Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Betrayal of McClellan's Agent Orange Vets Continues

The government will never help McClellan vets because there's no money (in kickbacks or pork) to be made from us. We have no lobby and no one has any money to make off us--unless some ambitious law firm wants to make a mass action lawsuit of our cause. But that's not our only concern.

The people we entrust with our medical care also refuse to accept that the legitimate claims we are making are true. Who wants to believe that this country would stoop so low as to sweep tens if not hundreds of thousands of women and men under the rug after honorable service to their country? Surely that's not how things work in the United States. We're the "good guys" right? WRONG!

We seek medical care for the toxicity that has ravaged our bodies since our teens or early twenties--for the multi-system autoimmune disease which is the hallmark of the heavy Agent Orange and PCB exposure we endured--and are told we have "too many complaints" so we must "just be depressed." While I certainly agree that it becomes depressing to be sick and in endless grinding pain from sharp spurs of malformed bone digging into one's spinal cord and other nerves, what these alleged care givers always seem to forget is the order in which the events occurred.

FIRST came the toxins, then the physiological damage and then, much later, came the depression. Most people who are betrayed by the people they should be able to trust have a tendency to become a little despondent over years leading to decades of negligence and abandonment by their government and the for-profit medical establishment.

Given our only great sin was to serve our country, most of us at a time when it was damned unpopular to do so, certainly before all the "display the flag" (which was made in China) rah-rah "support the troops" (unless it increases our taxes by a few pennies a year) mania that exists today, it also tends to piss a person off!


A Soldier’s 39-Year Battle

“My Life Has Been Ruined, Destroyed,” Says Susan Frasier

by Dennis Yusko
ALBANY — Disabled Army veteran Susan Frasier rides an overnight Greyhound bus alone each month to Washington, D.C., to walk the halls of Congress in search of elected officials who will support her where the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and federal courts have not.
Frasier, 60, blames her five months of Army training at Fort McClellan, Ala., in 1970 for decades of crippling health problems. She says toxic chemicals at the base poisoned her, causing her to suffer from fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders and asthma. She underwent a
Women’s Army Corps at Fort McClellan, Alabama
hysterectomy at age 37, and surgery to remove a life-threatening stomach blockage in 1991, when she was forced to retire from General Electric Co.
Despite her health problems and living on a fixed income, the Albany woman has for eight years traveled to the nation’s capital to press lawmakers to examine the health records of Fort McClellan veterans. She also wants state leaders to investigate past corruption of disability claims in the VA’s New York office, which has rejected her applications for monthly disability payments stemming from her military service.
Driven by a belief that the VA has abandoned her and others who served, the ex-soldier has turned into a “protester” for veterans rights. Frasier counsels others who served at Fort McClellan, some of whom have also experienced health problems that are similar to those caused by Agent Orange exposure and Gulf War Syndrome.
“My life has been ruined, destroyed,” Frasier said.
The Corinth native joined the Army as a healthy, fiddle-playing teenager in 1970. She wanted to serve at a time when women were integrating into new military roles. Like most female recruits and military police near the height of the Vietnam War, the Army assigned her to train at Fort McClellan in Anniston, Ala. “There was very aggressive recruitment for women to join the military in those days,” Frasier recalled. “They promised us a lot.”
Principal training center
Established in 1917, Fort McClellan was the home of the Women’s Army Corps, Military Police School and the Chemical Corps. As one of the military’s principal chemical and biological training centers, some of its troops were subjected to live chemical agents in training, reports say.
The base maintained an annual average population of 10,000 troops, but the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted to shut down Fort McClellan, and it closed in 1999.
At Fort McClellan, the Army assigned Frasier to its 14th Army WAC Band. The young private played percussion in a marching band and 12-string guitar in its dance band, which performed at officer clubs. Frasier remembers smokestacks emitting dark smoke and a fog-like haze, but no strange smells or tastes. She was there from July through November of 1970.
What Frasier and tens of thousands of vets who passed through the base didn’t know — and many still don’t — was that the Army’s experiments with chemical munitions on the base turned Fort McClellan into a hazardous waste site, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But that’s not all.
Anniston, a city about the size of Saratoga Springs, grew into the most contaminated place in the nation, according to scientists. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, soldiers on the 42,286-acre base drilled just miles from an enormous chemical manufacturing plant owned by Monsanto Corp., which produced and discharged tons of polychlorinated byphenyls — PCBs — into the air, soil and water for several decades until 1971, according to the EPA. Located just east from the camp is the Anniston Army Depot, which incinerated nerve gas and contaminated area soil and ground water with cyanide, lead, pesticides and more through the late-1970s, the EPA says.
PCBs were banned in 1979 due to environmental and health concerns. But the 70-acre Monsanto factory, the birthplace of PCBs, leached the chemicals into creeks and buried tons of PCB waste in two mountainous landfills, the EPA says. Residents were ordered not to grow vegetables, eat fish from rivers, even smoke cigarettes in their yards.
Monsanto and Solutia Inc., which was spun off from Monsanto in 1997, have paid more than $1 billion in damages and clean-up costs to residents of Anniston and face additional legal actions, including some lodged by Vietnam veterans. In 2005, Frasier filed a personal injury suit against Monsanto in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. U.S. District Judge Karon Owen Bowdre dismissed it, saying Frasier disregarded court orders and deadlines and filed incorrect paperwork, according to public court documents.
The suit is one of at least eight legal actions that Frasier has lodged against corporations and governmental agencies for her health problems and alleged violations of her civil rights without the guidance of an attorney, according to court papers. She represented herself, she says, because she could not afford an attorney. All the suits were thrown out.
Frasier was honorably discharged as a specialist on Aug. 12, 1972. She retired from GE in Schenectady, and volunteers for Albany’s Office of Special Events in her spare time. She is divorced with no children, and lives on disability payments and a small pension.
Frasier is one of the first persons to demand answers about how PCBs and other toxins in Anniston impacted the health of soldiers at Fort McClellan. Her persistence is beginning to pay off.
Her years as lead spokesperson for Fort McClellan veterans with the Veterans’ Disabled Benefits Commissionhas become the guiding reference for Rep. Paul Tonko‘s Fort McClellan Health Registry Act. The bill would have the VA establish a list of service members stationed at Fort McClellan between 1935 and 1999, and examine their health records for toxic exposure. Tonko will reintroduce the bill to Congress this year. “We need to know the answers,” his spokesman said.
For many, the results are already in.
Like Frasier, Diana de Avila of Malta fell sick weeks after completing basic training at Fort McClellan. De Avila trained as an MP at Fort McClellan from 1983 to 1984. She, too, lost her ability to have children, and her thyroid, appendix and gall bladder have been removed. Doctors diagnosed de Avila, 45, with multiple sclerosis in 2002. “It’s been extremely difficult,” she said.
Frasier and de Avila learned randomly about the PCB threat at Anniston from a 60 Minutes news segment in 2003. De Avila also retired from GE after her symptoms grew unmanageable. The two say that many of the people they served with are ill. “I think Sue is doing a great service,” de Avila said.
Record of Pollution
PCBs and other toxic materials made Anniston the most polluted place in the U.S., said Dr. David Carpenter, director of the University at Albany’s Institute for Health and the Environment. He testified in court cases for residents around the Monsanto plant, and has studied their health patterns for the last five years. Carpenter has discovered increased rates of heart disease and high blood pressure, bone and joint pain, nervous system problems, diabetes and more.
“We think the major route of exposure was breathing the air because it was full of PCBs,” Carpenter said. PCB exposure causes cancer in animals and increases the risks of cancer, reproductive problems and autoimmune diseases in humans, he said. Nearly everyone in Anniston suffered PCB exposure, he said.
Neither Monsanto nor the EPA warned Fort McClellan vets of possible health threats, even though the company suspected by 1969 that PCBs would become “a global environmental contaminant,” and the EPA was aware of the problem since the 1970s, according to the 60 Minutes report. Neither 60 Minutes nor Carpenter’s research addressed Anniston’s veterans.
Frasier fell ill weeks after she left Alabama for Army Signal Corps School at Fort Gordon in Georgia. She was then transferred to Fort Rucker in Alabama, where she delivered death notices to families of those killed in Vietnam. Frasier’s medical records reflect her health problems. Unaware that Anniston was polluted, she returned to the area and lived there from 1973 to 1977.
Veterans say that most of the general public are unaware of the problems at Fort McClellan, but word has begun to spread on blogs and Facebook. The story, they say, has an outspoken martyr in Agnes Bresnahan. Less than three years before dying in 2009 from chemical exposure, the Army captain testified before the VA Disability Commission in Washington, D.C., that doctors at Walter Reed Medical Hospital had diagnosed her with exposure to Agent Orange, PCBs, mustard gas and sarin gas from her time at Fort McClellan. Bresnahan told the commission in 2006 that she wanted to address “the total and intentional failure of the VA in processing and approving service-connected entitlements for women and men exposed to weapons of mass destruction.”
Frasier became a lead spokesperson for Fort McClellan vets after Bresnahan’s death, said Paul Sutton, the former longtime chairman of the Vietnam Veterans of America’s National Agent Orange/Dioxin Committee. A former Marine who was exposed to Agent Orange twice in Vietnam, Sutton is an advocate for sick Vietnam-era and Fort McClellan vets.
During the Vietnam War era, the military experimented with Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant, at Fort McClellan, and stored cannisters of it near a women’s training center and barracks, Sutton said. “Virtually every woman who cycled through there in the late 1960s and early 1970s probably have had health affects,” Sutton said. He estimated that up to 6,000 women and about half that number of men were made ill by PCBs or Agent Orange at Fort McClellan during the Vietman War years, and the VA has paid out disability benefits to “probably less than 50″ of them for health complications.
Unlike Frasier, de Avila receives VA disability payments because it ruled that her MS is service-connected. The VA, however, does not acknowledge that de Avila became ill at Fort McClellan, she said. It can be very difficult for older veterans to prove that their illnesses are service-related, Sutton said.
Hazardous Waste Sites
The military practiced with many hazardous materials at its bases before environmental laws took hold. More than 170 military bases in the U.S., including Fort McClellan, are designated hazardous waste sites, says the EPA, which tracks nearly 1,600 such sites nationwide. The EPA has not tested Fort McClellan for PCBs.
The Army says it is cleaning up munitions, explosives and sites on Fort McClellan where “contaminants” were released. The VA declined to answer questions for this article, even though Frasier signed a form allowing discussion of her confidential file.
But VA Director Bradley Mayes told the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs in 2008 that the Department of Defense had concluded that there was little or no PCB contamination at Fort McClellan. Soldiers living off-base, however, “may have been exposed to PCBs,” he said.
The VA does not support creating a health registry of Fort McClellan veterans because it is “unlikely to improve the health or otherwise benefit” them, Mayes said. He added that it would be difficult to locate personnel who served and find accurate information about their medical conditions. The VA is instead monitoring health studies being done on Anniston residents by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mayes said. Veterans who can prove that their illnesses are related to exposure during military service can obtain a related disability claim, Mayes said.  But that hasn’t been the case for Frasier.
She applied for VA disability benefits weeks after her discharge, but is still appealing her denials 39 years later. A VA hospital nurse filed Frasier’s original disability application in 1972, but did not submit necessary paperwork, which damaged Frasier’s application for benefits, she said.
In interviews and court papers, Frasier alleges that the VA has relieved itself from paying disability claims to her and other Fort McClellan veterans through phony hearings, tampering with or trashing claims and other legal maneuvers. She had spoken out about VA claims issues before 2008, when officials found widespread backdating of claims and piles of unopened mail in its New York City office.
Fraiser’s most recent legal maneuver over disability benefits is an appeal filed against VA Secretary Eric Shinseki in which she seeks to overhaul the VA disability claims system to make it what she says will be more accountable to veterans. Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit became the fourth entity to rule against her.
“That’s a lifetime lost to process with no accountability on the other end,” Frasier said.

Related Posts:

Short URL:
The views expressed herein are the views of the author exclusively and not necessarily the views of VT or any other VT authors, affiliates, advertisers, sponsors or partners. Legal Notice

Posted by  on Mar 1 2011, With 559 Reads, Filed under Agent OrangeHealth. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


To post, we ask that you login using Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail in the box below.
Don't have a social network account? Register and Login direct with VT and post.
Before you post, read our Comment Policy - Feedback

Comments Closed

  1. BArry W.Sellmeyer
    Thanks for your work Hr2254 and S1939 would cover the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans if ever passed. As per the web site 100,000 vets have been denied coverage my battle is over 10 years old. been denied several times and now in flux. Keep up the good fight. Barry Sellmeyer
  2. And the list of contaminated sites continues to grow:
    “The Silencing Waters of Leon Creek”
    and grow:
    “Silent Island” et al.
Comments are closed

Saturday, May 11, 2013

We're Not Going to Stop!

For those of you with bad eye days (like I often have) my apologies...this is the best I could do for you. But this is good news. We are becoming more mainstream. When this issue first became an issue, when I joined AOL back in 1997 and started talking to a friend in Intel and a couple Generals and lower echelon "brass" who were just political junkies like me--just explaining how I was not feeling well and about the rumors I'd heard while at McClellan and the discrepancies between my immunization record and how many injections I got, and some other stuff--I thought they'd laugh at me. They did the OPPOSITE! They encouraged me to start writing about it. I was so surprised, and THEY were so intense about it. Looking back it makes sense now. They KNEW! At least the main General I spoke with did. He was... I guess you'd say connected, and he was the one who pressed me the hardest to keep at it. I felt like I was being a major conspiracy theorist, but this was before 911, before so much innocence was lost. I was so young for my age. I really did earn that nickname, Polly Anna. Now they'd be more likely to call me PANDORA!

Anyway, they said I should get in touch with as many people as I could remember (not easy to do when you have fuzz-brain most of the time) but I did it, and I found out that every single person I spoke to had significant health issues. That isn't just statistically improbable, it's off the charts.

To complicate the issue further, the majority of us seemed to have had "issues" getting our benefits from the VA because our service records had been 'lost'. I was not the only one who had to have my member of congress threaten a congressional investigation in order to get a home loan or educational benefits. Freaky deaky right? I seriously thought I was the only person who'd ever had to have that done. When they told me that ridiculous story about the fire that only destroyed records of McClellan vets even young me thought, "Uh, yeah... .sure." ...but beyond that, I never really gave it that much thought, at least until my tendons and ligaments started popping out of my bones for almost no apparent reason.

Seriously, I rolled my ankle stepping into a pot hole, wearing tightly laced BOOTS, and tore the retinaculum (the little U shaped piece of "cartilage" that holds your outer ankle ligament, the peroneal ligament, to the ankle bone). I had bruising all the way up to my butt and was in a cast for weeks before starting PT. It was such an unlikely thing to have happened with someone as young and healthy and fit as me that neither me, my own sports medicine doc nor the physical therapist (who was becoming increasingly frustrated by my lack of progress and what he saw as dramatic tears, which I was doing everything but asphyxiating myself to keep from shedding because I'm so damned over-proud of how tough I am) ...he just never thought to look for it until he finally heard/felt something when he moved my ankle a certain way. I knew what it was right away and it I hadn't known it meant immediate surgery I'd have been tempted to tell him, "IN YOUR FACE!" It was the subluxation of my peroneal tendon which was going all over the place because it was shredded almost to snapping totally and the retinaculum was completely torn off the bone...and I'd been doing PT on it for WEEKS. Immobilizing a simple sprain would  have healed it, and it just never occurred to them I'd torn that retinaculum all the way out like that or shredded my ligament so badly just rolling my ankle. I was just too young and apparently healthy and the injury was not that severe...or so they thought. They just figured I bled a lot and got the bruising because I was taking fish oil AND garlic oil, which are both blood thinners.

Sorry this is getting long, but there is a lesson coming, I promise. The poor PT went exceedingly pale, exceedingly red, then back to pale again, apologized profusely and had the doc come to see me, at which time he heard/felt the same thing, cleared his throat, smiled reassuringly and called the surgeon who does all the ortho surgery for the professional football team in town.

Aside on how important it is to be assertive in your own medical care:  I had worked with a certain anesthesiologist and knew him to be very personable, the life of every "attitude adjustment" (party) the staff ever threw, but highly unprofessional while working and incredibly, as in, 'how on earth does this guy keep his licence to practice medicine, much less his malpractice insurance?' careless. Needless to say I requested that he NOT do my case.

Fast forward a few days. The Surgeon calls and says he's doing an emergency surgery the following Saturday on one of his athletes and will fit me in too if I want so I can get back to my own patients sooner rather than waiting for his next opening a few weeks later. I'm thrilled, say yes, call the OR to make sure Dr. Dopey isn't the Anesthesiologist on duty that weekend, and CRAP...he is, but there's also a Nurse Anesthetist, so I say, "Okay, just PLEASE make SURE I get the Nurse Anesthetist! I want it official, on my chart, in writing."

Day of surgery I get there, all is going well, and in walks Dr. Dopey. I won't repeat the string of words I uttered under my breath. "I know you requested not to have me do your anesthesia," he cheerfully blurts, "But do you mind if I just do your pre-op? The Anesthetist will do your actual anesthesia as requested." Then he winked, and it dawned on me. He thought I didn't want him to see me naked because they scrub the whole leg! The egotistical LECH!

WT inglorious F. This is where I should have been assertive and said, "Actually I do mind, please let the RN or Nurse Anesthetist do it." I suspect Dr. Dopey couldn't quite place who I was given we practice different specialties and he'd known me by my married name when last we'd partied together.

That was the time my then-husband impressed upon him the importance of our marital bond after Dopey, who was especially so that night, so maybe he was Happy, no, actually his nose was runny, so maybe he was Snorty, I mean Sneezy, asked me, for the third dance in a row, to slow dance, to fast music. (Somewhat hypocritical on my husband's part given future events in our marriage, or outside it I guess you'd say, but hilarious at the time.) I have since changed back to my maiden name and Dr. Dopey no doubt simply wanted to see who'd had the poor taste to value her health over the whimsy of having the doctor with the Pee Wee Herman doll in his anesthesia cart. Not that I have anything at all against Pee Wee Herman!

I am strongly against continually letting little kids' oxygen saturations go from the high 90's where they belong-nice and pink, to the low sixties or worse-very blue, for minutes at a time because Dr. Dopey can't flirt with the new nurse or surgical tech du jour and properly operate an ambu bag at the same time and likes to run "his OR" with alarms OFF ...and it's the same if not worse with his adult patients. I had visions of waking with a CO2 headache the size of Texas and barfing for the next four hours. No thanks. I never trusted that all those narcs he signed out went to his patients either. His patients always seemed to come out of anesthesia faster and in more pain than everyone else's while he always seemed to be happier and happier the later in the day I saw  him. You do the math on that one!

I once saw him berate a professional nurse, BSN, for insisting that he check the numbers on a bag of blood with her per hospital protocol instead of just handing it over to him, saying "I AM the double check, sweetheart, M and D as opposed to R and N." She blandly stared at him over her mask without blinking her rather striking green eyes for just an extra beat or two before calmly beginning to read off the numbers, which did not match, which was all the more embarrassing for him because he had already signed off on that unit and would have given it to the patient, which would have resulted in a severe transfusion reaction because of the kinds of blood involved. Transfusion reactions can be deadly. If that kind of thing happened only on the times I attended surgeries with my patients, I cannot imagine how many other errors the man made on a regular basis! So, as you might now better understand, I really did not want him anywhere near me in the role of Anesthesiologist.

But then I thought to myself, what possible damage can he do starting an IV and giving me my pre-meds before surgery? I have difficult veins and the nurses can rarely start my IV's anyway, so he'd probably have been called to do that anyway. The surgeon was already kind enough to fit me in. The least I can do is keep his day moving along smoothly. Surgeons REALLY value that! It was kind of a way of saying thanks and repaying a professional courtesy in kind.... or so I thought.

That jack-ass, Pee Wee Herman doll waving, skirt chasing, a-hole almost killed me! That's what damage he could do. He gave me a med, one the hospital had recently begun receiving from a new supplier, and instead of READING what the vial said, he went by the COLOR OF THE LABEL and gave me ONE HUNDRED TIMES the maximum human dose (like for a 300 pound human!) of a very dangerous drug (and he gave it all at once instead of over a fifteen minute period as it should be). It's used to raise blood pressure, and what I was supposed to get was a simple anti-nausea drug so I wouldn't barf after surgery. The thing is, I will never know if he subconsciously did it intentionally or not. One of the hardest things I have ever done is stay calm as I requested to be hooked up to monitoring immediately because I believed I was having a bad reaction to a medication or may have been given the wrong thing, because my head literally felt like it was going to explode. I now KNOW for SURE what a 10 on the pain scale feels like, but through that haze of pain I HAD to stay calm because if I "lost it" they would think I was just getting hysterical about the impending surgery and try to talk me down, wasting precious time during which I NEEDED OXYGEN, STAT and whatever the hell they give to counteract a massive overdose of what he just walked over to the med cart and almost passed out when he realized he gave it to me before quickly throwing it into the needle sharps disposal container, from which it is irretrievable, and therefore unable to be witnessed by anyone else, the evil bastard. His shaking and pallor gave it away anyway, not that it did me any good, but that slow motion thing really does happen.

And now I know what "my" heart attacks feel like. I don't know if I'll have the head exploding thing with it, but the chest being squeezed, compressed to 1/4 its size is unmistakable. And yes I thought of How the Grinch Stole Christmas--THAT was almost my last thought--the cartoon of that tiny, teeny little too-small heart and that stupid dog with sticks on its head with the belt squeezing around it--amazing the mixed images your mind comes up with under duress. But if the "big one" ever hits again, I'll know it for what it is. Odd thing is, I was in denial about it for years afterward. Even through the lawsuit, neither I nor my HORRIBLE lawyer (who I later found out usually represents insurance companies) thought of the fact that a squeezing band around one's chest might mean one had a heart attack and might have life long heart damage. That is how damaged my brain was, and how long it has taken me to return to "myself."

At least I was able, along with Dopey's ashen color and shaken appearance and call for the Anesthetist to come and take over for him STAT, to convince them that I really was in trouble physically and they finally took my BP and it was off the limits of the machine. When it finally registered it was 262/210. Prior to that it was 72/50 because I was in good shape and on pain meds. Quite an abrupt change, hm? Normal/ideal is 110/70.  My guess is if I didn't have any aneurysms at the time, I may now though my pulse pressure wasn't really that wide, so who knows. Thank GOODNESS I was still fit at the time! I honestly believe my devotion to...well Tae Bo itself saved my life. Thank you Bill Blanks!

They gave me oxygen, tilted the bed to Trendelenburg, and shot something else into my IV. My guess is it was Versed, and LOTS of it, but bad luck for him, it does not cause amnesia in me for some reason--in fact since it did do half its intended job and put me to sleep immediately after the incident it was like cementing the memory in my mind for all time--otherwise there's no WAY I would recall it all so clearly ...a gift of the McClellan Cocktail is our outright WEIRDO reaction to a lot of medications, am I right or am I right?

But that was the final insult that began the cascade of events that led to my disability.  So, lesson: BE ASSERTIVE AND STICK TO YOUR GUNS! ALWAYS! Doctors are not gods, they are people and YOU know YOU better than they do! If something makes you think, "Hmmm" SAY so! Doctors make mistakes, and when they do, it destroys peoples' lives. Don't let that happen to you. If you disagree with your doctor, no matter how NICE he or she is, or get a bad gut feeling about that person, do not hesitate to get another opinion. It's not like you're getting a car fixed. You only have one life. It may suck a bit more than someone's who hasn't had the McClellan cocktail, but it's worth caring for! And for the record, no, I did not make money on the incident. There's an old adage among the medical community. If it's not charted it didn't happen. I'll let you take it from there. Nurses are easily bullied, especially in small town Catholic hospitals. If enzymes aren't run right away after a heart attack it can't be proved to have happened. If someone has brain damage on MRI and they only have a clean CT to prove they didn't have brain damage before, it's not good enough. Given a choice between helping a colleague stand up to another doctor or helping cover another doctor's butt, doctors will ALWAYS opt to help cover another doctor's butt, and that is why there are so many crappy, unsafe, disreputable doctors killing people in this country! They really like small to mid sized towns so beware and look up your doctor's record. If he's been sued for malpractice or disciplined by the State you can find that information online.

To return to what happened when I contacted people I knew from McClellan...

The health stuff among the people I contacted started sounding very familiar from case to case. SO many of us had had early term SA's (SA means spontaneous abortion-the medical term for a miscarriage) as opposed to elective abortion or terminated pregnancy...or the 1960's standard euphemism, D&C. Almost all of us had had at least a couple early term SA's, which is just plain unheard of as far as statistical significance goes, and they all happened with our pregnancies closest to when we'd been AT McClellan. As I've told my patients countless times when they grieve over miscarriages, often there is good reason for them, and in the time since I've started studying the chemicals we were exposed to at McClellan and the birth defects associated with them, I have no doubt that my own SA's were a mercy. Those chemicals are highly teratogenic. Its amazing how the reproductive systems in humans are so hard hit, from the organs themselves to multiple miscarriages to birth defects. I had issues, and lost my ability to have children which lost me one extremely significant relationship, maybe my most, and no one really knows what early loss of ovaries as well as the uterus does to women. I was barely thirty! That is a LONG time to be on unopposed estrogen. I know I have suffered from the loss of testosterone and that my entire endocrine system is FUBAR (nice military term, that). From thyroid to hypothalamus ..none of it works right, though my doctor is a "by the numbers" man, not realizing that over time organisms, especially humans, adapt. Those adaptations are not always healthy though, or for the best...just a struggle for homeostasis. If I wanted that I'd be on some numbing antidepressant and just stop experiencing my life all together. NO THANKS.

Worst is what they've allowed to happen to our children though. WE volunteered to serve, and like it or not we became property of the US military when we did so. Our kids never made that deal and it's just not right they THEY are suffering for OUR mistakes. I have little doubt that my oldest child has McClellan-related neurological and connective tissue issues, while my much younger child appears less affected, though not completely healthy either. Both have issues with bones and my elder child has spina bifida occulta with negative history in both his father's and my side of the family. I took plenty of folic acid before and during my pregnancy too, so it SHOULD NOT HAVE HAPPENED!

So, thank you very much for the knowledge that my son works every day in excruciating, crushing pain, Monsanto--glad our pain and suffering has increased your damned profit margin and made life nice for whoever you paid off to keep the heartless and hapless VA in charge of our health and well being. And thanks to the lobbyist or other military-industrial complex enabler who got service members and their families EXCLUDED from both the Agent Orange settlement AND the Anniston, Alabama, v Monsanto settlement, and most of all thank YOU, Veteran's Administration for continuing to deny us the care and compensation you were COURT ORDERED TO PROVIDE by continuing to insist that proof of cause and effect does not exist, despite the fact it absolutely DOES exist, IN PUBLIC AND JUDICIAL RECORD NO LESS! ...or do you really expect us to believe Monsanto lost that long and hard-fought case against such a tiny little town in Alabama because they, the multi-national corporate GIANT, despite still swimming in billions of dollars from no bid contracts awarded to BLACKWATER which it also owns, could not afford lawyers powerful enough to take on little ol' Anniston, Alabama.

Without logic, compassion or a legal leg to stand upon the VA spits in the face of the judge who ordered that we be cared for and compensated based on the notion, CLEARLY disproved in Anniston v Monsanto, that no cause/effect exists between the chemicals leaked into the environment by Monsanto and the high instance of diseases, reproductive issues, cancers and premature death...therefore CONTINUING against all reason, logic and HUMAN DECENCY to sweep us and our suffering children under the rug like yesterday's spilled coffee grounds.

How long are we going to stand (or sit) silently and let them get away with it?

Monday, April 29, 2013

McClellan Vets vs Medical "Professionals"

Before I dig into this issue, I just want to share this post I found, because it is in formulating a comment to it that today's topic actually came to mind. Most of you have probably seen it, but it's excellent, and a good, comprehensive piece to bring with you to any doctor's appointment. So don't let the title throw you, and here's the url:

Something I didn't note below is this: Monsanto LOST a lawsuit over this issue. They LOST. Let me say this one more time. THE MOST POWERFUL CHEMICAL (followed by countless etc.'s including Blackwater, the Bush/Cheney Iraq and Afghanistan war profiteering corporation which had to change its name to Xe amid rape and murder allegations --> convictions) ...America's biggest, baddest corporation LOST  hundreds of millions of dollars to the people of tiny little Anniston, Alabama over the very same issue WE have with the VA! THAT is called SETTING A PRECEDENT! In legal terms, that is HUMUNGO --which I realize isn't a word, but it should be!

Seriously, Monsanto's loss means the FACTS are SO INDISPUTABLE and the PHYSICAL DAMAGES TO HUMANS SO BEYOND QUESTION that absolutely ZERO chance exists that those chemicals are not toxic to human beings who come into contact with them, because trust me, if anyone can afford the best lawyers on the planet, it is Monsanto, and they fought this hard, bitterly and for years.

Yet   still   they   lost.    

So any doctor who tries to tell you that your auto-immune disease, arthritis, heart/circulatory disease or your child's unusual birth defect is just a product of your lifestyle, you tell that doctor, "Only if you consider choosing to SERVE MY COUNTRY to be a lifestyle choice." 

We WERE poisoned, it is indisputable fact, Monsanto has already lost its case against the "small folk" of Anniston, Alabama, and only one thing is keeping the VA from compensating and caring for active duty and military vets who were also poisoned, who were exposed to far MORE than the good people of Anniston (because we also had the experimental crap the military cooked up and tested all over the base as well as that slight matter of ionized uranium to add to the "McClellan Cocktail" Uncle Sam mixed up and served us).

Yum yum. "Pardon me, dear, but you're looking a little green around your new orange gills, or is that just because you're glowing in the dark?"

Seriously, no one wants to be The One who opens up this can of worms at the VA because it's going to cost Uncle Sam brownie points with his contractor buddies who would far rather he continue spending barrels of cash on their no bid contracts and off shore excursions with their Military Industrial Complex BFF's. Quite literally, no one wants to be Debbie Downer and be the person who pulls the plug on the 24/7/365 big brass turned big wig pool party just because a bunch of (mostly) former enlisted people are inconveniently sick and dying. "Isn't that what we pay them practically minimum wage to do? where's my $5K/night call gi...I mean escort? We have some negotiating to do."

And that is what this is really all about. No one "up top" wants the good times to end. They have become so corrupt that our pain and that of our children means less than nothing to them. They will do anything to keep their own lavish lifestyles protected. Some even figure they've earned it! Well, we have earned our health care and compensation too, and our children, innocent of even the decision to volunteer to join the military in the first place, certainly deserve medical care more than these fat cats deserve to keep their tee times with Halliburton and KB&R!

The genetic damage passed on to our children has already been well documented in Anniston vs Monsanto, and unlike Monsanto, which is getting off exceedingly easy with a few hundred million dollars, the VA is looking at full compensation and care for generations of people affected by the McClellan Cocktail. So they are racing around like rabbits trying to maintain the media and medical literature blackout on this thing.

It quite literally reminds me of the time a huge storm came out of nowhere in the midst of a huge military family and friends Memorial Day camp-out at Kentucky Lake, which I'd attended while stationed at Fort Knox. With winds gusting at least to 60-70 mph ahead of the storm it was decided one gigantic tent in a relatively safe spot was the best place for everyone to shelter. The roads out of the area were just logging trails with trees close on either side and many had come on motorcycles, so leaving was not an option.

 As the full force of the storm hit, the wind and debris was ripping this gigantic tent to shreds, and once the sides started to lift people where scooting around like crazy inside the thing trying to keep first one spot then another tacked down from inside so the wind wouldn't launch us Wizard of Oz style into the air. As soon as one spot would get tacked back down another spot would start blowing and some brave butt would plant itself there, not knowing what was going to hit next from outside, and on and on it went for what seemed like hours. As it turned out we had just survived a tornado, well actually a water spout from across the man-made lake, but only barely. If that wind had gone on even five more minutes I don't think we'd have made it.

That's where the VA is right now with us. The wind is whistling around them and getting louder and louder and they're scrambling to keep everything tacked down--business as usual. Eventually they're not going to be able to keep the cover-up going. WE are the wind, and we can't let up; we just have to last those few more minutes than they can scramble--then WE WIN! It's going to be a war of wills and they are counting on us being too sick and too tired to fight, but we volunteered to serve this nation and more importantly to look out for each other. That does NOT end when we take off the uniform. That doesn't end EVER!

So for today some suggestions for dealing with your doctor.

One of the MAIN issues you're going to run into with your doctors (as far as how they are taught to evaluate people) is that you have "too many complaints". They are going to assume it's "just depression" because the government (VA) has done such a great smear (misinformation) job on the McClellan issue in the media, including "reputable" or "mainstream" internet sources. They've already got fake vets posting on many of the more popular boards talking about how they've lived around Anniston "forever" and no one's sick, etc. Of course that is total crap. People are told not to chew gum outside or have private gardens because of the chemicals in the soil. They are told to use air conditioners rather than having their windows open even on cool nights because the dust around the area is still so toxic. Swimming anywhere in the area is out of the question and entire areas have been paved over because they could not be reclaimed. Many of the chemicals live inside plants, which, when they decay, turn to dust, and the process of spreading the chemicals continues in a cycle. It's endless. The rates of miscarriage, still birth and major deformity are far higher than the national average. All this is covered in the link at the top of the post, which in turn has links to the studies involved, which may or may not get your doctors' attention. Good luck.

Then there's pain.

Gone are the good old days when a person could get pain medication without having damage done to her/his body. Now pain is an INDUSTRY, and if you want someone to write you a prescription for pain, you will damned well suffer for it (as if you're not already suffering enough...).

Medical "Professionals" do this to NO other group of patients. We do not make diabetics have treatments done to their pancreas before they get insulin, or make heart patients have open heart surgery before they get Digoxin. We don't force people to undergo ECT (shock therapy) before providing any of the obscenely vast array of highly profitable and ridiculously redundant psycho-active medications on the market, some of which purport to "cure" pain, but DO NOT. That is a out and out LIE, and a dangerous one at that! Doctors don't even fully understand the exact mechanism of action of most antidepressants, and to say any of them cure pain is just plain irresponsible. The only reason those ads get away with saying it on TV is that no one can prove that it's not true either, plus a LOT of money changes hands. The Pharmaceutical Industry spends more money on lobbying than on all other aspects of their business combined, including executive salaries and research and development, and much of that lobby money goes to the FDA! ...and I'm digressing.

Doctors are busy (seeing as many patients as possible in order to make as much money as possible) and most exist in a rut and are inherently lazy...more interested in their golf game than your health. Dr. House, jerk that he is, does not exist except in a very few teaching hospitals, which is the kind of hospital you want, need to go to if you have any real hope of getting real help for what ails you. This applies to anyone with complex health issues, but most especially for women and absolutely for McClellan vets!

 If it's easier for docs to label you as depressed, a malingerer or malcontent, or "a woman of a certain age having a rough time adjusting to her change of life" (remember, McClellan was the W.A.C. training facility for much of the time the poisoning was going on) they will fall back on those diagnoses rather than looking any deeper into the issue, even if you spoon feed the McClellan/Monsanto facts to them complete with references! How do I know this? I am part of that corrupt medical system, I am ashamed to say, and I know that 99% of doctors given facts and printed literature and links will not ever bother to read the information, much less look up the links before hitting all together different kind of links.

They will complete your appointment, dictate their pre-conceived notions about you into the chart (especially if a previous doctor has given you the "depression" label--that one pretty much insures you will never have  a valid health concern taken seriously again as long as you live). This new "confirmation" of "depression" will follow you around to every doctor you see from that point forward, thus tainting every OTHER doctor's opinion about you, and all the information you provided will go in the circular file. This is why you DEMAND that the information you have collected be included in your chart along with a brief letter explaining it in context to your health (it is your legal right and prevents him from tossing it away). Then do not let the appointment end until you make him/her read the information and discuss it WITH you DURING your appointment. And don't be bullied or rushed. You are paying that doctor for a service. GET WHAT YOU ARE PAYING FOR! If he/she is over-booking appointments, that's not your problem. You deserve decent care. A doctor cannot walk out on a patient "in need." That is law.

So, say the worst happens and you have failed to get through to your doctor. Then do this:

When faced with a lunk-head doctor who will not listen to reason, make a written request to that doctor's clinic, attn: Medical Director, and request that his/her findings NOT be included as part of your medical record. That is also your right. You may or may not receive a follow-up phone call, but they can't take any kind of action against you for a reasonable request or difference of opinion. Explain that you felt you were not taken seriously and go into detail. Maintain a respectful and professional tone, but be firm in stating that you did not see eye to eye and that you disagree strongly enough that you do not want that faulty visit to influence your future medical care. Then find a different doctor, as noted later below, preferably from a different "system" if your insurance allows. When possible always choose PPO insurance/Medicare if you have that, because you have far more control and choice over variety of doctors, specialists and hospitals. HMO's stick you in ONE system and you pay a huge penalty if you leave that system, and they also really rush their doctors and HATE to use specialists and provide diagnostics, all of which cost them money! It's a BAD route to take unless you're 18 and healthy as a horse and want to take the cheapest way out that is still at least literally considered insurance. PPO is the way to go! (That's the best way to remember it).

What else can you do when faced/stuck with an obstinate doctor? 1. DEMAND TESTS! I recommend at the very least a Urinalysis, BUN, Creatinine, CA 125 (checks for cancer) CBC/diff, Colonoscopy if over 40 for McClellan vets, full body skin exam for cancer, mammogram, Pap if you still have a cervix,  baseline MRI and one from neck to "tailbone", bone density scan, cardiac stress test, ECG, blood pressure on all four extremities, tilt test, balance and grip tests, complete eye exam (including glaucoma)  and I'm sure I've forgotten something because I'm tired. If you are a female vet, have your children checked for Spina Bifida Occulta, especially if they have a dark mole and/or patch of hair at the small of their back or mention back pain at an early age or ever say they have leg pain or numbness.

Most of you will very likely show osteo (bone) arthritis or other bone abnormalities by the time you're feeling symptoms. Fibromyalgia, MS, CFIDS and Lupus (often hard to tell apart and often overlapping, are common with McClellan vets, along with other autoimmune diseases like diabetes). *Note--just because your sedimentation rate isn't off doesn't mean you don't have Lupus. A LOT of doctors get that wrong.*

Even though none of us is "well" after leaving that place, we are all so used to never feeling as well as we did the day we set foot an that contaminated soil--we have coped with it for long we have a adopted a different sense of what normal is. Humans are remarkably adaptable, but if you really THINK about it, I'll bet you felt better the day you got there than the day you left, even though Basic is supposed to make you feel strong. Am I right? We were  not only poisoned and then left to our own devices to die, utterly abandoned by the government that damaged us and our offspring. We were robbed of EVER reaching the true prime of our lives. That makes me indescribably angry. But to move on, on most testing, our bodies will show advanced degeneration for our ages, even if we look young for our age on the outside.

Personally, I kept going like the Energizer Bunny until an anesthesia error brought me low, and from that point on it was like my body's last insult. I couldn't "fake it 'til I felt it" anymore. I was just done. It was that fast.

One day I was Superwoman, doing three miles or so and a Tao Bo routine between 12 hour shifts at the hospital at least 5 times a week along with being a divorced mom and making it all work just fine and then BAM! I was just....done. Couldn't even walk around the block without nearly passing out. Work was out of the question because my brain forgot how to make the right words half the time. Thankfully I've made some new pathways and can communicate fairly well many days, but I'm still not "me".

Someone once said, "It's like the Army wanted to make a Super Soldier, shot us up with something, and then when it timed out we just suddenly felt everything we never felt in all the time prior. I say that only half joking, actually. How many of you recall getting far more injections/immunizations than were listed on your little booklet? Anyone else get in major trouble, as in drop and give me 40, for simply mentioning it out loud to a friend when not even in formation or anything? Anyone else get super sick afterward? I mean hell, if they can poison us and not tell us, what's to keep them from experimenting on us outright? They did it with the Anthrax Vaccine on the way over to Iraq for thousands of squids and Marines, probably soldiers and airmen too."

I laughed. I'm not laughing so much now...

Back to business: Be persistent. If your small town doctor isn't willing to listen to you, go to a major city University Hospital or a large, well respected facility to have what is physically wrong with you DOCUMENTED, and make sure you get a copy of all films and reports to keep with you. THIS IS YOUR INFORMATION and they can not deny it to you. I cannot over emphasize how important this is, because the other thing you do not want to do is get involved in any of that computerization of your medical records where you are allegedly made more safe because your medical history is made available in an instant.

Wear an allergy bracelet or medic-alert necklace or get a DNR tat if you don't want heroic measures done, but ***DO NOT get your PRIVATE information computerized. If the system gets hacked, and who better to do THAT than Uncle Sam, your whole case against the VA could disappear in an instant.*** Besides, there's just no way to guarantee your privacy or protect yourself from dip-wad doctors once something's in a computer! Sorry trees, but medical information belongs in files.

Write down all your physical symptoms and their date of onset because chances are the military has "lost" your medical records along with any and all records of any sick calls that may have been related to skin rashes or suspiciously severe second degree (blistering) sunburns that happened exceedingly quickly during or within a short time after leaving Fort McClellan. These are the first signs of  M&M (Monsanto & McClellan) poisoning. (I got a blistering sunburn in under fifteen minutes at around 0800 on a Saturday morning and only recently learned that extreme sunburns are a very common early stage reaction to Monsanto's little gift to us at Fort McClellan).

Also try to remember repeated sick calls for headaches, nausea, dizziness, skin rashes and absolutely for miscarriages too, and any and all other health issues suffered while in service. (I have read something recently about hysterectomies possibly becoming presumptive for PCB exposure, even for McClellan vets, so women, if you had an early in life hysterectomy, DO get in touch with  DAV, Disabled American Veterans, and see if they can help you get some benefits for that).

Even if health issues seem nonsensical to you, they could mean something BIG regarding chemical/bio weapon exposure. My medical records were "somehow misplaced during filing" and I have heard that happened to many other McClellan vets too. My guess is it happened to ALL of us who had significant health issues that pointed to Monsanto like a brilliant neon orange arrow!

Best wishes everyone, and KEEP MAKING NOISE! We want to huff and puff until we blow that tent and the greedy old bastards at the VA sky high--nonviolently of course. They have to be healthy to help us. : )