Media Reports

 

Unlike the National Gutless News Outlets and Reporters (broadcast and paper) as well as our egg sucking dog Congress  here are three Media Reports on the admitted to flaws of the Gold Standard the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs uses in denial of compensation for morbidity and mortality associated with 15 different Herbicide Exposures plus massive use of insecticides. 

 

Hats off and thanks from all Veterans and widows to those reporters and their papers that actually report the truth regarding "government abuse of Veterans and Widows."

 

If one finds that the comparison group was tainted in the finding of all site cancers then certainly statistics used for other medical issues found and then denied based on faulty cohort assumptions would be flawed.

 

Instead of comparing apples to oranges as the study was supposed to do.  The study now finds, as I stated decades ago, it has been comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges and the outcomes were predictable.  There is little difference if any that would have been identified as to what Vietnam Veterans, their widows, and the orphaned and damaged offspring have been saying for 40 years now.

 

Exactly what the White House, The Department of Veterans Affairs, and our elected Congress wanted, demanded, them to find – very little! 

 

 

MEDIA ONE

 

Agent Orange study findings called flawed

 

Two scientists involved in 25-year, $140 million study say it may underestimate cancer risks for Vietnam vets.

By Clark Brooks
STAFF WRITER

 

A design flaw in the federal government's $140 million study of the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans has resulted in a quarter-century of inaccurate findings, two scientists involved with the study told The Greenville News.

Begun in 1978 to help settle compensation claims, the Air Force Health Study will end this week as it began, in controversy, with tens of thousands of veterans still seeking answers to chronic illnesses they attribute to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed in Vietnam to destroy enemy crops and jungle cover contained cancer-causing dioxin.  The U.S. Air Force, however, is closing up shop on the study having found no increased incidence of a serious illness other than diabetes.

The study has compared airmen directly involved with the spraying missions, called Operation Ranch Hand, to Air Force veterans who served in Southeast Asia but had no role in spraying.

However, hundreds in the comparison group spent time in Vietnam and may have been exposed to herbicides, too, said Joel Michalek, who worked on the study from the beginning and was its principal investigator for 14 years until he left in May.

"It spoils everything," Michalek told The News.  "It's as if you're running a clinical trial on a new medication, and you found out some of the people who were in your placebo group were actually taking meds.  That would spoil your whole study.  And that's what's going on here in this study."

Michalek co-authored two articles published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2004 and 2005
that found significant rates of cancer in the Ranch Hand and comparison groups.

Air Force spokesman Ed Shannon declined to make officials available for comment.  Shannon was asked why Michalek's analysis published in the Journal showing cancer trends in the comparison group of veterans was not used in the analysis for the final Air Force report published last year.

The Air Force noted in an e-mail reply that a "recently published analysis" showed an increased cancer risk in Ranch Hand and comparison veterans. 
Shannon said Saturday there would be no further Air Force analysis.

In a follow-up e-mail, the Air Force said the final report included only the veterans who attended the last round of medical tests in 2002 and that all physical examination reports follow the same basic analytical plan.

Michalek's finding of cancer in the comparison group was not used in the analysis for the Ranch Hand report.

Michalek said he followed up on the cancer articles with an analysis that allowed for the exposed control group and other factors
and found a doubling of cancer in the Ranch Hand group.

Further research needs to be done to strengthen these findings and figure out what other diseases the Air Force scientists may have missed because of the exposed comparison group, Michalek said.

The comparison veterans, he said, are similar to average Vietnam veterans, from nurses to truck drivers, who spent most of their time in base camps.  The comparisons' data also should be studied further, he said.

The results could matter greatly to thousands of Vietnam War veterans who've never received compensation for debilitating illnesses that earlier Ranch Hand study findings said couldn't be linked to Agent Orange.

A Department of Veterans Affairs analysis in 1998 found
92,276 Agent Orange claims for compensation had been filed by veterans and their survivors.  Of those, 5,908 had been approved.

The analysis was done before diabetes was added to the list of diseases eligible for compensation, which would make both columns much higher today, said Jim Benson, a VA spokesman.  {My comment would be Jim Benson is defending the low approval rate, which would reflect White House mandated Budget Control – NOT JUSTICE!}

The VA no longer tracks Agent Orange claims because many veterans apply for more than one type of compensation per claim, he said.  {Another misleading statement by Mr. Benson.}

The Ranch Hand study has followed about 1,000 Ranch Hand veterans and some 1,300 comparison airmen who served in Southeast Asia.

Although the study will end Saturday for the Air Force, legislation pending in Congress would turn over all the data and specimens to the Institute of Medicine's Medical Follow-up Agency, which would collaborate on analyses with scientists outside the government.  {Just think another 25 years of study until all Vietnam Veterans are dead.}

Michalek left his civilian Air Force job for the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.  He said he would apply on behalf of the school to be a collaborator.

Greer soldier sprayed


The U.S. military sprayed more than 18 million gallons of herbicides over 3.6 million acres of South Vietnam from 1962 to 1971.  Nearly two-thirds of it was Agent Orange.

Richard Leoffels of Greer saw the planes spraying overhead when he was an Army infantryman with the 1st Cavalry Division in 1968-69. Sometimes the wind blew it onto him and his buddies as they set up for ambushes, he said.

He didn't give it much thought, he said, even as he occasionally crawled through areas saturated with herbicides.  He was more concerned about the enemy.

"I didn't know anything about Agent Orange until I came back, did some reading and saw a couple specials on TV," he said.

Red blotches appeared on his legs in 1969, just a minor annoyance, he said.  Later, he would suffer a litany of more serious conditions.

The Air Force has announced in periodic updates since 1984 that the Ranch Hand veterans are about as healthy as the comparisons and have no significant increase in cancer or heart disease or any other serious illness except diabetes.

Ranch Hand and comparison veterans were thoroughly examined every three to five years, beginning in 1982.  The results were recorded in thick Air Force reports.

The final one of those, published last year, presented the results from the sixth and last round of testing, conducted in 2002.  It concluded the cancer analysis "did not suggest an adverse relation between cancer and herbicide exposure."

Ron Trewyn, a biochemist and member of the Ranch Hand study advisory committee, reviewed that report's cancer chapter.

He argued strongly during advisory committee meetings that the cancer chapter should include all the cancer data used to write the 2004 and 2005 articles in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.  It didn't happen, he said.

"They referenced those papers, but they left all the data out from those cancer papers that were done that showed the cancer effects," he said.  "It's huge, because then the conclusion is there's no cancer effect, when as part of the study, the same investigators, just analyzing the data in a different way, found that when they did that,
lo and behold, then there were significant cancer effects.

"And so for the final report to say there's no cancer effect when the investigators themselves published papers saying there is a cancer effect,
that's just flat scientifically wrong."

Without factoring in the new information about the comparison veterans, Trewyn said, the Air Force got the same,
predictable results.

"When they use an exposed control group and they say the two groups have roughly the same amount of cancer and so forth, what is that finding good for?  Nothing," said Trewyn, vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school at Kansas State University.

And it doesn't take a scientist to figure that out, he said.

"This is common sense now, a lot of it," he said.  "It's like now wait a minute.  This just does not pass the smell test or the common sense test."

Trewyn, who said he began wondering about exposures in the comparison group in 1999, did cancer research for 20 years.

Because many comparisons were exposed to the same environmental conditions as the Ranch Hand veterans, all major health outcomes need to be re-examined, he said.

"There have been industrial studies related to dioxin where as they looked back at it they thought they had a few exposed in the control group
and so the statistics went to hell," he said.

In the Ranch Hand study, it's more than a few.  At least 600 members of the comparison group spent time in Vietnam, Michalek said.

New rates found

Michalek said the breakthrough that led to the new data analysis came when he started to look not just at the numbers but also at the men behind them. 
Where in Southeast Asia did the Ranch Hand and comparison veterans serve?  For how long?

He learned some Ranch Hand veterans didn't take part in spraying because none was done while they were there, and those who served earlier in the war had higher levels of dioxin.

When he factored in that information along with the exposed comparison group, Michalek said he
found a doubling of cancer among Ranch Hand veterans with the highest dioxin exposures.  He also found cancer increasing with dioxin exposure, the first time such a trend has been seen in the Ranch Hand study, he said.

Michalek said he also found a stronger showing than previously for diabetes.

Advisory committee members wanted him to get the new cancer and diabetes findings published in a scientific journal, and he told them he intended to, according to minutes from the June 2005 committee meeting.

However, Col. Karen Fox said during the committee's final meeting this month in Rockville, Md., that the Air Force
has no plans to publish the new findings in any Air Force report or scientific journal, The News reported earlier this month.

Fox, responding to extensive questioning from advisory committee members, said the Air Force told Michalek to destroy the data.

Fox, who succeeded Michalek as principal investigator of the study, declined to be interviewed by The News during breaks in the meeting.

She said during the meeting the Air Force "tried to enter into a relationship" with Michalek to write the cancer and diabetes papers, but "he elected not to do that."

Michalek said the Air Force told him he would have to contract with Science Applications International Corp., which does data analysis for Ranch Hand study reports.  He said he negotiated with SAIC but wasn't hired.

Maurice Owens, a project manager for SAIC, told The News the company decided it would be a conflict of interest to work with Michalek because he had been a scientist for the Air Force.

There is precedent for such a hire, however. Col. George D. Lathrop, who helped design the Ranch Hand study, moved to SAIC during the 1980s after he retired from the Air Force.

Owens said he couldn't comment on that.

Michalek said he began writing the cancer paper without pay.  He said he finally gave up when he got a letter
from the Air Force dated July 6, 2006, ordering him to delete the data.

 

(Now the above statement is what Government Justice is for its Nations Vietnam Veterans “delete the incriminating data.”  Sounds like pre war Germany circa 1939 for Christ sakes!}  {Congress allows this injustice to CONTINUE to this day.}


Rick Weidman, who has monitored the Ranch Hand advisory committee meetings for Vietnam Veterans of America,
said he believes the Air Force had no intention of letting Michalek write the cancer paper on his own.

"They didn't want him to publish because they wanted to be able to censor it," Weidman said.  "That's just plain as day to us."

Getting compensation


Because Ranch Hand study reports had said the health of the Ranch Hand and comparison veterans was about the same; some members of Congress sought other ways to settle compensation claims.  The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established a compensation list.

The first entries were non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcoma and chloracne, a skin condition.  The act also authorized the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate dioxin research from a host of studies, mostly of civilians.

Using the results of that research, the Department of Veterans Affairs has added nine diseases, mostly cancers.

Leoffels suffered his first of three strokes in 1998.  They were minor as strokes go, but for a time, he couldn't control his left leg.

He was working as a letter carrier for the post office, a good job, he said, but not one a person can stagger through.

"People were calling the post office and saying, 'Hey, the mailman is walking around drunk,'" he said.

Circulatory disorders are on the long list of diseases and conditions for which the NAS has not found enough evidence of a dioxin association to be included for compensation.

Leoffels, 58, does receive compensation for type 2 diabetes, he said, $112 a month.  It's the one illness on the list that might owe its spot to the Ranch Hand study, said David Tollerud, an epidemiologist who headed the NAS research during the 1990s.

Spina bifida, a birth defect, is the only other condition on the list that received an assist from the Ranch Hand study, he said.

'Flawed design'

Tollerud, a professor of public health at the University of Louisville, chaired the IOM panel that recently recommended the Ranch Hand data and specimens be saved for study outside the Air Force.

He briefed the Ranch Hand advisory committee during a meeting in February.  He called the biological specimens accumulated over 25 years "a trove of valuable research material," according to the minutes from that meeting.

Tollerud also pointed out some study limitations,
including the study's "flawed design and execution" and "potential herbicide exposures in the comparison populations," the minutes show.  {Just as the author of this challenge Charles Kelley did in 2004 in Washington, DC.} 

In an interview with The News, Tollerud said his comments were not meant to be condemning but to recognize limitations that future researchers need to take into account.

As for the exposed comparison group, he said, "The general result of that kind of a complication in a study design would be to do what we call bias it toward the null, meaning that it
might make it less likely that you would observe findings that were really there."

Leoffels said he is in favor of continuing the Ranch Hand study
as long as it is done outside the Air Force.

"Why throw away $140 million?" he said.

Leoffels said he lost his job as a letter carrier to post-traumatic stress disorder.  The VA compensates him for it, offsetting what he believes he should be getting for Agent Orange damage, but isn't.

He helps other vets navigate the VA, though many get discouraged the first time they are turned down and never go back, he said.

Leoffels said it shouldn't be so difficult for veterans to get the help they need.

"I think what
the government wants is for us to die off so they don't have to pay us anything," he said.

 

 

  

MEDIA TWO

 

 

Agent Orange cancer findings won't get in report, Air Force says
Study's chairman raises questions about decision to leave data out


Published: Sunday, September 10, 2006 - 6:00 am

By Clark Brooks
STAFF WRITER

 

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- Cancer findings described as potentially significant by the chairman of an advisory committee won't be in the final report of a 25-year government study of the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans.

 

The $140 million study of airmen who sprayed herbicides in a series of missions called Operation Ranch Hand was designed to be used as a basis for compensation for thousands of veterans.  It ends Sept. 30.

 

The analysis showed a doubling in cancer rates among the highest-exposed veterans, according to information submitted to the advisory committee.

 

The Air Force has no plans to publish the new cancer findings in any Air Force report or scientific journal, Col. Karen Fox told the civilian advisory committee during a meeting in Maryland in response to spirited and sustained questioning during the panel's final meeting Thursday. 

                    

Fox said the Air Force instructed the scientist who conducted the analysis to destroy the data.

 

Michael Stoto, committee chairman and a professor at Georgetown University, said the new analysis included "some interesting and potentially important findings" about the health of airmen involved in herbicide spraying missions during the Vietnam War.

 

"Frankly," Stoto said at one point in the hearing, "when it shows a significant finding and it seems to have been suppressed, that doesn't add credit to the study.”  However, Stoto said later in the hearing he perhaps should not have used the word "suppressed."

 

In an interview during a break in the meeting, Stoto said the discussion was triggered by questions The Greenville News posed to him about the status of the unpublished data the week before the meeting.

 

The U.S. military sprayed 18 million gallons of herbicides over 3.6 million acres of South Vietnam from 1962 to 1971 to destroy enemy crops and hiding places and to clear areas for American base camps.  The majority of it was Agent Orange, which contained cancer-causing dioxin.

 

Agent Orange and other herbicides, some of which also were tainted with dioxin, were named for the color of the stripe around their 55-gallon storage drums.

 

Sapp Funderburk, an Air Force veteran who lives in Taylors, recalls loading orange-striped drums on aircraft in 1969 when he was an airfreight sergeant in charge of special handling at Phu Cat Air Base.

 

"They told us they were Agent Orange, so wear these gloves," he said.  "They were big, heavy rubber gloves like you see in a science fiction movie."

 

Funderburk, who was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx in December 2001, said that in the tropical heat and humidity, the instant he lowered his hands, the gloves slid off.

 

He had to unscrew a plug to open a hole to relieve the pressure in the drums, he said, and Agent Orange sloshed over him.

 

Veterans complaining of health problems they said were caused by Agent Orange began filing claims in the late 1970s, and Congress funded the Ranch Hand study to investigate the health effects of herbicides.  The study, also known as the Air Force Health Study, began in 1982.

 

Although the study is ending for the Air Force, the Institute of Medicine wants the government to preserve the data sets and frozen biological specimens of about 1,000 Ranch Hand veterans and 2,000 comparison airmen who did not spray herbicides.

 

A recent IOM report said the materials are valuable and should be studied further.

 

Legislation pending in Congress would turn everything over to the IOM's Medical Follow-up Agency, which would collaborate on analyses with other scientists and research centers.

 

The Air Force scientists never reported significant incidences of cancer in any of the study's periodic reports on the participants, who were examined every three to five years.

 

Nor has the Ranch Hand data ever yielded a finding of cancer increasing with dioxin exposure until the new analysis that was the topic of discussion at last week's advisory committee meeting.

 

That analysis showed a doubling of cancer among Ranch Hand veterans who have the highest blood-serum levels of dioxin.  Committee members were aware of the findings because the work was done by Joel Michalek, a civilian scientist with the Ranch Hand study from the beginning and its principal investigator for 14 years.

 

Stoto said in an interview the week before the meeting that the cancer analysis, which Michalek presented to the advisory committee in a June 2005 meeting, "really needs to be published."

 

Michalek's data analysis, as detailed on slides presented at that meeting, shows cancer increasing with dioxin exposure.  A separate analysis showed a stronger diabetes finding among Ranch Hand veterans than previously, Michalek saidRanch Hand scientists reported a significant risk of diabetes among exposed veterans seven years ago.

 

Michalek, who did not attend the meeting, told The Greenville News he did the analyses before he left the Air Force in May 2005 for a job as a professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.  He said he wants to use a similar approach to examine a variety of other health outcomes in the Ranch Hand group.

 

In his cancer analysis, Michalek said he took into consideration that there were intervals during the war when no spraying was done, and that Agent Orange and other herbicides may have been more heavily contaminated with dioxin earlier in the war.

 

Fox, who succeeded Michalek as principal investigator, told the advisory committee she had doubts about his analyses.

 

"I don't think there was a hypothesis before he started crunching the data," she said.

Michalek disagrees.

 

"We tried to question all of our assumptions and incorporate external information about the war to once again test the underlying hypothesis that exposure to Agent Orange may be related to the risk of cancer," he said.  "I hope the new custodian will find a way to give other researchers access to the study material so these methods and results can be peer-reviewed."

 

Fox, responding to questions from the advisory committee, said that in spite of her misgivings about Michalek's analyses, the Air Force tried to work with him on the cancer and diabetes papers after he left, but Michalek didn't follow through.

 

"We tried to enter into a relationship with him for him to write those papers," Fox said.  "He did not do that."

 

Michalek said he negotiated with Maurice Owens, a project manager for Science Applications International Corp., which is under contract to do data analysis for Ranch Hand study reports.  Owens, who attended the advisory committee meeting last week, told The Greenville News that SAIC decided working with Michalek would be a conflict of interest because he had been a scientist for the Air Force.

 

Michalek said he has since done as ordered and deleted the Ranch Hand data that was in his possession.

 

Fox declined to be interviewed during breaks in the meeting.

 

Ron Trewyn, a biochemist and member of the Ranch Hand study advisory committee, said during the meeting that if Michalek had left one university for another, he would have been able to complete unfinished research papers.  He asked Fox why Michalek couldn't do that for the Air Force.

 

The scientist is "more than welcome" to talk to whatever entity winds up as custodian of the data and specimens, Fox said.

 

Trewyn, a Vietnam veteran, said in an interview that getting the new cancer analysis published is important to veterans who are not yet being compensated for cancers and other illnesses related to their service in Vietnam.

 

The Agent Orange Act of 1991 established a compensation list.  The first entries were non-Hodgkins lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcoma and chloracne, a skin condition.  The act also authorized the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate medical and scientific data about the health effects of dioxin exposure from a host of studies, mostly in the civilian population.

 

Based on NAS research, the Department of Veterans Affairs has added nine diseases, among them diabetes and respiratory cancers, which include cancer of the larynx.  Prostate cancer and multiple myeloma are also on the list.

 

Among those the NAS is studying that have not yet made the list are bone cancer, melanoma, testicular cancer, urinary bladder cancer, breast cancer, and most leukemias.

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs no longer keeps statistics on Agent Orange claims because of variables such as veterans applying for more than one type of compensation per claim, said Jim Benson, a VA spokesman.

 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 1998 that 92,276 Agent Orange claims had been filed by veterans and their survivors, and 5,908 of them had been approved.

 

Funderburk, the Taylors veteran, receives compensation in the form of monthly checks from the VA.  Nevertheless, he thinks it's unfair that thousands of other Vietnam veterans with cancer are not getting help.

 

Trewyn, vice provost for research and dean of the graduate school at Kansas State University, said cancers caused by exposures in Vietnam could show up anywhere.

 

"Some people are going to be susceptible to one type of cancer versus another," he said.  "Having done research on cancer, it doesn't surprise me at all that you find this at a whole host of different sites."

 

Or, as Funderburk put it, "To me, cancer is cancer is cancer."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEDIA THREE

 

 

Agent Orange exposure tied to ills in Vietnam vets

Thu Nov 9, 10:49 AM ET

 

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Vietnam veterans who sprayed the herbicides like Agent Orange decades ago in Vietnam are at an increased risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and chronic breathing problems, a new study shows.

 

Agent Orange, a weed killer containing dioxin, was widely used during the Vietnam War, Dr. Han K. Kang of the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC and colleagues note in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.  Overall, two thirds of the herbicides used during the conflict-contained dioxin.

 

To understand the long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals, Kang and his team compared 1,499 members of the US Army Chemical Corps to 1,428 vets who had worked in chemical operations jobs but did not serve in Vietnam.  The Chemical Corps members had been responsible for spraying herbicide around base camp perimeters, as well as aerial spraying of the chemicals from helicopters.

 

Study participants were surveyed by telephone in 1999 and 2000.

 

Tests of a subset of the study participants, including 795 Vietnam vets and 102 non-Vietnam vets, showed the Vietnam vets had higher levels of dioxin in their blood.

 

The researchers analyzed the effects of Vietnam service and herbicide exposure separately, and found that hepatitis was the only health problem linked to serving in Vietnam per se.  {Veterans are still not compensated for liver problems or liver disease associated to Agent Orange or Service in Vietnam.  To the Veterans and their spouses it makes little difference how the VA or the congress wants to associate the liver problems as associated for mortality and morbidity compensations.  It seems to be only an excuse not to compensate even though data proves the Vietnam Veterans was correct all along and that by at least 5 to 1 in increased liver mortality and morbidity than the rest of the United States Population.}

    

However, exposure to herbicides among Vietnam veterans conferred a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes, a 52 percent greater heart disease risk, a 32 percent increased risk of hypertension and a 60 percent greater likelihood of having a chronic respiratory problem such as emphysema or asthma.

 

An increased cancer risk also was seen among the Chemical Corps members, but this was not significant from a statistical standpoint.

 

"Almost three decades after Vietnam service," the researchers conclude, "US Army veterans who were occupationally exposed to phenoxyherbicide in Vietnam experienced significantly higher risks of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and non-malignant lung diseases than other veterans who were not exposed to herbicides.”

 

 You will notice the VA is very careful in stating non-malignant lung disease and not using the medical term Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) that has been found in dioxin exposures as well as Vietnam Veterans.  While the concert of VA and BVA directed by our White House has continuously denied this disease of the processes associated with pulmonary functions. 

 

SOURCE: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, November 2006.