptive-condition categories. The report "provides scientific justification to the legislation currently pending in Congress that seeks to correct this grave injustice faced by Blue Water Navy veterans," Wilson said.

The VA's plans to restart its 1984 National Vietnam Veterans Longitudinal Study (halted in 2001) was also addressed in Wilson's testimony. According to VA, the new study will examine the Vietnam-era generation's physical and psychological health. It will also provide supplemental research on post-traumatic stress disorder and the health of women Vietnam veterans.

Wilson said The American Legion supports the follow-up study, announced by VA in September 2009, and wants to make sure that "federal government committees charged with review of such research are composed of impartial members of the medical and scientific community." The Legion encouraged proper congressional oversight and input from veterans service organizations to make sure the study is not halted again.

"Since 1990, when The American Legion brought suit against the U.S. government for failure to carry out its congressionally mandated Agent Orange study," Wilson told the committee, "The American Legion remains steadfast in its belief that such studies are needed."

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aethomasthomas

October 10, 2012 - 12:08pm

VIETNAM IS VIETNAM...EXPOSURE TO AGENT ORANGE DIDNT TELL AGENT ORANGE IT WAS BLUE WATER OR BROWN WATER NAVY.......THE VA JUST FOUND A WAY OUT OF CLAIMS...GOD BLESS THE HOSPITAL SHIPS...IN 1965-66 WE SAW ONE OF THEM WITH US, THE USS FRED T BERRY DD 858....

Buckeyebill

December 15, 2010 - 1:45pm

The forgotten Navy!! These two hospital ships have been completely igored by the Navy, VA and yes you. The Sanctuary and Repose were non-rotating hospital ships which operated from DaNang, Hue/Quang Tri and China Beach. Not Blue Water Navy not Brown Water Navy but Agent Orange exposed YES!!Exposed daily for years so the Brown Water/Blue Water Navy concept is flawed at the very least. All that is asked is for some one to do the reseach...........

LarryR

May 7, 2010 - 12:28pm

I am wondering why I can't get Agent Orange on my records since I remember it being stored and sprayed on Guam when I was there in 1965-66

aj

May 7, 2010 - 10:36am

The comment about the effects of the herbicide on the offspring of veterans should be thoroughly investigated. The VA only considers offspring that are proven to have a death-threatening disease and related to agent orange. But in the case of my daughter with a disfiguring acne all of her life is just as bad. She is 37 years of age and has had the acne all of her life. I developed a very bad case of acne after the service, which lasted until I was in my forties. In the case of my daughter, the Doctors kept asking whether I had been exposed to chemicals or it run in the family. My family never had any acne problems. And my answer to chemical exposure was always no. I did not know better until I read an article of the possible connection. Of course the agent orange specialist denied any relationship when I told him.

Margaret

May 7, 2010 - 1:51am

Mr.Deputy Director Joe Wilson, Your work and those who work along with you is greatly appreciated by me as a wife of a Combat Wounded Vietnam Veteran. I'm sure I speak for so many other wives and veterans too. However, I have a question regarding your article as mentioned in my subject. My husband does have a couple of problems as a result of the exposures in Vietnam, but there is one thing that I haven't seen mentioned or maybe I've missed it. Has cirrhosis of the liver ever been considered as a related disease of Agent Orange? Thank you again for all your help and concern for our veterans.

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