History of Fort McClellan
Fort McClellan (originally called Camp McClellan) was a U.S. Army post near Anniston, Alabama that opened in 1917. Ft. McClellan has served multiple different purposes since its establishment in 1917. This includes serving as the home of the Women’s Army Corps from 1973 to 1978, and also as the home of the Military Police Corps and Chemical Corps from 1975 to 1999.
History of Exposure at Fort McClellan
Beginning in the 1920’s Ft. McClellan stored polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), sulfur mustard, white phosphorus, plutonium, Agent Orange, Agent Blue, uranium, Napalm-B, nerve agents, blister agents, Cesium (Cs-137), and Cobalt. These toxins where stored at Fort McClellan as they waited to be destroyed in the incinerator. While waiting to be destroyed, toxins were kept in containers which ended up leaking into the soil, creeks, streams, and aquifers that fed the wells at Fort McClellan.
From the 1940’s to the 1970’s additional contamination at Fort McClellan occurred as a result of the Monsanto Plant in nearby Anniston, Alabama. Monsanto was the world’s largest biotech corporation and knowingly dumped millions of pounds of PCBs into Anniston’s landfill and creek.
Conditions Associated with Exposure at Fort McClellan
Below is a list of common conditions that are caused by the different toxins that were present at Fort McClellan:
- PCB – liver damage, liver cancer, skin conditions, anemia, changes in the immune system, impaired reproduction
- Agent Orange – myelomas, Hodgkin’s disease, diabetes mellitus II, Parkinson’s disorder, leukemia, early onset peripheral neuropathy, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers, amyloidosis, ischemic heart disease
- Sulfur Mustard – respiratory cancers, long-term respiratory problems, bronchitis, problems with sexual function due to lower sperm counts
- Cobalt – exposure to high levels of cobalt can result in lung and heart problems, dermatitis, liver problems, and kidney problems. Exposure to high levels of cobalt can also result in changes to the genetic materials within a body’s cells and may result in development of some cancers.
- Cesium – mammary tumors, birth defects, decreased mental abilities, damage to cells
- Plutonium – cancers of the lungs, liver, and bones; and immune system problems
- Uranium – kidney disease, bone cancer, lung cancer
- Agent Blue – bladder cancer, stomach cancer, lymphatic cancers, lung cancer, leukemia, skin cancers, liver cancer
Please note, the above conditions are not an exhaustive list of the health effects related to exposure to the toxins at Fort McClellan.
VA Claims for Conditions Related to Exposure at Fort McClellan
The VA does admit that some members of the “US Army Chemical Corp School, Army Combat Development Command, Chemical/Biological/Radiological Agency, Army Military Police School, and Women’s Army Corps, among others, may have been exposed to one or more of several hazardous materials, likely at low levels, during their service at Fort McClellan.” However, the VA has not established any regulation that would give presumptive service connection for conditions related to Fort McClellan exposure.
Claims related to exposure at Fort McClellan can be difficult, but NOT impossible to win. One of the most important things you can do to make your claim as strong as it can be is obtaining a medical opinion. This medical opinion should include scientific and medical research that explains how a condition is related to the veteran’s exposure. Remember, the evidence only has to show that it is at least as likely as not that a condition is related to the exposure.
Filing Claims for Secondary Conditions
Secondary disabilities may not be the first thing that comes to mind while filing your VA compensation claim, but they can be integral. A secondary disability is when a service-connected disability has caused or aggravates a new or pre-existing condition, illness, or injury. See our previous blog for a more detailed look at the definition of Secondary Service Connection.
Building Your Claim
Many conditions have a large effect on your health in many different ways. Many conditions can have unexpected symptoms. The most difficult part of proving your claim is connecting your condition to an event or injury in service. Filing for secondary disabilities may help you over this hurdle. While medical documentation and exams are necessary, they can provide a way to service connect otherwise seemingly impossible disabilities. For example, PTSD is a disability that continues to change and effect you in new ways as time goes on. PTSD is not a static disability. This disability can cause many other issues in your life. For example, PTSD can aggravate sleep apnea. While there has been no event or injury in service that directly caused the development of sleep apnea, when you are service-connected for PTSD, with the correct evidence, you may be awarded disability for your new condition of sleep apnea aggravated by PTSD. Perhaps the VA has not rated you correctly for the PTSD, but by claiming the additional secondary disability claim of sleep apnea you may increase your overall combined rating. As you go through the lengthy appeal process, this may be especially beneficial.
Proving the Connection
A Nexus Letter is usually required to grant a secondary disability just like it is for primary conditions. Though the nexus letter will not need to prove the condition is from service itself, it will need to prove the condition is caused or aggravated by the already service-connected disability. These letters are most often needed from medical professionals to show the connection between the primary and secondary diagnosis. You may still need this nexus letter even if the VA has conceded to the condition being caused/aggravated by your service-connected disability. The VA has before recognized that sleep apnea can be aggravated by PTSD, but a letter may still be required by a professional making the connection.
When to File
If you have knowledge that a disability may be from your service-connected disability, keep the following in mind for when you want to file for a secondary disability:
- You are showing symptoms of a disability
- Your doctor has mentioned you are more likely to develop a disability
- Others around you have noticed symptoms (snoring while sleeping, for example)
Before you file for a secondary disability, you do not have to be diagnosed with this condition. You will need to be able to show a formal diagnosis and medical treatment for this condition later in the claim for support. For example, if you are having symptoms of sleep apnea or your doctor orders a sleep study, you may consider filing this claim. If you feel you have a condition, seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible. Having these records and statements from your physician(s) will be a great leg up in creating the nexus letter mentioned earlier. Having this evidence prior to filing will give you the best chance of having your claim resolved as smoothly as possible.
Be sure to let your attorney or representative know if you receive any new diagnosis from your doctor. There may be benefits you are not aware that your representative can assist you with.
There are three things happening in the U.S. legal system which will all have significant effects on Blue Water Veterans.
You can read our previous updates here:
You’ll frequently hear the phrase “presumption of Agent Orange exposure.” This refers back to an act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1991 that assumed if a service member was in the Republic of Vietnam then that individual was assumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange. VA interpreted the phrase ‘in the Republic of Vietnam’ to mean if the service member ever touched land—boots on the ground— or their ship entered an inland waterway. Those who touched land or whose ship went in an inland waterway are automatically eligible for compensation. However, those who never touched land nor entered an inland waterway, are not automatically entitled to benefits from the VA.
Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act
Introduced into the House in January of 2017, this bill seeks to extend the Agent Orange presumption of exposure to Blue Water Navy veterans. In June of 2018, the bill passed unanimously in the House. The House even negotiated a plan to pay for the benefits that would be owed to thousands of Blue Water Navy veterans.
The next step? The bill has to pass the Senate. Before it can pass, however, there has to be a vote in the Senate. Unfortunately, this vote is being stalled. The VA has given testimony on the bill at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing, and this testimony was against the bill.
As a result, the Senate Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson has been delaying the vote on the bill, giving the vague reason that there is more work to do to understand parts of the bill. Senator Isakson once appeared to endorse the bill, however, things are now more uncertain after the strong opposition from the VA. If the bill is not voted on by the end of 2018 then it dies.
Gray v. Gibson
For over a decade, Hill & Ponton has represented Robert Gray, a sailor whose ship entered Da Nang Harbor, in his fight to obtain VA benefits related to Agent Orange. In February of 2016, the Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC) threw out the VA’s interpretation of the phrase ‘in the Republic of Vietnam’ and instructed the VA to re-evaluate the definition that the presumption of being sprayed by Agent Orange only extends to those with boots on the ground or up a river. The VA did so by making a revision to their M21-1 Manual (where the VA publishes their policies and procedures for VA disability claims for VA adjudicators). In the revision, the VA defined inland waterways to “end at their mouth or junction to other offshore water features.” This specifically excluded all harbors, bays, ports and open water.
Practically speaking, this means that veterans who served but never touched land or entered an inland waterway would not be allowed to receive benefits.
Mr. Gray asked the Federal Circuit to review this 2016 manual revision, but the Federal Circuit said it lacked the authority to review a VA interpretative rule if that rule was published in the M21-1 Manual. This Court is tasked to review VA regulations and their validity. But it refused to do so here.
We believed that the Federal Circuit was wrong. As a result, we have taken the drastic, and final, step of taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court cannot look at every case that comes its way. Before the U.S. Supreme Court will even accept a case, the claimant must file what is called a petition for writ of certiorari. In this process, you have to prove to the Supreme Court why it should hear your case. The Supreme Court only accepts approximately 2.8% of the cases that are seeking review.
On Friday, November 2, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court granted Mr. Gray’s petition for writ of certiorari. The Court will address the issue of whether or not the Federal Circuit has the authority to review VA rules that are published in the M21-1 Manual. Oral argument for Mr. Gray’s case is expected to take place in February 2019.
If the U.S. Supreme Court determines that the Federal Circuit does have the authority to review VA rules published in its manual, then the case would go back to the Federal Circuit where it may then demand that the VA update its rules to include Veterans at sea.
Procopio v. Wilkie
Similar to the Gray case, this case involves a Blue Water Navy veteran and the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. In the Procopio case, the issue involves the meaning of the “Republic of Vietnam” in relation to the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The veteran, Mr. Procopio, is arguing that the Republic of Vietnam should include not just bays and harbors but also territorial seas.
Mr. Procopio’s position is that Congress intended to include service off the coast of Vietnam (in the territorial seas) when they used the phrase “Republic of Vietnam” in the Agent Orange Act of 1991.
In support of this argument, Mr. Procopio points to the United Nations determination that the territory of a sovereign nation includes waters 12 nautical miles off the coast of the country’s landmass.
Mr. Procopio’s case is currently pending oral argument before the Federal Circuit. If the Federal Circuit decides completely in his favor, this would mean the presumption of Agent Orange exposure would HAVE to extend to veterans who served aboard ships off the coast of Vietnam. This would be an enormous step forward toward getting the veterans compensation that tens of thousands of vets who served on land have been entitled to for years.
Are Blue Water Veterans Going to Get Benefits?
One way or another—through the courts or through Congress—we believe that Blue water veterans will receive the benefits that they deserve. We will keep fighting until that day arrives.
“Blue Water” veterans, approximately 90,000 who served on Navy ships in the territorial waters off the coast of Vietnam are still waiting for legislation to be passed that will allow them the presumptive classifications of those who served on the ground for Agent Orange exposures. The reasoning is that those on Navy ships were fitted with potable water taken from groundwater sources on land in Vietnam as well as took on food supplies from areas that were sprayed with the herbicide. Since the exposure element was often sometimes higher than those who actually had boots on the ground but were nowhere near exposure areas, these “blue water” veteran have been fighting for their presumptive rights for over two decades.
The House of Representatives has passed the legislation, which has a lengthy history of being passed off from one agency to another. The final, we hope, gateway for passage is the Senate, who is being pushed to pass the legislation, to allow veterans who have been waiting for two generations for health care and compensation for diseases and illnesses their brothers-in-arms have been receiving for only the difference of stepping on shore.
The Blue Water Distinction
Are there scientific reasons that the Navy veterans are not being granted presumption compared to Army or “boots on the ground” veterans? No. According to many scientific studies, many Navy veterans actually have just as much risk of exposure due to the contaminated groundwater used to supply their ships with drinking, cooking, and bathing water, as well as the potential for contaminated food sources by bringing locally, sources food onboard when in port.
The hold up is the cost. The VA will have enormous amounts of retro payments to make to veterans who have filed claims in the last 30 years who will be affected by the passage of this legislation. The unfortunate thing that the VA never seems to understand is that doing the right thing, passing this when the originally passed presumption for “boots on the ground” veterans and looking at the real science that showed the exposures to all veterans who ate the local food and drank the local water; the VA’s payout would be so much less than it will be today.
The VA’s Shuffling Costs
It doesn’t matter what the cost is when it comes to trying to discount the Blue Water claims, however. The VA spent over $70 million with the CDC to conduct an Agent Orange study that was so poorly conducted the study outcomes were completely useless. The VA also requested that Congress disregard an Australian study because the VA could not produce a study to contradict the Australian one. Then, to compound matters, the military never kept records of how far ships were from the shore, so once this legislation is passed, proving a ship was within the 12-mile limit will be difficult if not impossible for many veterans. But, remember, the VA is supposed to be non-adversarial towards veterans.
The VA has spent billions of dollars fighting against veterans and denying claims for years and forcing veterans to get representation, expensive medical opinions, lose their homes, and suffer increased illness due to not being able to afford healthcare; all in the name of saving a buck. But the bottom line is, the soft costs involved are costing them more than just awarding the disability in the first place.
The shuffling of papers and reviewing of denials and reading of appeals and developing of evidence over the course of the average appeal takes just over 4 years (1500+ days). There are just over 337,000 employees at the VA. In FY 2017, they decided 87,000 claims. That comes out to just under 4 decisions per employee. If we break that down by salary (now mind you, I am not an economist nor do I have access to the actual figures, these are all educated estimates) with one person dedicated to four cases per year, and we took that salary, plus benefits, overhead (technology, supplies, travel and training expenses, etc); is closer to $200,000 a year, that is close to $1 million dollars in benefits, training, overhead, insurance, payroll, etc. the VA has paid to deny less than 4 claim for 5 years. (estimated based on the average DRO salary).
What’s the Solution?
During that 5 years, that same $1 million could have paid individual unemployability or 100% rating for 5.5 veterans. Yes, it costs about the same to deny 3.8 veterans as it does to pay 5.5 veterans full 100% benefits. And, if you consider that not every veteran is going to get 100% or IU, we can estimate that we are paying almost twice to deny a claim as to what it costs to just award it in the first place.
So, when the administration says that they are trying to save money, maybe we should tell them to put their money where their mouths are. There are currently about 90,000 Blue Water veterans who have been waiting for 16 years for benefits since they were originally dealt out of the presumptive issue. At what cost? Apparently, way more than it would have to approve the legislation back in 2002 when the legislation changed to exclude Blue Water. It is time for the government to stop worrying about what it is going to cost us today because what it is costing up tomorrow is a lot more financially and in terms of the care and respect we are giving our veterans. And in our efforts to save money, we continue to waste more and more of it along the way.
Meaning of Permanent & Total
First, let’s break down each word in the phrase “permanent and total.” Permanent means that a veteran has a disability which has no chance, or close to no chance, of the disability improving. The VA considers a disability to be permanent when the medical evidence shows that it is reasonably certain the severity of the veteran’s condition will continue for the rest of the veteran’s life. In determining this, the VA is allowed to take into account the veteran’s age.
Total means a veteran’s disability is rated at 100% disabling. Ratings are assigned to a disability based on the VA’s rating schedule. A rating is meant to represent how much the disability impairs a veteran’s ability to function. In other words, the rating reflects the severity of the disability. If a disability is rated at 100%, then that indicates the veteran is completely, or totally, disabled.
A veteran might have a disability that is rated at 100% (total), but it might not be considered permanent. If a disability is not considered permanent, it is called a temporary disability. Vice versa, a veteran could have a disability that the VA has determined is permanent, but it is not rated at 100% so it isn’t total. However, when a veteran has a disability that is considered permanent AND total, there are certain benefits that come into play.
Permanent and Total Benefits
If a veteran has a permanent and total rating they do not have to worry about getting scheduled for VA re-examinations. The VA has already made the determination that the medical evidence shows the disability is not going to improve when they found the disability to be permanent.
Other benefits that come with permanent and total ratings include:
- CHAMPVA(The Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs) – This is a comprehensive health care benefit program for spouses and children of veterans. If a veteran has a P&T rating their spouse and children can receive health care benefits under this program. Also, if a veteran who passed away had a P&T rating at the time of death their surviving spouse and children can receive health care benefits under CHAMPVA (Note: the veteran’s cause of death must have been from a service-connected disability).
- Chapter 35 Dependents Educational Assistance Program – This provides education and training opportunities for eligible dependents (spouse, son, daughter, stepchildren, adopted children) of a veteran who has a P&T rating. Unlike CHAMPVA, if a veteran dies from a non-service connected disability, dependents can still receive Dependents Educational Assistance benefits as long as the veteran had a P&T rating when they passed away. There is a lot of information regarding Dependents Educational Assistance benefits, so for more details on this program click here.
- Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) – DIC benefits only become applicable when the veteran has passed away. If a veteran had a P&T rating for the 10 years immediately prior to their death, qualifying dependents will be eligible for DIC benefits. However, if the veteran had a permanent and total rating for LESS THAN 10 years prior to their death, qualifying dependents are only eligible for DIC benefits if the veteran’s cause of death was service-connected.
- Certain state-level benefits – state-level benefits for veteran’s that have a P&T rating range from college and employment resources to free hunting and fishing licenses. For example, in Florida, a veteran with a P&T rating and an honorable discharge are exempt from paying property tax on their residence. For a comprehensive list of each state’s benefits click here.
Getting the VA Assign a Permanent & Total Rating
You can’t file a claim for a permanent and total rating, but you can submit a letter to the VA requesting they find you permanent and total. When submitting this request, you should also send medical evidence that shows your service-connected disability or disabilities are not going to improve in the future. The VA typically makes a determination of permanent and total on their own, but if you have not been found permanent and total it is worth letting the VA know why you should be.
If you’re unsure whether you’ve been found permanent and total, first look at your rating decision. Some rating decisions will include a permanent and total box that will be checked if the VA found you to be permanently and totally disabled. Another indicator on rating decisions is if there is language that says something like “eligibility to Dependents Educational Assistance Benefits (Chapter 35 DEA benefits) has been established.”
When it comes to VA disability compensation, the goal for most veterans is getting a 100 percent rating. The road to a 100 percent rating can be long and confusing. There are also different ways to get to a 100 percent rating. Below we will discuss the different types of 100 percent disability ratings.
Total disability based on 100 percent scheduler rating: This is when a veteran’s single service-connected disability or alternatively, the veteran’s combined service-connected disabilities total to 100 percent.
Total Disability/Individual Unemployability:
Better known as TDIU or IU is a type of rating that can be a bit more complicated than just a regular 100 percent scheduler rating. TDIU is considered once a veteran has made a request to be paid at the 100 percent rate even though his or her disabilities do not combine to 100 percent. A veteran may file a claim for this rating when he or she is unable to maintain substantially gainful employment because their service-connected disability keeps them from doing so. Substantially gainful employment for VA purposes is defined by the amount of earned from an employed position. The total amount of earnings from a job is considered gainful if they are above the poverty level. It is also defined as competitive employment where a non-disabled individual may ear a comparable income to the particular occupation in the same area.
In order to qualify for TDIU or IU, a veteran must have one disability rated at 60 percent or one disability rated at 40 percent with enough additional disabilities that combine to a rating of 70 percent or above. It is important to keep in mind that just because the initial criteria for IU are met, does not mean that a 100 percent disability rating will be awarded. A veteran will need to provide medical evidence that shows that they are unable to work in both a physical and a sedentary work environment.
Temporary 100 Percent Disability Rating:
This rating is given to veterans who have been hospitalized for 21 days or longer or had surgery for a service-connected disability that requires at least a 30 day convalescence period. The VA will pay the veteran at the 100 percent rate for the extent of the hospital stay or convalescence period.
Permanent and Total Rating:
The permanent and total rating is given when the VA recognizes that a veteran’s service-connected disabilities have no probability of improvement. This means that the veteran will remain at the 100 percent rating permanently without the need for future examinations.
Veteran often times make the mistake of requesting a permanent and total rating because they want the Chapter 35 educational benefits for their dependents. It is important to keep in mind that whenever a permanent and total rating is requested, all service-connected disabilities will be subject for re-evaluation. If improvement is noted during a re-examination, a reduction from the 100 percent rating may be proposed. It is important to note that most ratings are not considered permanent and are subject to future review.
In the 1960s, the US started using herbicides with the chemical TCDD, tetrachlorodibenxo-p-dioxin, or more commonly know as Agent Orange, to kill vegetation in areas allowing troops to flush out the enemy as well as to provide less exposure to insects, dangerous wildlife, and unknown diseases. These defoliated areas also allowed troops to build camps and bases to house themselves and operations. However, we all know how that project turned out. Dioxin is now one of the leading causes of claims for disability among Vietnam era veterans being linked to such diseases as diabetes mellitus type 2, several types of cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and ischemic heart disease. Rightly enough, this chemical was banned. However, replacements need to be developed…..enter Monsanto.
Glyphosate was developed by a scientist at Monsanto in 1970. By 1974, Monsanto had started marketing the product as “RoundUp©,” as a broad-spectrum herbicide. It was purchased not only commercially, but by individual consumers as well. Nothing worked better to keep those pesky weeds out of the cracks of your driveway….one squirt and three hours and they were dead.
The military started using glyphosate in eight products under three basic names: RoundUp©, QuickPro©, and Rodeo/Aquamaster©. QuickPro© is a dry formula and Rodeo/Aquamaster© kills weeds at water lines such as next to lakes, rivers, etc. All three products, as well as their variations, are currently listed on the Armed Force Pest Management Board Standard Pesticides List.
What Does Glyphosate Cause?
Glyphosate does not cause any harm to humans or animals according to Monsanto. Even the EPA states that glyphosate is safe when used carefully (although no exact definition of the word carefully is offered). Agent Orange was deemed safe to spray within certain parameters as well, and we all see how that has turned out.
Glyphosates have specific directions to follow when the average consumer uses them to kill common weeds in our average yards. To be deemed “safe” these directions are to be followed:
- Chose a day that is not rainy or windy;
- Wear long pants, long sleeved shirt, gloves, goggles, and a mask;
- Cover any other plants you want to keep safe
I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but I have never followed any of those directions. I make sure my pets stay away, but if I needed to spay a dandelion in my driveway, I grabbed the bottle, sprayed the weed, put the bottle back. There are warnings of course, keep pets and people away until completely dry, but it never exactly tells you why you should use these precautions.
Here is why: On August 11, 2018, Monsanto was ordered to pay a record $289 million to Mr. Dewayne Johnson, a groundskeeper, among 5000 other claimants, due to failing to warn consumers that glyphosate in its weedkilling products was a known carcinogenic. The jury found that Monsanto knew the chemical was dangerous and failed to warn consumers properly. Mr. Johnson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto, recently purchased by Bayer AG, now faces increasing class action torts against its products due to exposures and subsequent illnesses.
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a division of the World Health Organization) concluded that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” A recent study published by Oxford University states that not only are there serious effects due to the use of glyphosate such as changes in the metabolism, cancer risk, and systemic inflammatory conditions, previous forms of evaluating the risks are also obsolete based on the different ways that glyphosate are utilized. In other words, creating genetically altered food with glyphosate leads us to measure the risks differently then the way it was measured when food were just sprayed with chemicals.
Now granted, Mr. Johnson sprayed glyphosate much more often than most average consumers and in amounts much greater than I would ever use on my measly 2/3 acre of yard. However, with chemicals, what affects one person one way, can affect another in a completely different way. We know this because not everyone who was exposed to Agent Orange got cancer and diabetes, but enough more did that it showed the link scientifically.
Glyphosate and Gluten Allergies/Celiac Disease
In 1990, approximately 27,000 people were known to have had a celiac incidence. The rate of use of glyphosate was less than 500 per 1000 lbs. of wheat treated. By 2009, the USDA and the CDC show that the rates of Celiac incidences increased to 77,000 compared to an increase of glyphosate to almost 16,000 x 1,000 lbs. per wheat.
A recent study by Samsel & Seneff, 2013, argued that glyphosate may be a key contributor to obesity as well as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, depression, and cancer. Their reasoning is that glyphosate suppresses specific amino acids and bacteria, up to 35% of those in a human’s system, and prevent them from managing the essential nutrients our bodies need to function properly, leading to an overgrowth of pathogens. What most people consider to be celiac disease or a gluten allergy are quite possibly the digestion of glyphosates and the negative effects the chemical is having on the body’s internal flora and fauna. The American Cancer Society has itself shown an 80% increase in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma since the early 70s, when glyphosate was introduced to the market.
And even worse, the weeds that were being killed by the glyphosate are now becoming resistant.
What Does This Mean for You?
Hopefully, nothing. However, if you are suffering from cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; systemic inflammatory conditions such as sarcoidosis (which can lead to organ failure and the need for transplant), systemic lupus erythematosus, or scleroderma; Parkinson’s disease, celiac or gluten problems, or even metabolic issues that are otherwise unexplained; and you have been in contact with glyphosate, it may be worth checking to see if exposure may be a link to your conditions. Here is the important link: chronic inflammatory conditions can cause DNA damage, which can lead to cancers. For example, ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease have increased risks of colon cancer. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), some of the many (too many to list here) side effects of glyphosate found are:
Disruption of gut bacteria leads to:
- Kidney failure
- Autoimmune thyroid disease
Transition metal chelation leads to:
- Neurodegenerative disease
- Heart disease
- DNA damage/cancer
CYP enzyme inhibition leads to:
- Osteoporosis, cancer
- Gallbladder disease, pancreatitis
- Liver disease, macrocytic anemia, kidney failure
- Venous thrombosis
Tryptophan deficiency leads to:
- depression, nausea, diarrhea
How Roundup has Altered Our Agriculture
Monsanto has not just developed the herbicide for removing unwanted vegetation, it has used glyphosate to engineer crops that are resistant to herbicides, allowing farmers to spray fields with RoundUp and not kill the vegetation being grown for human consumption. RoundUp Ready© soybeans and canola were introduced in the 1990s, with crops of corn and sugarbeets following. Monsanto also has a program called “preharvesting,” where farmers are taught how and when to spray entire crops of consumable food in order to kill it while still in the ground, drying it out to cause haresting machines less damage and to yield the highest crops. This process basically kills the food on the stalk, in effect drying it out so that when it is harvested, there is less moisture allowing for less wear and tear on harvesting equipment. Preharvesting, per Monsanto’s guidebook, is used on wheat, barley, oats, canola, flax seed, peas, lentils, soybeans, and dry beans.
Monsanto continues to claim that over 800 scientific studies have shown that glyphosate is safe for humans, but we have to wonder, did those studies use tests that would accurately depict this chemical’s effects on humans or did they use outdated methods developed for past chemicals that are now dinosaurs in the new-world chemical game.
Anthrax is a bacterial disease that has been around for a long time, as far back as ancient Egypt. In fact, it was thought to have caused the fifth plague during the time of Moses, killing horses, cattle, sheep, and oxen. Scholars even think that Homer described anthrax in his telling of the Iliad around 700 BC and that the deadly pathogen may have contributed to the fall of Rome.
Anthrax was researched as a biological weapon by Iraq in the early 80s, and it was assumed that Saddam Hussein had created bombs and missiles loaded with the Anthrax bacteria by 1991 in preparation for war. The United States Department of Defense, in preparation, utilized a vaccine that had been created, but not yet tested for inhaled anthrax, to protect military forces deploying to the middle east. Vaccinations were required by all forces, not just US troops. BioPort, now Emergent Biosolutions, was the exclusive manufacturer of BioThrax at the time, and it had proven to be an effective vaccine against the bacterium when acquired through the skin, but not when inhaled, so there was no FDA licensing for use against inhaled Anthrax. Therefore, all vaccines given to military personnel were considered an “off-label” or experimental use of the vaccine.
Was The Anthrax Vaccine Safe?
Despite concerns about its safety, the Department of Defense mandated that all military personnel be vaccinated with BioThrax if being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. They then expanded the program to all US Military forces and DOD civilian contractors. With the expansion, BioPort Corp requested FDA approval for to include aerosol exposure approval, switching to intramuscular injections, and reducing the number of doses. In 1997, all military personnel, 2.5 million of them, were now required to receive the Anthrax vaccines. By 1998, it was mandated for all civilian DOD personnel as well.
After the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, two US Senator’s offices and news agencies along the east coast of the United States were sent letters that contained Anthrax spores. The power form allowed the spores to float in the air and for it to be breathed in by unsuspecting bystanders as well as its intended targets. There were a total of 43 cases of inhalation of Anthrax from this attack, seven of whom were postal workers who processed the letters. Ultimately, 5 people died and it was estimated that more than 10,000 were at risk of possible exposure.
Due to questions about the contents and safety of the vaccine; in October 2004, US District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that it was illegal for the federal government to mandate anthrax vaccinations. Judge Sullivan banned the Pentagon from forcing military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and part of Asia and Africa from being required to get the anthrax shots without their prior consent. The military could not require the vaccine until the FDA approved it for the specific use of inhaled anthrax. However, those who refused quickly found themselves, for various other reasons, no longer in the service of Uncle Sam.
One of the ingredients found in BioThrax was squalene, a banned additive found in about 95% of veterans studies by Tulane University suffering from Gulf War Syndrome. Squalene is a tool used to boost the body’s immune system against certain diseases and was not approved for internal human use other than in highly controlled experiments.
In 2002, the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted a study on adverse reactions of those who received anthrax vaccines in response to a large number of pilots leaving ranks. The most common reactions reported that lasted longer than 7 days were limited motion/pain in the arm, extreme fatigue, joint pain, and memory loss. Some debilitating issues that have been reported to Walter Reed Hospital have included muscle and joint weakness, chronic fatigue, intense migraines, cognitive problems, and even some severe diseases such as multiple sclerosis and vision loss.
There are reports on the internet of military troops who have experienced slurred speech, brain damage, neurological problems tremors, memory lapses, seizures, weight loss, renal failure, and other conditions that affect the nervous, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, skin, digestive, and respiratory systems. However, there are no peer-reviewed studies supporting long-lasting, debilitating effects of Anthrax. Makes you wonder…..
There is currently an Army memo being circulated, also being claimed as authentic although the validity of the contents is unclear, stating that the soldiers at Ft. Campbell and Ft. Drum were given “bad” batches of the vaccine between 2001 and 2007 when deploying to OIF and OIE.
Claiming a condition is service related due to anthrax, or any in-service vaccine, one must be able to rule out all other possibilities. One former military member was able to get genetic testing to show her brain disorder was not genetic and therefore more likely than not due to the anthrax vaccine. However, the proof is difficult and expensive. Being able to show reactivity within a short period of time after vaccination and having a strong timeline is helpful. Legal and medical experts can assist in working your claim if you feel that a vaccine has caused a disabling condition.
RAMP (Rapid Appeals Modernization Program) is the VA’s pilot program for the new appeals system created by the VA Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act of 2017. RAMP is an optional program, available to veterans with claims that are currently on appeal. If a veteran does not want to opt into the RAMP program, they do not have to submit anything to the VA; their appeals will continue to be processed in the current appeals system now referred to as the Legacy Appeals System.
Information on RAMP Rating Decisions
Now that the RAMP program has been in effect for several months, veterans who opted in are receiving rating decisions. It is important to understand the information included in these decisions, and also what your options are if you are not happy with the decision.
The appearance of rating decisions hasn’t changed much with the RAMP program. However, the information that must be included in the rating decision has changed slightly. RAMP rating decisions must list all favorable findings that the VA identified when reviewing the case, including listing what evidence was considered as favorable. The VA must also identify the evidence they considered to be unfavorable. In the narrative part of the rating decision, the VA must explain how the favorable and unfavorable evidence was weighed in coming to their ultimate finding. In addition to listing the evidence, the VA also has to include a list of all regulations and laws that were applied in making their decision.
Forms Included in RAMP Rating Decisions
In addition to the explanation and the list of evidence and regulations, RAMP decisions will have two forms attached. These two forms are the RAMP Review Rights form and the RAMP Selection form.
The RAMP Review Rights form gives information about how to appeal the decision. The different ways to appeal a decision from RAMP are based on the different lanes that make up the RAMP program. The appeal options include:
- Supplemental Claim: If you are unhappy with the rating decision and would like to submit new evidence, this is the appeal option to select. Once the new evidence (must be new and relevant) is submitted, a different rater will review the case.
- Higher Level Review: This appeal option can only be selected if the decision being appealed was issued out of the supplemental claim lane, and you do not have any additional evidence to submit. (Note: if opting into RAMP, the only requirement is that no additional evidence can be submitted.) A higher-level VA employee will review the decision that is being appealed based on the evidence of record.
- Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA): If you are unhappy with the rating decision and want to take your appeal straight to the BVA, use this appeal option (Note: the BVA will not begin deciding RAMP appeals until October 2018). If you choose to appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, you will have to select one of three options. These options are:
- Direct Docket: Select this if you have no additional evidence to submit, and you do not want a hearing. The BVA will issue their decision based on the evidence of record.
- Evidence Only Docket: Select this if you would like to submit additional evidence, but do not want a hearing. After submitting your appeal, you will have 90 days to submit additional evidence.
- Hearing Docket: Select this if you would like to have a hearing with a Veterans Law Judge. You will also be able to submit additional evidence up to 90 days after submitting your appeal.
The second form that will be attached to a RAMP rating decision is the RAMP Selection form. After deciding which appeal option is best for you, fill out the RAMP Selection form. This form requires you to specify which issues you are appealing, and which appeal option you are choosing.
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