WASHINGTON — The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to add hypertension and a precursor to multiple myeloma to the current list of 14 presumptive diseases associated with contact with chemical defoliants used in Vietnam, Thailand, and along the Korean DMZ.
The VFW’s case is bolstered by a new report just released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The report, entitled Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 11 (2018), found that sufficient evidence exists that links exposure to at least one of the hazardous chemicals with hypertension and MGUS, or monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance. The hypertension finding is an upgrade from their 2014 report and MGUS is a newly considered condition.
Said VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence, “There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Agent Orange made veterans sick, it made their children sick, and it brought pain and suffering and premature death to many. Even though it’s been a half century since they were exposed, the results of that exposure is something they continue to live with daily,” he said.
“The VFW thanks the National Academies for continuing to honor the charter that Congress gave them, and we now call on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to use his authority and recognize the science in the report to swiftly add these two illnesses to the presumptive list so that these veterans can finally receive the assistance they earned and deserve,” said Lawrence.
The VFW will continue to monitor the progress of the potentially two new presumptive illnesses. In the meantime, the VFW encourages all veterans who served in Vietnam, in Thailand or along the Korean DMZ to contact a VFW Service Officer to discuss whether they are eligible to file a VA claim for Agent Orange exposure. Click here to find a VFW Service Officer nearest you. For the list of 14 presumptive diseases, click here.
WASHINGTON — The national commanders of the nation’s two largest veterans organizations are demanding that Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie bring immediate attention to his nursing home program that currently has 70 percent of its 132 homes receiving failing grades by the VA’s own rating system.
The call by Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. National Commander B.J. Lawrence and American Legion National Commander Brett Reistad is in response to a series of scathing articles by two USA Today and Boston Globe reporters who documented substandard and negligent care at the VA nursing home in Brockton, Mass., which is one of 45 nursing homes that received the VA’s lowest rating of one star. Forty-seven homes received two stars, 16 homes three stars, and 15 homes four stars. Only nine nursing homes received the VA’s top five-star rating.
“While much of the media’s attention has been on the proper implementation of VA healthcare legislation, we cannot forget about 46,000 mostly senior veterans who reside in these nursing homes,” said the two national commanders, who collectively speak for more than 4.6 million members and their auxiliaries.
“The media reports about sub-par care, patient neglect and safety violations at VA nursing homes are more than just disturbing,” said the Legion’s national commander. “Legionnaires, our friends in the VFW, and anybody who respects veterans should be angered by this,” said Reistad. “These are not just patients in a home, these are people who in the prime of their lives risked their lives, and made enormous sacrifices on behalf of our country. America’s veterans deserve better. We not only expect VA to fix these problems immediately, but we want transparency. Those who sleep on the job and ignore the best interests of their patients need to find a different employer.”
Echoing his counterpart, the VFW national commander said “These veterans earned the right to receive high quality care in a fully-staffed and well-managed facility. Their families deserve to know that their loved ones — their heroes — are not being abandoned or abused, and America needs to be reassured that the VA is honoring our nation’s promise to those who have borne the battle,” said Lawrence. “The VA must improve its delivery of quality care at these facilities. It must recruit and retain only the best healthcare professionals and support staff, and it must hold all employees accountable for their actions or inactions. It is not a right but a privilege to work for America’s veterans, and anything less is unacceptable.”
Across the country, more than 500 VFW members are preparing to convene in Washington, D.C., for the annual VFW Legislative Conference February 28 – March 3. The annual conference amplifies the voices of the nearly 1.7 million members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Auxiliaries, reminding lawmakers of the promises they’ve made to America’s service members.
Armed with the VFW’s 2016 legislative priority goals, VFW members will meet with their elected officials, explaining in detail the VFW’s stance on a variety of veterans’ issues.
Then, on March 2, VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. will testify before a special joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees, where he will lay out the VFW’s legislative agenda for the year.
The VFW will again stream live from this year’s conference. Log on to www.vfw.org/VFWDC2016 to watch on February 29 at 6:00 p.m. (EST) for the Voice of Democracy Parade of Winners, followed by the delayed streaming of the commander-in-chief’s testimony on March 2 at 2:00 p.m.
Follow us on social media or log on to www.vfw.org for regular updates during the conference. Look for #VFWDC2016on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to follow along as VFW delivers the voice of veterans directly to America’s legislators on Capitol Hill. If you’re attending this year’s conference, be sure to use #VFWDC2016in all of your related social media posts.
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|Cpl. Norbert F. Simon
United States Army
4th Infantry Divison
(4" Mobile Howitzers)
United States Army
Company A, 20th Infantry
Anti-tank Company, Sicily