--- Perot Pushes Gulf Illness
Diabetes' Link To Herbicide Explored
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - There may be an association between
exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam and getting
diabetes later in life, according to a new Institute of
Medicine study. But the analysis stopped short of
saying the link was conclusive.
Vietnam veterans have sought to have diabetes added to
the list of diseases linked to exposure to Agent Orange
and other herbicides.
Last year a task force at the Department of Veterans
Affairs concluded there was a connection between the
disease and exposure to the chemicals, and a later Air
Force analysis also found a connection. Other studies,
however, said there was insufficient evidence to link
The new analysis concludes that "there is
limited/suggestive evidence of an association between
exposure to the herbicides used in Vietnam or the
contaminant dioxin and Type 2 diabetes"
The Vietnam Veterans of America welcomed the new report.
"We're delighted and feel vindicated," said VVA vice
president Rick Weidman. He said the veterans group will
be calling for immediate recognition of the disease as
service-connected and will urge screening of veterans
to detect the disease in its early stages.
During Vietnam thousands of veterans were exposed to
Agent Orange, a defoliant used to clear areas of jungle
so the Viet Cong could be seen and attacked from the
"Research findings that have now accumulated over a
long period of time seem to support the possibility of
a link between Agent Orange exposure and Type 2
diabetes," said Dr. David J. Tollerud, chairman of the
committee that prepared the study for the Institute, a
branch of the National Academy of Sciences. Type 2
diabetes strikes adults, in contrast to Type 1, which
begins in childhood.
Tollerud is director of the Center for Environmental
and Occupational Health at Hahnemann University School
of Public Health in Philadelphia.
He added, however, that the increased likelihood of
contracting the disease from herbicide exposure seems
to be small.
"The known predictors of diabetes risk - family
history, physical inactivity and obesity - continue to
greatly outweigh any suggested increased risk from
wartime exposure to herbicides," he added.
Under the law governing Agent Orange, Vietnam veterans
need not prove a direct causal relationship to receive
service-based compensation for certain diseases. The
diseases currently on the list include Hodgkin's
disease, multiple myeloma, respiratory cancers, soft-
tissue sarcoma and prostate cancer, but not diabetes.
Veterans' children with spina bifida, a congenital
birth defect of the spine, are also eligible for
benefits and health care.
The VA commissioned the Institute's analysis and
spokesman Jim Benson said it is now under study at the
The National Academy of Sciences is an independent
organization chartered by Congress to advise the
government on scientific questions.
Press Still Singling Out Vietnam Vets For Violence
Shooting in Virginia Gay Bar
ED NOTE: This article is a prime example of the press
still identifying vietnam vets for violence. Nothing
was served by identifying this man as a vietnam
veteran. At least until the case goes to court and if
his attorneys use his vet status as a defense issue.
THE ROANOKE TIMES -- ROANOKE VA -- One person is dead
and six were wounded when a man called Gay opened fire
in a Roanoke bar because people made fun of his name.
Danny Overstreet and John Collins were just completing
a friendly hug in Roanoke, Virginia's gay bar the Back
Street Cafe near midnight September 22, when a bearded
man in a black trenchcoat who'd come in and ordered a
beer just minutes before pulled a 9 mm handgun from his
pocket and quickly fired eight rounds into the crowd of
25 - 50, wounding Overstreet, Collins and five others.
The bearded man lowered his weapon, walked out the door
without having spoken a single word, dumped the gun in
a trashbasket, and calmly raised his arms when police
accosted him two blocks away. Inside the bar, everyone
tried to help the wounded, but Overstreet, 43, hit in
the chest, was dead in minutes.
Ronald Edward Gay, 53 was arraigned for first degree
murder in Overstreet's death on September 25;
additional charges are expected. As of September 25,
two victims were still hospitalized: Collins, 39, shot
in the abdomen but in stable condition, and Iris Page
Webb, 44, in critical condition from a bullet in the
neck. Two large gatherings have been held so far to
mourn and plan, with another scheduled for September
Gay's identification showed his residence in Citrus
Springs, Florida, but he seems to have been in the
Roanoke area for about a year. A Vietnam war veteran,
he lives on military disability payments for post-
traumatic stress syndrome, and according to his family
he had for some time been unable to obtain the
medications that kept his flashbacks and anxiety under
control. Gay has been married and divorced five times.
One of his exes, Laura Ramsey, told the Roanoke Times
that he was always drunk -- he seems to have been
drinking all day on the day of the shooting -- and
always carried a gun. She had also obtained a
restraining order against him and filed charges against
him after he burst into her Florida home in June and
assaulted both her husband and herself.
Chemical Biowarfare Tests
Feds Will Release The Names Of Those Tested In The
Thousands Of Servicemen Sprayed With Chemicals
Dept. Of Veterans Affairs Trying To Get More
LOS ANGELES, Sept. 20, 2000(CBS) CBS News has learned
that the names of servicemen who were sprayed with
chemicals decades ago in U.S. military germ warfare
tests will be turned over to the Department of Veterans
CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports that
during the 1960s, the Pentagon conducted more than 100
secret biological warfare tests at sea.
As CBS News first reported back in May, in two of those
tests, code-named "Autumn Gold" and "Copper Head," more
than a thousand U.S. sailors were sprayed with
materials once thought to be harmless.
Many of those sailors-some of whom claim they were
subjected to the test without their consent and were
never told what it involved-feel their health has been
In addition to the names of those tested, the Pentagon
also will provide a list of all the tests and the
biological and chemical agents used.
But according to a letter from the Dept. of Veterans
Affairs (VA) to the Pentagon, obtained through the
Freedom of Information Act, the VA requested a lot
more, including classified medical records. The two
departments are currently negotiating over what will be
Federal officials Wednesday briefed veterans' groups
about efforts to get the Pentagon to release more
details of the tests.
Veterans like Robert Bates, who has a variety of health
problems, have repeatedly tried to get information
about the experiments with no success.
"I was told flat by the VA...'No, that never happened,'"
In 1996, Pentagon officials told the VA "they do not
possess" any information about the tests. Two years
later, they admitted having "15 bound volumes relating
to Autumn Gold alone."
The VA agreed to be interviewed for this story, then
backed out, saying it didn't want to derail
negotiations with the Pentagon.
Officials who hope to check the sailors' claims called
the deal a good first step but say it could be months
before the VA has the names and can contact those
"The veterans who participatedneed to be identified and
located.They need to be tested andinterviewed to see if
they aresuffering any health problems asa result of
these tests," said Rep. Michael Thompson, D.-Calif.
Autumn Gold took place off Hawaii in 1963. Copper Head
was a similar operation off Newfoundland.
According to a Pentagon briefing film about the tests,
the goal was to test the vulnerability of Navy ships to
germ warfare attack. Sailors were sprayed with BG, a
bacteria considered harmless by the military that is
used to simulate the deadly anthrax germ, and then with
zinc cadmium sulfide.
Zinc cadmium sulfide compound was thought to be safe,
but the military later stopped outdoor spraying.
Cadmium compounds are now known to be carcinogenic to
In large doses, BG can also be harmful: in rare cases,
it has caused pneumonia, allergic reactions, nausea and
vomiting. In 1988, an Army biologist recommended BG
spraying "be discontinued" because the claim it "is not
dangerous" is "patently erroneous."
In documents previously obtained by CBS News, sailors
on the "target ships" in the tests are called "test
subjects." Only eight men wore gas masks. They were the
"control group" in this experiment.
Other crewmen were ordered to give throat swabs or
In a written statement the Pentagon replied in May that
the sailors "were not exposed to any harmful chemical
and biological compound" and they all "were fully
informed about the details of each test."
Dozens of sailors interviewed dispute that.
Medical corpsmen on vessels involved in one of the
tests say and ships' logs indicate an upsurge in upper
respiratory tract infections after the test and some
cases of nausea, possibly a reaction to BG.
Veterans groups give Lott backing
THE SUN HERALD
Trent Lott may be taking heat from military retirees,
but he's picking up plaudits from veterans.
Two national veterans groups have endorsed the
Mississippi senator in recent weeks, praising him for
using his post as Senate majority leader to support
legislation ranging from medical benefits for Persian
Gulf War veterans to a constitutional amendment banning
The Washington-based groups are the National Vietnam
and Gulf War Veterans Coalition and the Veterans of
Foreign Wars Political Action Committee, which
represent millions of American veterans.
"The man is there. He cares about veterans. He's one of
the real stars for us," said J. Thomas Burch Jr.,
chairman of the National Vietnam and Gulf War Veterans
Burch said Lott had been instrumental in steering
through the Senate this year a bill that encourages
Southeast Asians who have information on the
whereabouts of American prisoners of war to come
forward. He also praised Lott for supporting 1998
legislation that provided medical benefits to Gulf War
But some Coast organizations that represent military
retirees - men and women who have spent 20 years or
more in the military - say veterans, who often spend
two to four years in military service, sometimes get
more attention and better treatment than those who make
the military a career.
Ben Bruhnke, president of the area's Retired Enlisted
Association, which represents hundreds of retirees on
the Gulf Coast and 80,000 to 90,000 nationwide, has
criticized Lott for failing to act quickly enough to
get retirees the lifetime health care benefits Bruhnke
and others were promised for a lifetime of service.
Two years ago, Lott brought to South Mississippi a
program allowing military retirees age 65 and older to
use Medicare benefits at base hospitals at six test
sites throughout the country, including Keesler Medical
Center. This year, Lott has backed legislation to
expand the program. But the legislation falls short of
what Bruhnke and fellow retirees want now: permanent
coverage extending beyond the 40-mile radius of Keesler
covered under the test program.
In the past, Lott stressed the need to back modest
legislation that has some chance of winning
congressional approval, rather than overreaching in a
time of belt-tightening at the Defense Department.
Bruhnke contends that's the wrong approach and that
Lott has settled for giving retirees "a little bit
at a time." He complains that veterans often have
better access to military hospitals than retirees.
As a practical matter, though, Bruhnke supports Lott
because of his Senate position.
"My problem is," Bruhnke said, "I can't not endorse
VA weighs fate of Gulfport hospital
THE SUN HERALD
GULFPORT - Although the Gulfport Veterans Affairs
hospital is part of a national review of outdated and
underused hospitals, officials said Thursday it is far
too early to say the hospital is closing.
"We're waiting on headquarters to tell us what the next
step is," said Gary Butterfield, staff assistant to
Julie Catellier, VA Health Care System director.
Catellier was out of town.
Although VA officials said it could be years before a
decision is made on the Gulfport hospital, U.S. Rep.
Gene Taylor wanted his position known Thursday.
"Our nation's veterans deserve a great location like
that," said Taylor, a Democrat from Bay St. Louis and a
staunch supporter of veterans and the military. "If
that hospital is closed, it would be perceived as one
more benefit they would be losing." I will do
everything humanly possible to keep that from
Butterfield said two people from VA headquarters in
Washington came to the Coast in late August to start a
review of the 77-year-old hospital. In 1999, Congress'
General Accounting Office told the VA to conduct a
nationwide review of all of its hospitals to determine
which ones are outdated or underused.
The GAO estimates the VA spends about $1 million a day
to maintain outdated hospitals nationwide. The GAO
thinks the money could be better used to provide health
care, and ordered the evaluation to determine what
hospitals could be closed or consolidated.
The Biloxi hospital complex has no empty space, except
for one wing which is being renovated. But the Gulfport
hospital has a lot of empty space, Butterfield said. He
could not give an exact amount, but said 91 beds are in
"That number has been going down steadily over the last
10 years," he said. "I've heard the director talk to
employee groups and veterans service groups. She told
them we are looking for ways to make the best use of
taxpayers' money. This isn't new, knowing we have
Butterfield said that because the review is new, he
can't predict how long it will take.
"It's not a local decision, it's a headquarters
decision," he said. "We'll probably all find out
Study: Reservists Quit Over Anthrax
By DAVID BRISCOE, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Countering military assertions that
refusals to take the anthrax vaccine are having little
impact, a congressional study finds it is the leading
cause cited by pilots and aircrew members for leaving
National Guard and reserve units.
The Pentagon (news - web sites) questioned the results
Wednesday, saying guard and reserve strength and
readiness is unaffected. But officers acknowledged they
have no data of their own on how many reservists are
leaving rather than taking the shots.
Combined with congressional testimony from former and
present reservists claiming persecution for refusing
the vaccine, the General Accounting Office survey adds
to congressional pressure on the Pentagon to give up
its beleaguered vaccination program. A vaccine shortage
has limited them to forces in East Asia and the Persian
Commercial pilot Tom Heemstra, who complained in
congressional testimony a year ago about having to take
the anthrax vaccine as a squadron commander in the
Indiana Air National Guard, estimated that 2,100 pilots
from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves
would be lost if the vaccination program continues.
Heemstra, of Lexington, Ky., who said he was forced to
retire for his refusal, said anthrax has caused more
than 200 resignations so far at several bases around
the country. He provided the House Government Reform
Committee with a list of coded names of some pilots who
have left, saying military authorities are falsely
reporting the numbers of departures linked to the
Accusing Pentagon officers of abusing their power, he
said, "They coerced, intimidated, threatened and
punished in order to enforce this program."
Committee Chairman Dan Burton, R-Ind., holding his
second anthrax hearing this month, accused the director
of the Air National Guard of lying about the effect of
the vaccine on departures from the guard, and suggested
Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr. should face court-martial.
"The Defense Department has insulted the honor and
integrity of anyone who has dared question the anthrax
vaccine program," Burton said.
Weaver responded at the hearing by saying he never
meant to mislead Congress or guard members during a
closed-circuit briefing on anthrax at which he defended
a previous declaration that only one guardsman had
refused the vaccine. Weaver said this did not include
those who had made no formal commitment to the guard
and simply left, since guard service is entirely
"It is very difficult to get an accurate picture," he
Maj. Gen. Randall West, Pentagon senior adviser on
anthrax, told the committee that four of six reserve
units show increased readiness over past years. There
are no indications that concern over the anthrax
vaccine was a factor in the decreased readiness of the
other two, he said.
"While there have been individual cases of reserve
component members refusing the vaccination, documented
losses from such cases are a very small minority," he
West said the GAO survey focused exclusively on
anthrax, while the military feels surveys of why people
leave are more reliable if they do not mention anthrax
and simply asked for reasons.
In the GAO survey, 25 percent of those who left their
units, either through requested transfer or
resignation, cited the mandatory anthrax immunization
as the No. 1 factor in their decision. No other factor
ranked higher, it said.
Additionally, 18 percent of those left in the units,
said they planned to leave in the next six months, with
the vaccine also the leading factor cited.
The anonymous survey said that 86 percent of
respondents taking the vaccine reported "experiencing
some type of local or systemic reactions," such as a
knot in the arm or joint pain.
The data came in a preliminary version of a more
exhaustive GAO report released for the hearing. The
agency sent out 1,253 questionnaires to guard and
reserve pilots and technical crew members, with two-
House Approves $310 Billion Defense Bill
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of
Representatives on Wednesday easily approved a
compromise $310 billion defense measure that authorizes
a 3.7 percent pay raise and gives lifelong health care
to military retirees.
The bill, agreed by House-Senate negotiators last week,
was passed 382-31 by the House after negotiators
dropped several controversial provisions, including a
Senate amendment expanding federal hate crimes laws to
Fiscal 2001 defense spending levels were passed by
Congress and signed into law by President Clinton (news
- web sites) in August, but the companion authorization
bill had been hung up by the hate crimes measure and
other added provisions.
The bill authorizes about $4.5 billion more in spending
than requested by Clinton, and $12.6 billion more than
fiscal 2000 spending.
Lawmakers said the increased spending was crucial to
boosting military readiness drained by frequent open-
ended overseas deployments and improving the military's
quality of life and its recruitment and retention
"Continuing to attempt to fulfil our superpower
responsibilities on the cheap is simply no longer an
option," said Representative Floyd Spence of South
Carolina, chairman of the House Armed Services
The bill raises the pay of troops and officers by 3.7
It also allows military retirees to remain in the
military Tricare insurance system for life, rather than
being forced to leave when they become eligible for
Medicare. They could use Tricare as a supplement to pay
costs not covered by Medicare, and would not have to
pay enrollment fees, co-payments or deductibles.
The bill also provides military retirees a
comprehensive pharmacy benefit.
The measure includes a package to compensate workers at
Energy Department facilities who were exposed to
radiation in building and testing nuclear weapons
during the Cold War.
But House-Senate negotiators eliminated the hate crimes
expansion and language that would have required the
withdrawal of U.S. troops from Kosovo next year unless
NATO (news - web sites) allies met their aid
Better Health Records Urged for Troops
By PAUL RICHTER, LA Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON--An expert advisory group blasted the
Pentagon on Tuesday for failing to improve medical
record-keeping for deployed troops, warning that
without action the nation could experience another post-
war mystery like the still-unexplained "Gulf War
The report, by a committee of the Institute of
Medicine, said the Pentagon urgently needs better data
on the medical histories of military personnel,
movements in battle zones and wartime environmental
hazards. It said the department has dragged its feet on
making such improvements, even though five in-house and
outside groups have made similar recommendations.
The government has made "little progress" in the 10
years since the Persian Gulf War, the report said. It
warned that further delay would pose "unnecessary risks
to service members' health," jeopardize military
missions and "further erode trust" between troops and
The Pentagon did not dispute the group's fundamental
Army Col. Francis O'Donnell, a senior aide on medical
readiness, said the Pentagon has "no argument with
those conclusions. . . . That pretty much mirrors our
own internal self-examination."
He said the department has made progress in several
areas. Troops now are required to undergo more health
exams, and the services are taking greater care in
identifying environmental hazards in deployments, he
The issue gained attention in the aftermath of the
Persian Gulf War, when tens of thousands of veterans
began complaining of chronic symptoms such as fatigue,
joint pain, digestive troubles and poor memory. The
veterans feared that their illnesses might have been
caused by exposure to dangerous substances in the
battle zone, including pesticides, low-level
radioactive material, pollution from oil-well fires and
But the military had not kept good records on the
troops' prewar and postwar medical histories, where
they had been during the war, and the illnesses and
dangerous substances to which they might have been
exposed. As a result, studies seeking the cause of Gulf
War syndrome have been inconclusive, and some
researchers have predicted that the cause will never be
The Institute of Medicine, a group of prominent experts
from various backgrounds, was organized by the National
Academy of Sciences to provide expert advice. Four
years ago, Pentagon officials asked the institute to
examine the lessons of the Persian Gulf conflict and
other recent deployments for military health care.
Previous study groups that looked at the issue have
recommended that the Pentagon evaluate troops' health
before and after deployment and keep records in a
central location so physicians can find them at any
time. They have urged the Pentagon to carefully monitor
environmental conditions in the battle theaters and to
set up medical "control groups" of troops not in war
zones to permit better epidemiological research.
Members of the Institute of Medicine panel noted that
medical record-keeping for troops remains fragmented.
Computers are used in some military organizations, but
others rely on paper records. For individual soldiers,
records can be scattered in several locations.
The report said that, when troops are given health care
in the field, it may or may not be recorded.
Military units still do not keep close track of where
individual soldiers have gone, it said. And it said
that the military has not taken steps to ensure that
commanders are always aware of environmental and
medical hazards in the battle zones, as they should be.
Perot Pushes Gulf Illness Research
By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - Ross Perot told a Senate panel on
Thursday that ailments known as Gulf War illnesses are
"Agent Orange revisited" and charged the Pentagon (news
- web sites) with launching a $150 million public
relations campaign to blame stress for veterans' health
Underscoring his point at the hearing, Perot, the
former presidential candidate, gave Sen. Arlen Specter,
R-Pa., a book with a photo of a healthy Persian Gulf
War veteran on the cover. He also set before Specter a
magazine flipped to a photo of the same veteran in a
wheelchair, looking drawn and thin.
"He's dying. He's dying now," Perot told Specter,
chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's
subcommittee on labor, health and human services.
The Texas billionaire and Reform Party founder
testified at the request of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison,
R-Texas, who secured $5 million for Gulf War illness
research in the defense spending bill. The money is
expected to go to the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center in Dallas.
The center is seeking another $25 million to expand a
study it has done showing that some veterans suffering
Gulf War illnesses may have brain damage from nerve gas
exposure, said Dr. Robert Haley, the center's chief of
The research began after Perot gave $2 million to the
center for Gulf War illness study.
In the 10 years since the Gulf War, thousands of
veterans have complained of a variety of maladies, such
as headaches, dizziness, loss of muscle control, loss
of cognitive skills and abnormalities in children born
after their service in the Gulf.
Perot said Gulf War illness "is Agent Orange
revisited," alluding to the defoliant used during the
Vietnam War that the Pentagon claimed would not harm
those exposed to it. Perot said he lost several friends
to Agent Orange and now is seeing people die from Gulf
Perot said the failure to pinpoint a cause and
treatment was due to Pentagon officials' unwillingness
to retreat from early theories that the sicknesses were
caused by stress.
"Our government has spent $150 million to prove the
problems were caused by stress and they haven't been
able to do that," Perot said.
Bernard Rostker, head of the Defense Department's Gulf
War illness investigations, denied government research
is focused on stress.
"We have never stressed stress," Rostker said.
He said many studies into the illnesses have been
conducted and none has definitively pinpointed a cause.
Rostker said although the Texas research shows promise,
any proposal to expand it should go before a Defense
Department panel that reviews such requests. He also
said the research needs to be replicated with a larger
group of veterans.
"We don't draw a conclusion on Dr. Haley's research, we
are perfectly willing to support it," Rostker said.
"But we don't again want to see Dr. Haley lobbying in
place of the peer review, competitive research process."
Haley responded that 21 papers on the research have
been published in scientific periodicals that require
peer review before publication. He said the Defense
Department's review panel rejected his research five
times even after the findings were published.
"I think what he's saying is completely off base and
just an attempt to keep us out of the funding stream,"
After the Rostker-Haley exchange, Perot told senators,
"I think you have a clear understanding of why this has
gone on 10 years and nothing's happened."
End of VetNews Digest
The National Veterans Organization of America
[Bruce K. Melson]