Senate rejects science for Agent Orange compensation

Sen. Tom Coburn tried to do the right thing for science, veterans and taxpayers yesterday, but was rebuffed by a vote of 69-30.

Coburn’s amendment to the FY2012 Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would have required the VA secretary to determine,

… a “causal relationship” — instead of a [mere] “positive association” — between a veteran’s illness and exposure to toxic substances [like Agent Orange] before presuming the ailment is connected to the veteran’s service and contributing to their healthcare costs.

As reported by Environment and Energy Daily,

Coburn argued on the Senate floor that the provision was a “common sense amendment” to make sure the government is not paying to treat disabilities that were not rooted in service. He acknowledged that cutting back on VA disability spending is a “tough vote” but said the current budgetary crisis warrants it.

The amendment, Coburn said, could save the United States $42.2 billion over the next 10 years.

“If we pay for disabilities that aren’t associated with service,” Coburn said, “we’ll have less money for a veteran with a disability that is associated with service.”

He added: “We are throwing money at disabilities that are not caused by veterans’ exposures.”

Coburn’s bill would have stopped the Agent Orange compensation scam in its tracks as there is no credible evidence that the herbicide mix (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T with by-product dioxins) ever harmed anyone or anything except the Viet Cong who had less jungle foliage to hide behind.

Kudos to Sen. Coburn for trying. There’s always next year!

31 thoughts on “Senate rejects science for Agent Orange compensation”

  1. I was in Vietnam for a tour of duty. I was in the Iron Triangle and I never saw any spraying going on or ever saw a drum of any chemical. Maybe the spraying was all done in 1970 when I left, I don’t know. I can tell you I would much rather have had a clear perimeter around my camp than not, I don’t care what chemical they had to use to do it. I’m 65 and don’t have any major health problems.
    Now, here is what I don’t get. I have a freind who was over there at the same time and place I was. He’s my age and told me he recently had a heart attack and it was due to agent orange and by God, he was gonna sock it to the government for benefits and get even. Now I’m not sure who he thinks he’s getting even with, since the people in government in 1970 are no longer there. I can only see him “getting even” with today’s taxpayer, who had nothing to do with it. So, was this due to agent orange? Do people age 65 have heart attacks? Apparently not, unless they’re exposed to agent orange. He also smoked all his life, but I’m sure that had absolutely nothing to do with any heart attack, oh, no. It was agent orange, oh yeah.
    One other thing. You hear of veterans returning to Vietnam for “visits”. So if agent orange is soooo dangerous, why would they want to go back and re-expose themselves, hmmm? And, to throw another question out there, if they are already receiving agent orange benefits, wouldn’t their trip back to re-expose themselves cancel out their benefits? I would hope so. I hear of lots of veterans passing away in their 60’s. Do people pass away in their 60’s who are not veterans? Happens all the time. They pass away in their 50’s and 40’s. Some blue water Navy vets are getting agent orange benefits for their ship being anchored in Vietnam waters if you can imagine. I can’t think of any reason to defoliate the ocean but somebody out there apparently was convinced it was. My take on this whole thing is that when “benefits” are involved, claimants come out of the woodwork. Some are legit but it has snowballed into something that can’t be stopped. So the government just threw up their hands and said, fine, we’ll just pay out to all veterans who were there.

  2. We also know that not everyone that smoked a pack a day got lung cancer so that proves smoking is safe.

  3. John Thomas:
    Thank you for your comment! I really need to hear an encouraging word! As you know, it is a struggle to wake up each day with a positive outlook on life when you don’t have a strong support system and so many are against you. It’s especially hard when it is the individuals that promised you the sun and moon when you enlisted and threw you away when they were finished with you . What veterans organizations do you belong to? I would love to hear more about your story as I am writing my dissertation on Agent Orange and military veterans.

  4. Ben,
    You are no Nam vet! I was recon over there and can smell an ambush and a chicken hawk phoney a mile away! Next you are going to tell us the world is flat!

    Betty, you go sister! I know Secretary Shinseki as I fought alongside him in Nam with the 5th Cav. The scientific evidence is conclusive and VA Secretary Shinseki is one of us. Call his office and ask for him personally. He cares, and has researched the SCIENTIFIC data intensely. idiots like Ben are irreverent. I am a DAV and VFW Service Officer and piss on the rest of the lying twits like Ben and Senator Coburn. Salute this Ben!

  5. I am a Vietnam combat veteran and saw action on the DMZ, Khe Sanh, Laos and Cambodia as recon. I know first hand what that dioxin did to me, my brothers and sister vets, and the opposition forces. BTW you pantywaist draft dodging barroom Brigadier, We also fought the NVA, Russians and Chinese! I guess you are another republican chicken hawk!
    Wish I could really say what I think about you and your ilk! To say you make me puke would be far understated!

  6. Ms. Betty. Once again, I must reiterate. You have personal health problems. This is sad. However, unless you are psychic and can talk to your tumors and they are saying “we are like this due to agent Orange” (in which case I would refer you to the JREF challenge), then you are doing nothing but finger pointing, no different than how Job’s three friends told him that he had to have been a horrible sinner because of all the bad things that happened to him.

    Healthy and strong young men and women die all the time from infections, cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and the like long before their parents turn gray. My own cousin got an infection in her knee in college that took her from trying out for the WNBA to barely able to walk. It’s a tragedy, yes. However, this isn’t evidence for Agent Orange being the cause of your misery.

  7. Ms. Betty, have you ever learned the most basic tenet of toxicology: The dose makes the poison? There is uranium in seawater, but we don’t worry about it because it is so low. There is dioxin in ice cream, but we don’t worry about getting chloracne from easting it because there just isn’t enough.

    Each of these regulated compounds are tested for, and there is a “passing” concentration set at least an order of magnitude lower than the lowest level that has ever been shown to give an effect in humans or animals. The fact that you are allowed to drink it shows that the water passed. Therefore, it is most assuredly nothing to worry about. Detection limits these days are flat-out insane, so you can find pretty much every element and a whole lot of compounds in the sub-ppb level. You cannot compare miniscule amounts of vandium in drinking water with the dust of a steel mill. That’s like comparing a mouse fart to a gas leak. Sure it’s methane either way, but one’s a lot more dangerous than the other simply due to quantity

  8. My source of knowledge is the painful growth in my back, the large tumor that is presently in my stomach, the 4th tumor as of date. The severe, crippling migraine headaches that bring me to tears and the last 20 years of my life that is a blur. I am a person that hasn’t smoked, ate unhealthy foods or consumed alcohol or drugs of any kind for over 21 years, since I left the miltary. I have know family history of these illnesses according to my 87 year-old maternal uncle and my 89 year- old paternal grandfather. Nevertheless, I have these illnesses that I guess a peer review will reveal after I am dead.

  9. I didn’t have to interview anyone or be there, because someone clearly must have been there and someone must have interviewed the people involved. I base my views on the fact that no information has come out from the scientific community to substantiate your views.

    I don’t wish to be unkind to those who are suffering, but I have to point out that just being there doesn’t constitute science. Having said that; I must ask. What is the source of your knowledge? Did you interview everyone? If so, what epidemiological data did you uncover? What are the figures? Have you performed tests that will uphold your theory? If so, has your work been peer reviewed? At this point all I have heard is speculation, accusation and ad hominem attacks, which has been the basis for the case against dioxin from the very beginning.

    As for Monsanto scientists covering for their boss; scientific fraud is more common than is commonly accepted or known. But fraud is eventually uncovered by peer review. I would be willing to accept that position if there was evidence from the rest of the scientific community that there was chicanery going on. There isn’t! And when an issue is as emotionally charged as this one, there are those on all sides looking to find out what the facts are. If there was fraud on the part of Monsanto and Dow scientists we would have heard of it by now.

    Once again I sympathize with your plight and wish you well.

  10. Ben:
    I am sorry but according to the CDC toxological profile these chemicals are very harmful to human if ingested. I didn’t see in their profile that they were less toxic. The majority of the information that I received is from the Superfund site.

    Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), 2008
    Toxicological Profile

    Breathing high levels of cadmium can severely damage the lungs. Eating food or drinking water with very high levels severely irritates the stomach, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Long-term exposure to lower levels of cadmium in air, food, or water leads to a buildup of cadmium in the kidneys and possible kidney disease. Other long-term effects are lung damage and fragile bones.

    Chromium (Hexavalent)
    The main health problems seen in animals following ingestion of chromium compounds are irritation and ulcers in the stomach and small intestine and anemia. An increase in stomach tumors was observed in humans exposed to chromium in drinking water. Exposure caused nose irritations and nose bleeds and respiratory problems such as asthma, cough, shortness of breath, wheezing. Ingesting high levels of chromium (VI) may result in anemia or damage to the stomach or intestines.

    The most common health problems in workers exposed to high levels of manganese involve the nervous system. These health effects include behavioral changes and other nervous system effects, which include movements that may become slow and clumsy. This combination of symptoms when sufficiently severe is referred to as “manganism”. Other less severe nervous system effects such as slowed hand movements have been observed in some workers exposed to lower concentrations in the work place. Nervous system and reproductive effects have been observed after high oral doses of manganese.

    PCE (Perchloroethylene)
    High levels of PCE when inhaled can cause dizziness, headache, sleepiness, confusion, unconsciousness, and possibly death. Skin contact with high levels of PCE can cause irritation. Long-term exposure to PCE can cause adverse health effects such as cancer, nervous system effects, organ damage, or reproductive effects in humans.

    TCE (Trichloroethylene)
    Breathing small amounts may cause headaches, lung irritation, dizziness, poor coordination, and difficulty concentrating. Breathing large amounts of trichloroethylene may cause impaired heart function, unconsciousness, and death. Breathing it for long periods may cause nerve, kidney, and liver damage.

    Exposure to high levels of thallium can result in harmful health effects. It stays in the air, water, and soil for a long time and is not broken down. A study on workers exposed on the job over several years reported nervous system effects, such as numbness of fingers and toes, from breathing thallium. Studies in people who ingested large amounts of thallium over a short time have reported vomiting, diarrhea, temporary hair loss, and effects on the nervous system, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys. It has caused death.

    Nausea, mild diarrhea, and stomach cramps have been reported in people ingesting vanadium. A number of effects have been found from ingesting vanadium including decreases in the number of red blood cells, increased blood pressure, and mild neurological effects.

    Vinyl Chloride
    Breathing high levels of vinyl chloride can cause you to feel dizzy or sleepy. Breathing very high levels can cause you to pass out, and breathing extremely high levels can cause death. Some people who have breathed vinyl chloride for several years have changes in the structure of their lives. People are more likely to develop these changes if they breathe high levels of vinyl chloride. Some people who work with vinyl chloride have nerve damage and develop immune reactions. Some workers exposed to very high levels of vinyl chloride have problems with the blood flow in their hands.

    Voc’s may enter groundwater from gasoline or oil spills on the ground surface or from leaking underground fuel tanks. Exposure risk is determined based on the individual constituents of the VOC compound, with each having the potential to trigger different symptoms, human health effects, or illnesses. It can be harmful to the central nervous system, the kidneys or the liver. VOCs may also cause irritation when they contact the skin, or may irritate mucous membranes if they are inhaled. Some VOCs are known or suspected carcinogens (or cancer-causers.

    Cis-1, 2-DCE
    Breathing high levels of 1, 2-dichloroethene can make you feel nauseous, drowsy, and tired; breathing very high levels can kill you. Exposure over a long period of time causes damage to liver and lungs. Exposure to extremely high doses of cis- or trans-1, 2-dichloroethene has caused death.

  11. How do you know that others lived in these areas at the same time without any reactions? Were you there? Did you interview any of them? How would you have that knowledge? It’s amazing to me the things that people speak without any knowledge of what happened at my base or any knowledge of what happened other soldiers stationed there. It is mind blowing!

  12. All these personal stories are heart wrenching. All these personal attacks and name calling of both sides is unproductive. I almost hate to enter this fray because this is such an emotionally fraught problem. However, the reason that the author says there is no scientific evidence that Agent Orange causes these afflictions is for the very reason one of the people posted; others lived in these areas at the same time without any reactions. It is my guess is that the numbers don’t show there is any correlation at all. I can assure you that if the epidemiological data showed any real correlation they would have been broadcasting it worldwide. If all of these afflictions were caused by, or capable of being caused by dioxin there should be well developed studies that are peer reviewed and replicated that demonstrate it. There aren’t.

    As for the children in Southeast Asia with deformities; that is common in the poorer regions of this planet. I saw many in the Philippines with more than five fingers. We don’t see that much of it here because the medical people remove them at birth. There is no Agent Orange issue in the P.I.

    When you read the multiple afflictions that are claimed it should trigger an alarm with anyone with any interest in these matters because one has to ask; what is the biological mechanism that triggers the development of “tumors, nerve damage, severe depression, blurred vision, sinusitis, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems, leaky bladder, arthritis, abnormal menses, back problems, fungus toe, increased sensitivity heat and sun and high blood pressure.”?

    Forgive me all of you who are truly suffering from so many medical problems, but much of this reminds of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome; symptoms of which include “According to one MCS supporter, “the illness can cause all the symptoms of every disease or disorder known [in] psychology, psychiatry, and the general medical profession.” That is one of the reasons the AMA does not recognize this problem as a legitimate disease or affliction.

    I, as do all those who served, sincerely hope you all can find relief for your afflictions, but I fear that looking at dioxin as the source to your problems may be wasting valuable time and resources. It is true that many have afflictions for which there is no known source and no known cure. That is difficult for us to grasp in these days of modern medicine, but sadly, it is also true.

    My very best wishes to all who are suffering.

  13. Excuse me, you are the one lashing out. We are calmly and colletively telling you that while you may have problems, they are not due to Agent Orange. You then verbally assaulted Mr. Milloy and the readers of his blog. Rob’s only comment was the very true statement that over half of the listed “pollutants” are natural.

    Also, the birth defects in Vietnam you mentioned are likely due to malnutrition. I would even accept depleted uranium, lead exposure, or benzene toxicity napalm/fuel over dioxin, which has never been shown to cause birth defects.

    We are neither unfeeling, nor uncaring. We simply are upset that people use faulty reasoning and junk science to explain things. You are the one who is out of line here.

  14. Ms. Betty, Rob is right.
    Cadmium, Chromium, Manganese, Thallium, and Vanadium are naturally occuring metals and probably there due to leaching of the soil in the aquifer.
    VOC – Volatile organic chemicals. This is a generic classification. This could be propane for all we know.
    Agent Orange – I would be very surprised if the groundwater still contained any. Superfund would have had a field day with this years ago if it was measurable, much less toxic.
    PCE (Perchloroethylene), TCE (Trichloroethylene), Dichloroethylene, and Vinyl Chloride (Monochloroethlene to keep the naming structure), – interesting selection of chlorinated ethylenes there. All of which are quite volatile. To be allowed in drinking water, all of these are below 5 ppm . This is a hundred lower than the lowest measured effect (~150 ppm,

    Sorry, but I’m not buying the “we’re dying of pollution” angle.

  15. Hey, all you Agent Orange victims, please don’t be so hard on this author. I’m sure his article sounded much better in the original German.

  16. This piece would have us believe 2,3,7,8-TCDD is safe.

    Let us make a comparison between two documents. The following was penned by Alvin Young, America’s foremost dioxin apologist.
    This details the U.S. Air Force blithely plunking down 121 drums of Agent Orange in an unsuspecting New Jersey neighbourhood. (It ended up on the Amazon rainforest after this, in case you wondered).
    This informs us that the mere presence of the 121 New Jersey drums of unsprayed Agent Orange required over 29,000 tons (58,000,000 pounds) of contaminated material to be dug up and hauled away. Roughly half a million pounds per drum. That safe enough for you?

    Can you picture a toxic pile weighing 58 million pounds? Aside from a typical production of, I mean.

  17. Rob, don’t worry….Karma is a bitch, my friend. What type of person lashes out at innocent widows and disabled people? Your family must be really proud.

  18. Rob – you’re a moron. The pain and suffering we have/do endure, I would not even wish on someone as deserving as you. NO ONE should have to suffer the things our gov has perpetrated. Oh, and guess what? No one as weak as you could shut us up…so you’ll have to keep listening. Boo hoo for you.

  19. Chemophobes, whiners, and leeches. My great-grandfather was briefly exposed to substance X while in the military and as a result I have 50 ailments and symptoms that clearly lead, without question, to that brief exposure of my great-grandfather. Therefore, the government should compensate me! Boo Hoo Hoo!

    STFU, all of you. The rest of us are tired of hearing it.

  20. As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran and sufferer from consequnces of AO and my father’s service, I second everything Heather and Carol said. My temper will not allow me to further comment at this time. How nice for the rest of you that you have the luxury to not investigate the issue responsibly..we have had to.

  21. JUNK SCIENCE- Tell my children its junk science as they visit their fathers grave. Tell my children its junk science when they suffer with their birth defects. Tell them to their face when they struggle to make it through the day, with nothing Tell them to their face what happened to them is based on junk science. For Gods sake tell all the victims that you do not want to help them, that lining your pockets is more important then the faces of those who suffer each and every day. They have paid way to long and way to hard for you to shut them up, this sirs will never go away it is a legacy for them, for all the victims. You call it junk science I call pre meditated death sentence,

  22. Agent Orange wrecked my family’s life. If you have not lived it, it is easy to call things a scam. My Father developed hyper tension shortly after coming home from Vietnam and he developed cloracne. At age 38, he had to have emergency heart bypass surgery (5 arteries), at age 40, he developed diabetes, at age 40 he developed diabetes, at 48, he had a stroke, at age 50 he died of a massive heart attack. He had no family history of these ailments. My Mother had two miscarriages prior to my birth, I was born two months premature, I weighed only 3 pounds, 4 ounces. I was born missing my right leg below the knee, several of my fingers, and my big toe on my left foot. The rest of my toes were webbed. My Mother went on to have another miscarriage.

    There is no family history of birth defects or miscarriages. My Father was made to fight a chemical fire without protection the first day he was in Vietnam. Also, it was sprayed around the base he was stationed at. Plus, when he came back to the states, he worked at FT Lewis in Washington State where all the contaminated equipment came in from over overseas.

    The only scam that is going on here is Vietnam Veterans, their children, the Vietnamese, Australian Vets and their families have been cheated out of a normal life. My children did not have the opportunity to meet their grandfather. Every morning I wake up I think of the Vietnam war when I put my prosthesis on. How often do you think of the repercussions of war and the families who are affected?. Grow up with an ill Father and one leg before make judgement of others and their motivation.

    Children in Vietnam are still being born with devastating birth defects because high quantities of Dioxin is still in their soil (28 hot spots to be exact). I have traveled to Vietnam and looked at the children’s disabilities first hand. Guess what I found there? Stories of women having multiple miscarriages, Vietnamese that have served in the war with early heart disease/ diabetes that started shortly after the war. Children with webbed toes and hands, missing limbs, and much, much worse…. My father served his country, but the country he loved, chose to use chemical warfare without thought of its danger or long term consequences.

    The reason that science does not support evidence that Agent Orange causes serious problems and illnesses is because most of the studies are a product of corrupt junk science. That is what you should be talking about….How poorly the scientific community has actually studied and reported on Agent Orange.

    Heather A. Bowser, LPCC
    Daughter of a Deceased Vietnam Veteran

  23. You’re probably the only one ever to work at Fort Richie with those illnesses as well.

    Many of the chemicals that you mention that are in the Fort Richie groundwater – cadmium, chromium, manganese, vanadium, thallium – are in pretty much all groundwater on Earth as they are natural elements. I’ll wager you’ll also find a bit of iron, cobalt, copper, calcium, and many other elements in the groundwater.

  24. Ben:
    I never said I had cancer, you did. I had a benign tumor on my ovary, a benign tumor in my right flank and a benign tumor in my right breast. Anybody who knows anything about Agent Orange knows that it causes benign tumors throughout the body. You got some nerve trying to tell me what happened to me, how dare you? It’s not like I’m some bum waiting for a hand out, I am presently working on my doctorate degree in Organizational Leadership with and emphasis in Behavioral Health and I have a Masters in Addiction Counseling and a Bachelors in Criminal Justice but I haven’t been able to obtain gainful employment in over 3 years because I am permanently disabled according to the VA.

    All the other illnesses that I have developed in the last 20 years are since I left the military. At present, there are over 11 chemicals in the groundwater at Fort Ritchie: Agent Orange, Cadmium, Chromium (Hexavalent), Manganese, PCE (Perchloroethylene), TCE (Trichloroethylene), Thallium, Vanadium, Vinyl Chloride, VOC and Cis-1, 2-DCE. I think that it’s ironic that I am the only person in the history of my family to enter the military and I am the only one with these illnesses.

  25. Ms. Betty,
    You got cancer at age 21, at most within 4 years of exposure, far too quickly for the alleged effects of Agent Orange. Your case is tragic and might or might not have been related to your military service. I would need to know more before coming to a conclusion on that. However, what we are saying is that they are not due to Agent Orange.

    40% of us will get cancer sooner or later, and the VA cannot afford to pay for everyone. The VA should be focused on those that receied their injury in service to our country, not treating cancers that were received later.

  26. I find it very sad that individuals who have no idea what they are talking about are speaking on the subject of Dioxin. I was exposed to Agent Orange at Fort Ritchie, Maryland from 1987-1989. Fort Detrick anf Fort Ritchie were the testing headquarters for Agent Orange and many other herbicides. I have spent the last 20 years of my life afraid and isolated from the world, unemployed and homeless . When I was 21 years old, stationed at Fort Ritchie, Maryland, I developed a tumor on my ovaries that required major surgery, it wrecked my health. I have also developed 2 additional tumors in different parts of my body that required surgery and I have migraines so severe that they require hospitilization. I also have nerve damage, severe depression, blurred vision, sinusitis, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal problems. leaky bladder, arthritis, abnormal menses, back problems, fungus toe, increased sensitivity heat and sun and high blood pressure. My quality of life is so poor and before I entered the military, I was in perfect health. Now I am in such poor health and I don’t know how I find the strength to carry on without anything positive happening to me for over 20 years. The VA doesn’t just give anybody that claim exposure a service connected disability because I am have been waiting for an answer to my claim since 2008.

  27. It seems to me that the VA has decided to cover the health expenses of any person who was associated with agent orange in any way. I think they have decided to do this in deference to the armed forces who served in Vietnam and returned to something less than a hero’s welcome. I also think that they decided to pay for the medical expenses of a small number of claimants rather than pay for the medical expenses plus the fees of the lawyers who file suits to obtain payment of medical expenses.

    I believe that it is true that no dioxin has ever been shown to have any deleterious health effect, beyond chloracne, but that the jury-sitting public still believes stuff that EPA publishes and that it would not be possible for VA to prevail in many of those suits. The decision is similar to the one that Merck made in the Vioxx debacle.

  28. How many more years can the Republic endure this continual insanity? I fear the end is in sight, if we don’t rid ourselves of this regime and things don’t get halted in ’12. My optimisim meter is close to bottoming out!

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