Janet's Conner

This Blog tell the Truth and will never not tell the Truth. Impeach Bush

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Veterans Issues: "CAN WE TRUST THE INFO WE'RE GETTING ABOUT OUR EXPOSURE TO DEPLETED URANIUM?"

Veteran's Advocate Jim Strickland says, "No, you can not!"

Jim Strickland
via: VA Watchdog dot Org
September 11, 2006

Depleted uranium (DU) has caught your attention and generated some mail for me recently. Veterans are hearing more buzz about their risks and want to know who to turn to for meaningful information. More than anything else, Veterans want to know if they should be concerned or if they can beleive what Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), are telling them.

Depleted Uranium is a by-product of the process of creating nuclear energy or making weapons. Its radioactivity is low and brief exposure probably isn't as hazardous as a dental x-ray. It's a super-hard material that makes it ideal for weapons designed to penetrate heavy armor or in the obverse, building heavy armor that's impenatrable to conventional weaponry. The health hazard comes in not from brief exposure but from breathing fumes or inhaling microscopic fragments when DU is used as intended. Sucked into your lungs it stays there emitting its radioactive particles...forever.

Imbedded shrapnel in human tissue is a no-brainer, retaining "souvenirs" from the battlefield and taking the stuff home secretively is a known issue too...soldiers have done that since before the Romans conquered their world.

Today, DOD & VA are telling us that we needn't worry, we should be happy! They're aware of all the potentials and have a handle on everything. Hmmm, there's that strange and annoying feeling again...it's like I've been here before.

I'm a curmudgeon and a cynic and I'm proud of it. I have a relaible built-in detection system that alerts me if someone is trying to be less than straight-up with me. This isn't a complex system, it's been perfected over the years by paying close attention to the historic behavior of the individual or entity sharing info with me today. If they weren't open and truthful back then, I doubt they will today.

One of the many advantages of being 57 years old is that I remember the 1960s well. There was a little conflict going on in a small country on the other side of the globe no one had ever heard of. America was sending in advisors to assist the good guys in their fight against the evil of communism because for some reason the French had pulled their military out.

In a flash we were up to our eyeballs in a fight most of us didn't understand and the happy days of the early 60s were suddenly replaced with images of our country torn in two. Young American students were being shot and killed on American college campuses by uniformed young American troops and terms like "body bag" and "napalm" entered our lexicon as we heard the daily reports of enemy and American KIA.

We had never fought a war like this before, there were no front lines and we couldn't see the enemy in a country that had few spaces that weren't lush, thick jungle. We wanted a war that was more conventional and an enemy we could see so we decided to turn the landscape into something we understood...a treeless clearing that would expose the enemy and force the fight to be on our terms.

In 1961, the United States began spraying herbicides to defoliate the jungles of Vietnam. Agent Orange was the most heavily used of the rainbow of dioxin laced defoliants. It's said that Americn pilots quipped, "Remember! Only you can prevent forests!," while they flew over hundreds of thousands of acres spraying thousand of 55 gallon drums of AO. In 1969, the extensice use of herbicides was halted after a National Institute of Health report concluded that dioxon caused stillbirth in mice. It was in about 1971 that the last gallon or two of AO was used. Today, dioxin is banned worldwide.

It was about 1978 that the VA began to receive claims from Veterans who said that their health problems were a result of their exposure to AO while serving in RVN. In 1979, Congress enacted Public Law 96-151 and ordered VA to conduct a study to determine if expsoure to AO had caused health issues for the RVN Veterans.

We Viet Nam veterans have a collective memory that tells us that soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen were hardly ever instructed in the safe use of dioxin compounds and at the same time we were assured that it wasn't going to hurt us. Military service carries risk and there's a strong macho component that makes us shrug off danger, particularly if our leaders are promising us that we're safe. So, many of our 17, 18, and 19-year-old troops lit a cigarette [provided in our rations...they were good for you] and strapped on a backpack sprayer of AO and went out to kill some jungle.

Accurate records of exposure are non-existent. We aren't even sure if we used 19 million gallons or 21 million gallons. Until the late 1980s, there was still debate as to whether there was even a problem. At a 1983 convention, the American Medical Association (AMA) offered a resolution calling for a public information campaign on dioxin to "prevent irrational reaction and unjustified public fright." That AMA said that, "the news media have made dioxon the focus of a witch hunt by disseminating rumors, hearsay and unconfirmed, unscientific reports..."

Problem? With Dioxon and Vietnam troops? What Problem? We see no problem. It's only those whining Veterans again.

Today, we know that we were lied to. There's no other way to phrase that and make it more palatable. Our government failed us by refusing to act in a timely fashion to collate records, contact Veterans, establish information centers and health screening programs and to recognize and adequately compensate those who were harmed.

If you take a walk through a VA Medical Center with me today you'll soon become aware of the enormity of it all...the halls are blanketed with Veterans being treated for cancers, diabetes, nerve diseases and more and they are all "presumptive" to be related to AO exposure. More come forward or die quietly every day.

None of those Veterans had any prior notification of anything they could do to help themselves. Although there are numerous AO programs available today for RVN Veterans, they continue to be passive, the Veterans has to seek them out and ask for help, VA does not seek out the Veteran to notify them of programs available to assist them. Are you aware that a large group of Korean Veterans may have dioxin exposure? No, probably not...the VA isn't shouting that from the rooftops either.

The DOD says, "The voluntary Veterans Affairs Depleted Uranium Medical Follow-up program remains the most important source for identifying potential untoward health effects..." "Voluntaty" means that you have to hear about it from a friend or stumble across it on the Internet, much like the Agent Orange registry in current use, VA isn't going to the trouble to urge you to participate.

How many of you knew (until you read that sentence above) that VA is conducting a Medical Follow-up Program for those of you who served where DU may have been used?

In answer to you who have asked me, "Can we trust the information we're getting about our exposure to Depleted Uranium?," the answer is a very firm, "No, you can not."

Once again, our government is reactive, not proactive and more concerned with partisan politics than aiding a Veteran. If you have been exposed or if you have been in any arena, combat or otherwise, where you may have been exposed, you must seek out and demand information to help yourself. Don't wait until this becomes another Agent Orange debacle. Don't act surprised as your health deteriorates 20 years from today and some doctor tells you it's caused by DU exposure and "If you'd only gotten treatment earlier..."

YOU HAVE TO BECOME POLITCALLY AWARE AND ACTIVE AND LET YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AT EVERY LEVEL KNOW YOU AREN'T GOING TO BE SILENT. DEMAND A REGISTRY, DEMAND FEDERAL SCREENING PROGRAMS AND DON'T ACCEPT ANYTHING LESS THAN THE BEST. YOU GAVE YOUR BEST, IT'S NOW TIME SOME OF THAT IS RETURNED TO YOU.

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