Sunday, March 30, 2014

Agent Orange/Dioxin and Other Toxic Exposures Committee: Committee Report BY HERB WORTHINGTON, CHAIR

2013 was a record year for educating the public and veterans about Agent Orange, the other rainbow agents, burn pits, and depleted uranium use by the government both domestically and overseas.

More than twenty-one town hall meetings have been held, with attendance ranging from one hundred to almost five hundred people. At each meeting Agent Orange folders are distributed that contain information on how to run a town hall meeting, copies of individual stories (The Faces of Agent Orange), a copy of the Agent Orange Self-Help Guide, a report from our Communications Department, a report on the impact of Agent Orange on U.S. veterans after forty years, the Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee position paper on birth defects, a report on male mediated studies, a list of all ships recognized as exposed to Agent Orange, an information paper from the Department of Defense on herbicide tests and storage outside of Vietnam, and a report on proposed legislation for veterans'families for research and treatment.

The committee continues to work with the National Birth Defect Registry and has adopted two resolutions. The first deals with the C-123 Pilots and Aircrew Association and the second with the Blue Water Navy Association. We continue to advocate for Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange in locations other than Vietnam—Thailand, Laos, Okinawa, the Philippines, Johnston Island, Korea, Cambodia, Guam, and many military installations within the United States. We have reached outside of the VVA and AVVA membership and have held town hall meetings in conjunction with other organizations. All have been very successful, and we have noticed an increase in local membership once a town hall meeting is completed.

Scheduling town hall meetings for 2014 has begun. May and much of June already are booked. States that have scheduled meetings so far this year: Florida, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan, Nevada, Alabama, and Maine.

We are endorsing Sen. Richard Blumenthal's (D-Conn.) legislation, S.1602, which calls for all veterans exposed to toxic substances to be diagnosed and treated, along with their progeny. We will host a meeting on the Hill on April 10 with as many members of Congress as possible to introduce and urge passage of S.1602. Attending this briefing will be VVA Board members, state council presidents, AVVA members, and children of veterans who have been exposed to Agent Orange.

In 2013 we printed some thirty thousand self-help guides and distributed them nationwide for free. This year it is estimated that we will need forty-five thousand booklets due to the high demand from veterans and their families. Our Agent Orange webpage—along with our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other social media—has grown greatly. We continue to fight for new conditions to be listed on the presumptive list recognizing the harm caused by our exposure to Agent Orange and the other rainbow agents. Recently the Institute of Medicine reported that there has been no difference in the reaction since 2010 for Agent Orange-related strokes. We will be pushing for this condition to be listed as a presumptive, along with skin cancer.


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