CAUGHT ‘EM – VA.gov linked to a declassified DoD report on use of Agent Orange in Thailand. Upon closer examination, we learned that 25% of the report was deleted. Luckily, we just found those pages and explain what it may mean here.
The original turned up on a DoD website after a lot of digging, and I think I have a theory as to why they did it. This MMQB covers what I found and why it could impact your disability claim.
Hi and welcome to another edition of the Monday Morning Quarterback for Veterans. I am your host, Benjamin Krause.
This week, I am writing about my research into the USAF’s use of herbicides in Thailand and what it could mean for veterans fighting with VA to prove exposure.
From what I can tell, there may be a coverup regarding the documentation VA has provided to veterans. The information was supposedly given to help prove disability claims. Meanwhile, the documentation is incomplete and leads any casual reader away from potentially better resources to prove their claim.
Here is what I’ll cover today:
*Fed admits to Agent Orange use in Thailand
*VA’s Thailand fails the smell test
*Index of missing files
*Where to find records about Agent Orange usage
*What it could mean for your disability claim
VA assumes that certain diseases can be related to a Veteran’s qualifying military service. We call these "presumptive diseases."
VA has recognized certain cancers and other health problems as presumptive diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides during military service. Veterans and their survivors may be eligible for benefits for these diseases.
A rare disease caused when an abnormal protein, amyloid, enters tissues or organs
Chronic B-cell Leukemias
A type of cancer which affects white blood cells
Chloracne (or similar acneform disease)
A skin condition that occurs soon after exposure to chemicals and looks like common forms of acne seen in teenagers. Under VA's rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
A disease characterized by high blood sugar levels resulting from the body’s inability to respond properly to the hormone insulin
A malignant lymphoma (cancer) characterized by progressive enlargement of the lymph nodes, liver, and spleen, and by progressive anemia
Ischemic Heart Disease
A disease characterized by a reduced supply of blood to the heart, that leads to chest pain
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell in bone marrow
A group of cancers that affect the lymph glands and other lymphatic tissue
A progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects muscle movement
Peripheral Neuropathy, Early-Onset
A nervous system condition that causes numbness, tingling, and motor weakness. Under VA's rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of herbicide exposure.
Porphyria Cutanea Tarda
A disorder characterized by liver dysfunction and by thinning and blistering of the skin in sun-exposed areas. Under VA's rating regulations, it must be at least 10 percent disabling within one year of exposure to herbicides.
Cancer of the prostate; one of the most common cancers among men
Respiratory Cancers (includes lung cancer)
Cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus
Soft Tissue Sarcomas (other than osteosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma, or mesothelioma)
A group of different types of cancers in body tissues such as muscle, fat, blood and lymph vessels, and connective tissues
There are steps Veterans can take to help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other common diseases of aging. Get the recommended health screenings, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don't smoke. Learn more about healthy living.
Children with birth defects
VA presumes certain birth defects in children of Vietnam and Korea Veterans are associated with Veterans' qualifying military service.
Veterans with Lou Gehrig's Disease
VA presumes Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS) diagnosed in all Veterans who had 90 days or more continuous active military service is related to their service, although ALS is not related to Agent Orange exposure.
It's a lovely, basically undeveloped area. Just single family homes and rental homes. No high rise condos. Nor much entertainment to speak of. It's a nice, nice area, but we prefer the action in Panama City Beach.
Our last day on the beach was Veterans Day. I love that Emerald Coast Cruizin has always been the weekend prior to this holiday that means so much to me. Dom is a Vietnam Veteran. Dad was a WWII Vet. God Bless 'Em!
As usual, this Veterans Day was a total PIG-OUT. Lunch at Hooters consisted of a pitcher of beer and 10 free wings. (we could only eat 4 each).
Dinner was at Applebee's where Dom got a free steak and I ordered off of the menu.... 2-For-1 beers, too!
It was great to see our pals at Beach Bar and Package, too!
Would love to convince The Dom to move to PCB permanently, but he enjoys being a "Gentleman Farmer" here in the middle of nowhere.
Eleven years ago, at a routine physical, Terry Singer's doctor ordered him to see an oncologist. The elevated protein he found in his blood pointed to multiple myeloma, a rare and deadly cancer of the plasma cells and one of the presumptive diseases the government recognizes as associated with Agent Orange exposure.
"I didn't have any connection in my mind between the disease and my service in Vietnam," Singer said. "I didn't know there was any connection."
Singer was told he may have two to three years to live.
"The diagnosis was pretty shocking," he said.
Eleven years later, Singer continues to buck his doctor's expectations. The Hummelstown resident darts from one doctor's visit to the next, tending to quarterly medical screenings. Every four months or so, Singer undergoes blood work, MRIs and CAT scans to monitor his disease. So far, he has staved off treatment, which comes with its own adverse side effects and limitations.
"Sooner or later, it'll stop working," Singer said. "You run through the gamut, and then you have nothing left. They can't cure it."
Singer is playing the odds that he won't need chemotherapy for a long time.
A self-proclaimed news junkie, he worries that the government and VA have not adequately informed veterans of Agent Orange compensation.
"My gut tells me there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, [of Vietnam] veterans across the country ... who have been diagnosed with a disease, who are not aware that they might be eligible for disability benefits," he said.
Singer knows firsthand that, even under the best of circumstances, much less a crisis, the VA puts veterans through an exhaustive undertaking to process claims and secure benefits.
Singer waited close to a year for his claim for a presumptive disease to be settled.
He has never come across publicity or outreach on the part of the VA to inform Vietnam veterans about Agent Orange benefits. The federal agency, for the record, maintains a comprehensive website filled with information related to Agent Orange. Singer worries that thousands of veterans, even those who, like him, find out about the benefits by accident, are falling through the cracks.
"Part of not forgetting the sacrifice of that era, in particular because of the harsh way they were received by their countrymen, part of the commitment that needs to be sustained until that generation no longer exists is to be committed to doing as much as possible to make sure these veterans are aware they are entitled to compensation for these diseases," Singer said.
Singer counts himself lucky. Now retired, he has his own insurance and Medicare, and his 100 percent disability covers the medical care for his blood cancer.
"I feel fortunate that I'm still here and fortunate that I haven't suffered a lot," he said. "I know there are thousands of veterans who have suffered more greatly ... not that any benefit will make up for that. It won't. But it can make navigating things a little easier."
Patients who experienced early relapse of their multiple myeloma after undergoing autologous stem cell transplantation had worse overall survival and progression-free survival compared with those patients with a longer time to relapse, according to the results of a study published in Bone Marrow Transplantation.
“We conclude that early relapse after autologous stem cell transplantation appears to be a major prognostic variable in multiple myeloma,” wrote researchers led by Victor H. Jimenez-Zepeda, MD, of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto. “Patients with early relapse post-autologous stem cell transplantation should biologically be characterized in prospective studies to better understand the mechanisms of resistance associated with this particular entity.”
According to the study, prior research has identified several factors associated with worse outcomes in the post-transplant realm, including elevated plasma cell labeling index, more than one treatment regimen prior to transplant, failure to achieve a complete response, and loss of complete response within 1 year of transplant.
In this study, Jimenez-Zepeda and colleagues analyzed the effects of early relapse on survival. They evaluated 184 consecutive patients with multiple myeloma who underwent single autologous stem cell transplantation between January 2002 and September 2012 and had novel induction therapy.
Of these patients, 15.3% achieved a complete response and 57.1% achieved a very good partial response at day 100 post-transplant. A smaller percentage of patients with early relapse had a very good partial response or better compared with those without early relapse (38% vs 70%; P = .008) at day 100 post-transplant.
The median progression-free survival for the group analyzed was 25.4 months. The median time to relapse was 17.2 months. Early relapse occurred in 36% of the patients who relapsed and was most common in patients treated with thalidomide induction regimens. According to the researchers, this result suggests that “second-generation immunomodulatory drugs and proteasome inhibitors might be better options to prevent early relapse to occur in the setting of autologous stem cell transplantation.”
Patients with early relapse had a median overall survival of 20 months compared with 93 months for those without early relapse (P = .001). Even among patients with a very good partial response who experienced early relapse, overall survival was significantly shorter than those patients who achieved the same level of response but without early relapse (38.53 months vs 79.3 months; P = .013).
The researchers evaluated the prognostic value of cytogenetic features on outcomes, but found that only a single case in the 27 early relapses had high-risk cytogenetics.
Finally, the researchers examined outcomes adjusted for age, best response to induction therapy, best response at day 100 post-transplant, and other variables, and found that early relapse was a major independent prognostic factor for overall survival in these patients.
“As patients with early relapse exhibited a lower rate of very good partial response or higher, new-generation drugs and strategies such as consolidation or maintenance should be considered especially for those patients where there is a high tumor burden,” the researchers wrote. “Studies on minimal residual disease and a more broad and deep panel of cytogenetics will help identifying some intrinsic biological factors that could be associated with lack of response sustainability.”
Celebrating 26 years of marriage and Dom's 65th month of COMPLETE REMISSION from MULTIPLE MYELOMA in December '14. (Cancer of the blood plasma cells- attributed to Agent Orange Exposure while Dom served in Vietnam) Much of this blog concentrates on our adventure leading up to a Stem Cell Transplant, and finally remission.