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Agent Orange Issues Set For September Hearing

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This article was posted online today 6/18/10, the gist of which is that Senator Webb has asked Secretary Shinseki to appear before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on 9/23/10 to explain his decision to compensate veterans who have Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, or hairy cell leukemia. The amendment that Senator Webb attached to HR 4899 passed attached to the Senate version of that bill, but both the Senate and House versions of that bill are now with the Senate-House conferees. If the bill passes with the amendment intact, it'll mean a delay of 60 days after the VA publishes the final regulation in the Federal Register unless perhaps the VA publishes it before the September 23rd Committee hearing. The last I knew, the VA was still working on its final version of the regulation before sending it to OMB where it could take up to 90 days for the fiscal review. In any event, my own guess is that we won't see the new regulation implemented any earlier than October, if ever. As one who has had both prostate cancer and hairy cell leukemia which I believe to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange, I would hate to see my claim delayed too many more months because it has already been pending since August of last year. I have already written to Senator Webb and both of my Senators and my Congressman expressing my disappointment at what appears to be an effort on the part of Senator Webb to delay or kill the new regulation. I appreciate his concern for the taxpayers' dollar, but he did not have a problem with being the primary architect of the post-9/11 GI bill which has a far higher projected 10-year cost than the proposed new VA reg adding the three diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive list.

Article posted today 6/18/10: http://www.jdnews.com/articles/hearing-79498-sept-agent.html

Agent Orange issues set for Sept. hearing

TOM PHILPOTT 2010-06-18 10:15:22 VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will get the Senate hearing he didn’t want.

Sen. James Webb, D-Va., says he will use a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing — rescheduled now for Sept. 23 — to have Shinseki explain his decision to compensate Vietnam veterans, and many surviving spouses, for three more ailments including heart disease.

Shinseki announced last October that ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and B-Cell leukemia will be added to the list of illnesses presumed caused by exposure to defoliants, including Agent Orange, used to clear jungle in combat areas during the war.

VA projects that the decision will cost $13.4 billion in 2010 alone as it will qualify a few hundred thousand more veterans for service-connected disability compensation.

Those veterans, it now appears, will have to wait at least a few more months before claims can be paid. And there is at least some doubt now they will be paid. That will depend on whether Webb and enough of his colleagues are dissatisfied with the science behind Shinseki’s decision.

In an interview in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday, Webb said he was surprised to find among line items in an emergency wartime supplemental bill (HR 4899) a few weeks ago $13.4 billion attributed to “veterans.” He asked staff to find out what it would fund.

“It came back this was the Agent Orange law,” Webb said. Webb, a highly-decorated Marine from combat service in Vietnam, said this deepened his skepticism over the soundness of that law and how it has been used.

“When the law was passed there were two areas that raised questions for me,” Webb explained. “One was the presumption of exposure for anyone who had been in Vietnam; 2.7 million people had an automatic presumption of exposure. And then the notion that the VA administrator, now the secretary of veterans’ affairs, has discretion based on scientific evidence to decide a service-connection” to various illnesses. “It’s very broad.”

Webb amended HR 4899 so claims can’t be paid on the three newly-named Agent Orange illnesses until 60 days after a final rule is published.

“This is an area where we have a responsibility to pump for more (information) to tell us specifically how they made the connection. The only appropriate way to do that is say, ‘Let’s fence the money for 60 days and get some clarification here.’”

Webb said he was unaware on finding the $13.4 billion in the bill that Shinseki had asked Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the VA committee, not to hold a hearing on this issue. Akaka had scheduled one for April, then rescheduled for early May when VA declined to send witnesses.

One theme he ran on in 2006, Webb said, was restoring a proper balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. Too much authority had been conceded to, or usurped by, recent administrations.

Webb said he even fired off a letter to President Obama last December challenging a claim he made as he prepared for a summit on climate change that he would return from Copenhagen with a binding agreement.

“I just felt compelled to say, ‘You do not have the constitutional authority to bind the United States to an international agreement. The Congress does.” Webb said.

Shinseki’s decision on Agent Orange strikes Webb as more proof too much power has been conceded to the executive branch.

It was the Carter administration, he said, that adopted a presumption “that everyone who was in Vietnam was exposed” to Agent Orange. At the time, he said, the decision wasn’t “onerous” on VA budgets because the department only had linked Agent Orange to some rare illnesses.

More recently, VA has found links to ailments generally associated with aging, committing VA to pay billions in additional compensation. Webb felt the scientific evidence linking Type II diabetes to Agent Orange in 2001 was soft. He is reluctant to say the same about the three illnesses Shinseki has endorsed until he hears his testimony.

But Webb does intend to question the science behind presuming everyone who served in Vietnam was exposed to defoliants. He knows his own Marine Company was, he said, as were many other units who were engaged in combat in the countryside or handled Agent Orange directly.

“On any given day in Vietnam they say about 10 percent of the people were actually out in direct combat. Percentages are actually higher than that because of rotations…But the majority of the people weren’t in combat” where defoliants were used. “That’s just the reality of it.”

The issue was handled with more precision, he suggested, in the late 1970s when Webb served as legal counsel on the House VA committee.

“The discussions were you could develop a chronological map overlay of where defoliants had been used, and then develop a nexus in someone’s service record on whether they had been in those areas. From that you could say whether these conditions would be presumptively acquired. Back then it was very small in numbers.”

“Everyone up here wants to help veterans — no one more than I do. But a lot of people have asked about this. They want to make sure we’re really (a) following the law and (b) taking care of people who are service connected. I don’t want to be the one person out here doing this. I know Chairman Akaka has joined me in his concerns. The main thing is let’s have Secretary Shinseki come forward and explain the causality.”

In our interview, Webb said VA wouldn’t publish a final regulation until after the Sept. 23 hearing. His staff later said the hearing might fall within the 60-day period, an indication VA officials plan to publish a final rule before the hearing. That would narrow Webb’s window to try to block compensation payments if he and colleagues decide such action is justified.

© Copyright 2010 Freedom Communications. All Rights Reserved.

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This article was posted online today 6/18/10, the gist of which is that Senator Webb has asked Secretary Shinseki to appear before a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on 9/23/10 to explain his decision to compensate veterans who have Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease, or hairy cell leukemia. The amendment that Senator Webb attached to HR 4899 passed attached to the Senate version of that bill, but both the Senate and House versions of that bill are now with the Senate-House conferees. If the bill passes with the amendment intact, it'll mean a delay of 60 days after the VA publishes the final regulation in the Federal Register unless perhaps the VA publishes it before the September 23rd Committee hearing. The last I knew, the VA was still working on its final version of the regulation before sending it to OMB where it could take up to 90 days for the fiscal review. In any event, my own guess is that we won't see the new regulation implemented any earlier than October, if ever. As one who has had both prostate cancer and hairy cell leukemia which I believe to be associated with exposure to Agent Orange, I would hate to see my claim delayed too many more months because it has already been pending since August of last year. I have already written to Senator Webb and both of my Senators and my Congressman expressing my disappointment at what appears to be an effort on the part of Senator Webb to delay or kill the new regulation. I appreciate his concern for the taxpayers' dollar, but he did not have a problem with being the primary architect of the post-9/11 GI bill which has a far higher projected 10-year cost than the proposed new VA reg adding the three diseases to the Agent Orange presumptive list.

Article posted today 6/18/10: http://www.jdnews.co...sept-agent.html

Agent Orange issues set for Sept. hearing

TOM PHILPOTT 2010-06-18 10:15:22 VA Secretary Eric Shinseki will get the Senate hearing he didn't want.

Sen. James Webb, D-Va., says he will use a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing — rescheduled now for Sept. 23 — to have Shinseki explain his decision to compensate Vietnam veterans, and many surviving spouses, for three more ailments including heart disease.

Shinseki announced last October that ischemic heart disease, Parkinson's disease and B-Cell leukemia will be added to the list of illnesses presumed caused by exposure to defoliants, including Agent Orange, used to clear jungle in combat areas during the war.

VA projects that the decision will cost $13.4 billion in 2010 alone as it will qualify a few hundred thousand more veterans for service-connected disability compensation.

Those veterans, it now appears, will have to wait at least a few more months before claims can be paid. And there is at least some doubt now they will be paid. That will depend on whether Webb and enough of his colleagues are dissatisfied with the science behind Shinseki's decision.

In an interview in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday, Webb said he was surprised to find among line items in an emergency wartime supplemental bill (HR 4899) a few weeks ago $13.4 billion attributed to "veterans." He asked staff to find out what it would fund.

"It came back this was the Agent Orange law," Webb said. Webb, a highly-decorated Marine from combat service in Vietnam, said this deepened his skepticism over the soundness of that law and how it has been used.

"When the law was passed there were two areas that raised questions for me," Webb explained. "One was the presumption of exposure for anyone who had been in Vietnam; 2.7 million people had an automatic presumption of exposure. And then the notion that the VA administrator, now the secretary of veterans' affairs, has discretion based on scientific evidence to decide a service-connection" to various illnesses. "It's very broad."

Webb amended HR 4899 so claims can't be paid on the three newly-named Agent Orange illnesses until 60 days after a final rule is published.

"This is an area where we have a responsibility to pump for more (information) to tell us specifically how they made the connection. The only appropriate way to do that is say, 'Let's fence the money for 60 days and get some clarification here.'"

Webb said he was unaware on finding the $13.4 billion in the bill that Shinseki had asked Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the VA committee, not to hold a hearing on this issue. Akaka had scheduled one for April, then rescheduled for early May when VA declined to send witnesses.

One theme he ran on in 2006, Webb said, was restoring a proper balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. Too much authority had been conceded to, or usurped by, recent administrations.

Webb said he even fired off a letter to President Obama last December challenging a claim he made as he prepared for a summit on climate change that he would return from Copenhagen with a binding agreement.

"I just felt compelled to say, 'You do not have the constitutional authority to bind the United States to an international agreement. The Congress does." Webb said.

Shinseki's decision on Agent Orange strikes Webb as more proof too much power has been conceded to the executive branch.

It was the Carter administration, he said, that adopted a presumption "that everyone who was in Vietnam was exposed" to Agent Orange. At the time, he said, the decision wasn't "onerous" on VA budgets because the department only had linked Agent Orange to some rare illnesses.

More recently, VA has found links to ailments generally associated with aging, committing VA to pay billions in additional compensation. Webb felt the scientific evidence linking Type II diabetes to Agent Orange in 2001 was soft. He is reluctant to say the same about the three illnesses Shinseki has endorsed until he hears his testimony.

But Webb does intend to question the science behind presuming everyone who served in Vietnam was exposed to defoliants. He knows his own Marine Company was, he said, as were many other units who were engaged in combat in the countryside or handled Agent Orange directly.

"On any given day in Vietnam they say about 10 percent of the people were actually out in direct combat. Percentages are actually higher than that because of rotations…But the majority of the people weren't in combat" where defoliants were used. "That's just the reality of it."

The issue was handled with more precision, he suggested, in the late 1970s when Webb served as legal counsel on the House VA committee.

"The discussions were you could develop a chronological map overlay of where defoliants had been used, and then develop a nexus in someone's service record on whether they had been in those areas. From that you could say whether these conditions would be presumptively acquired. Back then it was very small in numbers."

"Everyone up here wants to help veterans — no one more than I do. But a lot of people have asked about this. They want to make sure we're really (a) following the law and (b) taking care of people who are service connected. I don't want to be the one person out here doing this. I know Chairman Akaka has joined me in his concerns. The main thing is let's have Secretary Shinseki come forward and explain the causality."

In our interview, Webb said VA wouldn't publish a final regulation until after the Sept. 23 hearing. His staff later said the hearing might fall within the 60-day period, an indication VA officials plan to publish a final rule before the hearing. That would narrow Webb's window to try to block compensation payments if he and colleagues decide such action is justified.

© Copyright 2010 Freedom Communications. All Rights Reserved.

It is already with the OMB, see link

http://www.reginfo.g...4&RIN=2900-AN54

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I was not in combat but I did refuel many of those planes that were spraying AO. I remember that the AO would drip from the nozzels while I was refueling and would get on exposed parts of my body including not only my uniform but arms, neck, and face a few times. I wish I could vote against that guy Webb who claims he supports veterans. Maybe they can send him down here in Louisiana and let him and his family swim in the gulf and then see what happens. I am proud of our folks who are niow in the military but I'm afraid in the long run they will end up being treated like the Viet Nam vets.

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I was not in combat but I did refuel many of those planes that were spraying AO. I remember that the AO would drip from the nozzels while I was refueling and would get on exposed parts of my body including not only my uniform but arms, neck, and face a few times. I wish I could vote against that guy Webb who claims he supports veterans. Maybe they can send him down here in Louisiana and let him and his family swim in the gulf and then see what happens. I am proud of our folks who are niow in the military but I'm afraid in the long run they will end up being treated like the Viet Nam vets.

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Please write to Sen Webb and your congressmen/senators and "carbon copy" Sec Shinseki. First of all, it is not "Shinseki's decission alone. It is the IOM's finding.

Second, everyone who served in Vietnam was exposed to Agent Orange. (If I remember correctly, the wind did blow over there.)

By Webb's assumption that: "On any given day in Vietnam they say about 10% of the people were actually out in direct combat. Percentages are actually higher than tha because of rotations...But the majority of the people weren't in combat where defoliants were used." "That's just the reality of it"..

"The reality of it is; all troops were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.PERIOD Webb's assumption is like saying that the wind only blows at airports because that's where they measure the speed of the wind.

AND You have to be really, really close to the fire in order to smell the smoke.

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