Aug 1, 2009

Vietnam War Still Kills

This following piece was written in 1998.

In sum, Agents Orange, Blue, White, and Purple, suicide, PTSD and other ailments continue today to kill Vietnam-era veterans whe remain unpopular with those who advocate war, leaving others to clean up the human mess.

So the next time you hear the chickenhawks, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and other war cheerleaders explain that Vietnam was a long time ago, please think again.
[Pictured above is a troop who manages a laugh, no doubt thinking at some point 'we gotta get out of this place,' into which the country was lied and a generation shredded.]

Via Col. Dan Cedusky (Ret):

Memorandum: Accelerated Mortality Rates of Vietnam Veterans

by: S. Brian Willson


During the early 1980s, while first living in Franklin County, Massachusetts, I became active with other Vietnam veterans in response to the myriad physical, psychological, and social problems we seemed to be experiencing. I was active in a local Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) chapter, and subsequently became director of the state-funded Western Massachusetts Agent Orange Information Project, and later, executive director of a veterans outreach center.

Through numerous conversations and formal interviews with hundreds of veterans I began to establish an empirical substantiation of the syndrome of problems that certainly is one of the tragic legacies of the Vietnam War (i.e., the war against the Vietnamese which the Vietnamese call "the American War"). Grasping the depth of the prevailing sense of shame, malaise, and deteriorating physical and mental health, I began to understand more deeply both the burden and incredible potential wisdom of the war, not just for veterans, but for the entire American society. Both the syndrome known as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), often delayed for a decade or more enabling the psyche time to integrate the horrible realities that the Vietnam experience possesses for many, and exposure to the most intensive application of chemical warfare in history by the Pentagon (in cahoots with seven chemical companies, including Monsanto and Dow), directly contributed to a myriad of symptoms, physical, emotional, and psychic. A pattern of extraordinary sickness and depression for this age group of young males (age 30-45 in 1984-85) is believed unprecedented in the United States.

Nineteen million gallons of Agents Orange, Blue, White, and Purple were sprayed over an area the size of Rhode Island and Massachusetts combined (over 6 million acres), applied up to 14 times the recommended domestic agricultural application rate. Subsequently, these chemicals have been banned in the U.S. due to their intense toxicity, being considered, perhaps, the most potent cancer-causing substance ever studied by the Environmental Protection Agency. It should be noted that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, based on studies conducted by the National Academy of Sciences ' Institute of Medicine, now presumes the following conditions as service-connected for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides:
Chloracne (this is VA propaganda on this one)
Non-Hodgkin' s lymphoma
Soft tissue sarcoma
Hodgkin's disease
Porphyria cutanea tarda (this is VA propaganda on this one)
Multiple myeloma
Respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea and bronchus)
Prostate cancer
Peripheral neuropathy (acute or subacute) (this is VA propaganda on this one)
Spina bifida in children of Vietnam veterans

Mortality Rates for Vietnam Veterans

There have been a number of representations and claims over the years that more Vietnam veterans have died from suicide since returning from the war than the 58,000-plus who died in the war. There is no certain way for determining precise data on veterans' suicides. My involvement with many physically and mentally troubled veterans, and search of "scientific" data about the subject of mortality rates of Vietnam veterans, produced the following information by mid-1986.

When first conversing with local veterans in rural Franklin County, Massachusetts in mid-1983, they informed me that there had been four suicides of local Vietnam veterans between 1981 and June 1983.

Phil Girard, in 1982 the Senior Vice President, Agent Orange Victims International, reported at a public meeting at Greenfield, Massachusetts Community College (April 17) that their organizational research indicated that "from the end of the war to 1981 there have been 109,000 veterans who have died."

An unpublished manuscript, Vietnam Veterans, by Tom Williams, University of Denver School of Professional Psychology, April 1979, concluded that "More Vietnam veterans have died since the war by their own hand than were actually killed in Vietnam."

Testimony presented to the Massachusetts Commission on the Concerns of Vietnam veterans in Greenfield, Massachusetts on May 4, 1982, declared that "Vietnam veterans have nationally averaged 28 suicides a day since 1975, amounting to over 70,000."
"Suicide rates 33% higher than the national average rate" were reported in The Forgotten Warrior Project by John P. Wilson, Cleveland State University, 1978. This definitive study was originally titled, Identity, Ideology and Crisis: The Vietnam Veteran in Transition.

A classified VA memo dated 6/30/82 identified a total of approximately 300,000 deaths occurring among Vietnam-era veterans from 1965-1981 calculated by adding together deaths in-service with an actuarial estimate of the number of Vietnam-era veterans who have died since returning to civilian life, a much higher figure than estimated by the VA in previous reports. Research conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control in the early 1980s had found a number of illnesses and suicides contributing to elevated death rates for Vietnam veterans than for non-veterans in the same age group.

An alarming disparity in official VA figures reporting a dramatic decrease in the estimated number of Vietnam Era Veterans in Civilian Life from September 30, 1981 to March 31, 1983, reveals a loss of 793,000 Vietnam-era veterans in that 18-month period. The disparity was never explained. I suggest four possible explanations: (1) changed, inconsistent, and/or mistaken reporting and estimation procedures; (2) a large emigration of Vietnam-era veterans out of the U.S.; (3) a high mortality rate for Vietnam-era veterans; or (4) a combination of any and/or all of the above explanations.
On Monday, January 28, 1985, the Massachusetts Agent Orange Program of the State Office of Commissioner of Veterans' Services released results of its study, Mortality Among Vietnam Veterans in Massachusetts, 1972-1983. The one-year study revealed that deaths due to suicides and motor vehicle accidents, along with kidney cancer, were "significantly elevated" among Vietnam veterans compared to non-veteran Massachusetts males for the study period 1972-1983.

A comprehensive research study by the University of California at San Francisco published in the March 6, 1986 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Delayed Effects of the Military Draft on Mortality," disclosed that Vietnam veterans were 86% more likely than non-veterans to die of suicide in the years after the war, and 53% more likely to die in traffic accidents. The researchers claim that this study of California and Pennsylvania men is the first to show a cause-and-effect relationship between military service during the Vietnam War and an unusual risk of suicide.

From Summer 1983 through Summer 1985 there were seven known additional suicides of Vietnam veterans in the Franklin-Hampshire County area of Massachusetts. Because one's veteran status is often not known at time of death, whether by suicide or other cause, and because suicides are often masked under causes listed as single-car accidents, drug or alcohol overdose, etc., actual deaths by suicide remain unknown. Other veterans whom I knew in the 1982-1985 time period died of alcohol and drug abuse.

A November 1, 1984 U.S. House Report 98-1167, Diversion of Funds from Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Counseling Program, by the Committee on Government Operations, concluded that "the suicide rate among Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD is high . . . not because of massive underlying neuroses, but as a result of the harsh treatment they received in Vietnam, and experiences upon returning to the U.S." Dr. Arnold, Chief of Psychiatry at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona at the time, and an acknowledged expert on PTSD, explained to the Committee that the VA's most recent statistics indicate that while Vietnam veterans make up only about 14% of the veterans they treat, Vietnam veterans constitute 30% of the suicides of all veterans treated by the VA, over-contributing substantially to the total number of suicides of patients who are treated by the VA.

There is no certain way of knowing how many Vietnam veterans have died through suicide, motor vehicle "accidents," or illnesses. The available evidence, both anecdotal and scientific, however, suggests elevated mortality rates from suicides, motor vehicle accidents, and certain cancers for Vietnam veterans. In some cases the data suggests mortality rates are "significantly elevated."

My comments: (from my book)
From Doctor Cate Jenkins, a PHD, and toxicology expert, with our Environmental Protection Agency:(69) (See Chapter 4 for Dr. Jenkins’ “stalwart efforts” in our toxic chemical issue.)

“The controlling majority of the VACEH, in making its recommendations to compensate Vietnam veterans for peripheral neuropathy, neglected to evaluate Dioxin's central nervous system (CNS) effects. Because the available evidence for CNS damage by Dioxin outweighs that for peripheral nervous system (PNS) among Vietnam veterans, and because of the inseparable relationship between the biological mechanism by which dioxin exerts both CNS and PNS effects, this failure of the VACEH is indefensible.”

The CNS consists of the neurological apparatus of the brain and spinal cord (including motor neurons), while the peripheral nervous system (PNS) consists of those nerves in the extremities of the body (arms, legs, etc.). Peripheral neuropathies are one result of damage to the PNS.

“Central nervous system damage by fat-soluble (lipophilic) neurotoxicants such as dioxin has always been found to accompany, and usually precede, any peripheral nervous system (PNS) damage such as peripheral neuropathy. The prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded as early as 1977 that human CNS damage was associated with dioxin exposures. In 1986, the IARC clearly restated it’s finding that dioxin was associated with peripheral neuropathies and personality changes, a neuropsychological consequence of CNS damage (IARC, 1986). Since the IARC evaluations, many new epidemiological investigations have established an even stronger casual relationship between dioxin and CNS damage.

“Neurotoxic substances may exert their effects by several mechanisms (Anthony and Graham, 1991). Chemical attack of whole nerve cell structures may result in cell injury or death (neuropathy) .

“Chemical attack may be specifically on the axon (long nerve fiber) (axonopathy) , or the myelin sheath of the axon (myelinopathy) . Neurotoxicants may also damage, or alter the neurotransmitter system, damage the glial cells that support the primary neurons, or damage the blood vessels supplying the nervous system.”

“The OTA found that degeneration of the axon (axonopathy) is one of the most frequently determined neurological effects from neurotoxic chemicals (OTA, 1990). If the axon of a nerve cell dies back, it no longer reaches the next nerve cell, muscle, etc., and cannot transmit any message. Because the longer axons have more targets (larger surface area) for toxic damage, it is predicted that the longer axons found in CNS are more effected by neurotoxicants (Anthony and Graham, 1991), assuming the neurotoxicants is sufficiently lipophilic to cross the blood-brain barrier.

“Although the mechanisms by which dioxin exert its neurotoxic effects, have yet to be fully elucidated, the CNS effects are consistent with destruction of the nerve axons (axonopathy) . Because of the extreme toxicity of dioxin and the wide range of biological affects, however, the mechanisms of dioxin's neurotoxicity may not be limited to axonopathies. The hypothesis that dioxin damages the CNS and PNS by destruction of axons is supported by the similarity of the neurological symptoms caused by dioxin and many other lipophilic neurotoxicants causing both CNS and PNS axonopathies, including carbon disulfide, hexane, methyl n-butyl ketone, trichloroethylene, polybrominated biphenyls, and polychlorinated biphenyls (Anthony and Graham, 1991).

“Lipophilic toxicants such as dioxin are able to cross the blood-brain barrier to affect the CNS. In addition, since the brain is 50 percent lipid (dry weight), compared to 6 to 20 percent lipid in other organs (OTA, 1990), the brain may be particularly vulnerable to accumulating dioxin into its fat content. Nervous system tissue itself, with its high lipid content, will also act as a selective repository for dioxin. In addition, the low elimination rate of dioxin from the body will contribute to its ability to reach equilibrium concentrations in lipid-rich nervous system tissues.
”Neuropsychological damage may be one of the most significant consequences of exposure to Agent Orange. The Office of Technology Assessment (OTA, 1990) concluded that neurotoxic chemicals play a significant casual role in development of psychiatric as well as neurological disorders. Even minor changes in the structure or function of the nervous system were found to have profound consequences for behavioral and other neurological functions.

“The OTA found that neurotoxic chemicals could cause or exacerbate anxiety, depression, mania, and psychosis.”

These symptoms are very close to what the government is calling PTSD and may serve to amplify any combat related experiences that normally would have been regressed.

“In addition to the biological basis for the involvement of the CNS whenever PNS damage is produced by a lipophilic neurotoxicant, there are also numerous epidemiological investigations to support the casual relationship between dioxin and CNS effects. CNS effects observed in dioxin-exposed populations include depression, anxiety, suicide, decreased cognitive function, fatigue, and poor coordination.”

Again, some of these symptoms are close to what the government calls PTSD. In addition, notice the fatigue, poor coordination, and decreased cognitive functions. These symptoms can be associated with degenerative neurological disorders.

“The most severe neuropsychological consequence of dioxin exposure is excessive suicides, which has been demonstrated among exposed Vietnam Veterans, chemical production workers in the U.S. and European countries, forestry workers, and railroad workers. Another severe consequence is the excessive death rate from accidents found among the dioxin-exposed chemical production workers and Vietnam Veterans, representing either motor neuron malfunction or suicide in disguise.

“In 1977, the Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that neurological and behavioral changes were among the most frequently reported effects in studies of exposures to 2,4,5-T (IARC, 1977a). IARC identified 6 out of 7 different populations occupationally exposed to chlorinated phenolic compounds where neuropsychological symptoms such as neurasthenic or depressive syndromes were established (IARC, 1977b). IARC noted that PNS damage was also found in the same 6 dioxin-exposed populations, including polyneuropathies, lower extremity weakness, and sensorial impairments (sight, hearing, smell, taste). In 1986, the IARC clearly restated it’s finding that dioxin had been found to be associated with peripheral neuropathies and personality changes (IARC, 1986).

“The evidence from the 1990 Ranch Hand study (Thomas, et al., 1990) is particularly compelling in demonstrating CNS damage from Agent Orange exposure.
“Significant psychological deficits were found among Ranch Hand veterans in several subscales in a battery of psychological tests. In contrast, none of the typical dioxin-related psychological deficits were ever found in statistical excess among matched controls. Ranch Hand Veterans experienced a statistically significant excess of great or disabling fatigue during the day, a condition found among many other populations exposed to dioxin.

“Borderline statistically significant verified psychological disorders were found for the category "other neuroses. A series of tests found a borderline statistically significant excess of Ranch Hands experienced depression, somatization, and the severity of psychological distress. Antisocial and paranoid scores for the Ranch Hands were significantly higher, and the psychotic delusion score was marginally significantly higher for Ranch Hands.

“CNS effects, other than neuropsychological deficits, were also found among Ranch Hand veterans (Thomas, et al., 1990). When Ranch Hand veterans or controls that had known past exposures to insecticides were excluded from one analysis (so that neurological findings could be attributed solely to Agent Orange), Ranch Hand veterans exhibited significantly elevated relative risk for cranial nerve dysfunction. Analyses disclosed marginally more balance/Romberg sign (standing without swaying when eyes closed and feet together) and coordination abnormalities for Ranch Hand veterans.

“The VA proposed exclusion of peripheral neuropathies that only become evident 10 or more years after service in Vietnam, on the assumption that such a neuropathy could not be associated with Agent Orange exposure, due to the long interval from exposure.

“This assumption contradicts the findings of the OTA, which found that neurological damage is not always detectable clinically, or noticeable by, the sufferer after exposure to a neurotoxic substance such as dioxin. As time progresses or old age approaches, the rate of natural neuronal cell death accelerates, and the results of earlier neurological damage may first become evident, or unmasked (OTA, 1990). The availability of alternate neuronal pathways is reduced, which were formerly responsible for compensating for earlier toxic damage. The OTA specifically noted the importance of research showing the possibility that neurotoxic substances were important in Alzheimer's disease, the degenerative brain disease of old age.”

Here we have in 1990 the Ranch Handers, noncombatants that were primarily skin exposed, experiencing statically significant excess in - psychological disorders of depression, somatization, and severity of psychological distress. Antisocial and paranoid scores were significantly higher along with psychotic delusion.

How many of you doctors could actually tell the difference in what the government is calling PTSD and toxic chemical induced neuropsychological disorders? Be honest. How many of you doctors were aware of these toxic chemical findings?
President Clinton in 1996 as a “friend of the Veterans” announced the addition of “acute neuropathy” to our Agent Orange List. By the time the VA got through with it, this addition was now acute and sub-acute transient peripheral neuropathy, limited by a one-year removal from Vietnam, and then cured within an additional two years. At the time Doctor Jenkins was reviewing this neuropathy implementation the VA was proposing a 10-year time limit. It ended up with an even more ridiculous one-year time limit.

Perhaps the Secretary of the VA and members of NAS/IOM can tell my “three board certified neurologists” and the “75 other board certified neurologists,” just how to cure this polyneuropathy within two years or cure it at all. It seems that none of our neurological specialists know how this is accomplished. Even those neurologists who were previously head of neurology at a major research hospital do not seem to grasp this VA and NAS/IOM simple solution to our nerve damages.
At the same time President Clinton was trying to add this condition, the VA was undermining him with the additions and manipulations that in effect allowed very few to actually qualify for this new addition. What seemed like a good faith gesture on the part then President Clinton ended up doing practically nothing for Vietnam veterans.

I urge you to continue and read for yourself if neuropathy is a one-year disease, a ten-year disease, or if it can develop at any time in ones life depending on what underlying dioxin causation you develop. In addition, decide if it is indeed curable as the VA claims. If it is indeed curable, then we have a lot of “dumb doctors” in this country who are mistreating our Veterans.

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