VetNews Digest from The National Veterans Organization of America
- Jan 24, 2001
--- Senate Confirms Housing, Veterans Secretaries
--- Principi's Senate Confirmation Statement
--- Fed Officials Will Try to Replace VA Jobs
--- Vets Receive VP Salute, Unexpected Guest
--- Study Shows Better Outcomes for Blacks in VA System
--- Your money at work: VA conducts study on "Toot Trapper"
--- France Casts Doubt on Uranium Claim
--- New Members of House Veterans Affairs Committee
--- New Veterans Clinic to Open in Santa Fe
--- Ex-Korean War GIs To Fly To Beijing
--- Tribes Seek Code Talker Recognition
--- Cancer-Uranium Link Questioned
--- Political and veterans groups forming 'Patriot's
--- Italian 'Balkans Syndrome' Deaths Rise to Five
Senate Confirms Housing, Veterans Secretaries
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Tuesday confirmed two more
members of President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s Cabinet,
as well as his budget director.
Voting in one roll call vote, the Senate approved Mel Martinez as
secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and
Anthony Principi as secretary of the Department of Veterans
It also confirmed Mitchell Daniels as director of the White House
Office of Management and Budget.
Martinez, the elected chief executive of Orange County, Florida,
will be the first Cuban-American Cabinet secretary. He sailed
through his confirmation process, as did Principi, who served as
acting veterans affairs secretary during the administration of
former President George Bush.
On Saturday, the Senate confirmed seven members of Bush's
Cabinet. Another seven members remain to be confirmed, with more
confirmation votes expected on Wednesday.
Statement of Anthony J. Principi
Designee for Nomination as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
United States Senate
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Hearing on the Proposed Nomination
January 18, 2001
Mr. Chairman, Senator Specter, members of the Committee.
Thank you for inviting me to appear before you this afternoon. I
I am honored that President-elect Bush looked to me to embody his
commitment to veterans.
I am honored that, if the Senate consents, I will assume
leadership over 200,000 VA employees who have chosen careers of
service to veterans.
I am honored by the prospect of working, once again, if the
Senate is willing, in partnership with our country's veterans
service organizations (VSOs).
And most of all, I am honored ------ and humbled, by the prospect
that 24 million men and women who answered our nation's call to
arms may soon look to me to answer their call for the benefits
and services they earned in the service of our country.
I have accepted this challenge for one reason.
I believe deeply in the Department of Veterans Affairs and am
fully committed to its mission of service to veterans. If I can
make a difference for America's veterans, then my rewards will
far outweigh any sacrifice I may make.
And I do intend to make a difference.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is at a critical juncture.
Many veterans have lost faith in VA's ability to fairly and
promptly decide their claims for benefits.
Not without reason. It takes too long to decide a claim. And the
error rate remains too high.
I know that the leadership of the Veterans Benefits
Administration (VBA) has addressed these problems and I applaud
their initiative and innovation. But veterans don't care about
process. Veterans are entitled to outcomes.
It doesn't matter what VBA is doing. It matters what VBA does.
And what VBA now does remains unsatisfactory in the minds of many
President-elect Bush promised a top to bottom examination of VA
benefits processing. If I am confirmed, I will commission a broad-
based and inclusive task force to conduct that examination.
Its charter will be narrow. I am not interested in abstract
theories of veterans' benefits. I want hands-on practical
solutions. I will not want to hear that problems are intractable
because of the language of the law. I will work within the law as
the people's representatives in Congress write it.
It will be given a short fuse. If I leave this town with VBA's
problems still under study I will count my tour here a failure.
Our history shows that America can solve just about any problem
if we are united in a common cause and committed to a victory. I
use the word "victory" deliberately. The clearest examples of our
country's ability to achieve great ends while overcoming enormous
challenges can be found in undertakings such as the Manhattan
Project or the creation of entire shipyards out of bare ground in
response to World War II's shipping shortage.
It may be necessary for VA to declare its own war on claims
processing and bring all of its resources to bear in the campaign
to win that war. Success will certainly take bold steps. All of
the participants must be willing to unite in the common cause.
I don't want to suggest today that I have a "preferred option"
for conducting this campaign. Nothing should be off the table.
The members of the task force should be free to propose and
discuss any idea, no matter how different it is from the way VBA
operated in 1946 or 1972 or even in 1999.
VA's challenges are not limited to prompt and accurate decisions
on disability claims.
Many veterans are skeptical of VA's ability to provide them with
quality healthcare. I believe that, over all, the Veterans Health
Administration (VHA) does provide high quality healthcare. I
commend VHA's leadership for their emphasis on patient safety and
quality care. But quality healthcare requires constant attention
at every level within the Department. I will keep my eye on that
VHA provides healthcare to the extent that resources are
available. That means that the inefficient or ineffective use of
limited resources comes at the expense of healthcare for
veterans. I will hold VHA'S leadership accountable for their
stewardship of the resources entrusted to them -------- because
sick veterans would pay the price for VHA inefficiency. That
would be unacceptable to me.
As Secretary, my bottom line will be access to quality healthcare
for veterans. This will be particularly true for veterans who do
not have other options, either because they need the specialized
services provided by VA or because their circumstances call on
them to look to VA as their only healthcare provider.
President-elect Bush has promised a top to bottom review of VA's
healthcare system, implementation of the Millennium Health Care
Act, and modernization of barriers hindering, veterans' access to
If the Senate confirms my nomination, the President's goals will
be my goals.
Again, I believe that a broad-based, inclusive, tightly-focused
and short-fused task force, drawing on the commitment and
knowledge of the VSOs, forward looking VA employees, and VA's
partners in healthcare delivery, can help me deliver on that
promise by identifying problems and proposing solutions.
New technology offers VA new opportunities. It also imposes great
challenges. Technology is often expensive, and is almost always
complex. Effective application of complex technology to already
complex processes, such as VA's, frequently requires rethinking
and rebuilding from the ground up. We can't just "pave the cow
paths" and expect to improve service.
Information technology can offer a means to break down the
bureaucratic barriers that interfere with quick and efficient
service to veterans as well as the walls dividing VA from her
sister departments in the Federal government and, totally
unacceptably to me, barriers within VA itself.
VA has absorbed billions of dollars allocated to improving its
ability to collect, process and communicate data. Frankly, I do
not see improvements proportional to the resources consumed.
I do not now have a solution to VA's information technology
problems. I do know that I intend to find one. And that in my
search for a solution I will not be constrained by "how we have
always done it." That path is a dead end. It has not worked.
I will not come before you and claim to have in my hip pocket an
instant solution to all of the problems faced by VA and by the
veterans VA serves.
If the solutions were easy they would have been implemented long
ago. And while I am blessed with many friends in the veterans
community, and can draw on my experience on the Hill, in the
Department and on the Congressional Commission on Veterans and
Servicemembers Transition, I am also aware that much has changed
over the last eight years. While I have a rich background of
experience, I also have much to learn.
If I am confirmed, I expect that my initial months in office will
be spent building a foundation of knowledge from which I can
create a blueprint for action.
But I do not intend to come to Washington to conduct seminars.
I intend to make decisions and to act on them. Those who know me
know that I will be decisive. I will act boldly. But I will not
act impulsively. I will work closely with you and with your
colleagues in the House. I will ensure that VSOs are enlisted as
partners in developing solutions as well as in identifying
problems. I will look to forward- thinking VA employees for their
experience and knowledge.
But study will not be an excuse for delay.
If the Senate blesses me with confirmation, I will make decisions
and I will see them implemented. I will hold the individuals
entrusted with leadership within the Department accountable for
their outcomes, just as I expect to be held accountable.
In short, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I appear before
you today not to make a commitment to specific plans or programs.
I have enough knowledge of the Department and its problems to
know that I still have much to learn before I can unveil detailed
plans or promise specific actions.
Rather, I appear before you today to acknowledge my personal debt
to the millions ofAmericans who have served our nation in uniform
in the past, and to the millions who stand watch today on the
ramparts of freedom.
My debt to them can be satisfied only by a commitment to work
with you, and with our partners in the VSOs, as well as the
Department's employees, to identify and implement the solutions
necessary to ensure that veterans obtain the benefits and
healthcare they have earned.
If the Senate consents to my nomination, I intend to satisfy that
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator Specter and members of the
I look forward to your questions.
Fed Officials Will Try to Replace VA Jobs
By John J. Lumpkin
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Federal officials have told Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca they would
try to replace 80 jobs the Department of Veterans Affairs wants
to move out of Downtown.
The VA is proposing to move its medical claims-processing office
out of the federal building at 500 Gold SW to a new site next to
the VA Medical Center near Kirtland Air Force Base.
The move would make life easier for veterans, especially disabled
vets, who need to both receive medical care and talk with
benefits specialists about their claims, said Sandra Epps,
director of the claims-processing VA Regional Office. Veterans
now must shuttle between the hospital and Downtown.
The claims-processing office employs about 80 people. Another 15
employees of the veterans service organizations, such as the
Disabled American Veterans, probably would make the move, Epps
said. Those agencies provide staffers to help veterans with their
Baca has strongly opposed any such move because it would take
jobs from Downtown. He is backing the Downtown revitalization
effort and opposes any migration of jobs out of the city core.
Baca has cited a standing executive order by then-President Jimmy
Carter that the mayor says requires federal agencies to stay in
core urban areas. The text of Executive Order 12072 says the feds
must give "first consideration" to such sites.
In a meeting this month, officials with the VA and the General
Services Administration, the landlord of the federal building on
Gold, told Baca that they would try to replace the VA jobs with
other federal positions, Epps said.
They made no promises, she acknowledged, but she said, "The city
is supporting us in this effort."
Baca spokesman Brian Morris said, "As long as we get the bodies
Downtown, that's fine for them to move their center."
The VA is having a public hearing on its plans at 7 p.m. Thursday
in the auditorium of the VA Medical Center's Education Building
Comments from the hearing will be forwarded to the Office of the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs in Washington, which also will
receive input from Congress before deciding whether the project
will go forward, Epps said.
Under the proposal, the VA's new digs would be on an 11-acre site
next to the hospital, close to the intersection of Gibson and San
The agency is proposing a public-private venture to fund the
construction. Epps said she hopes to have the project under way
within a year.
Vets Receive VP Salute, Unexpected Guest
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2001 -- In a break from tradition, Dick
Cheney changed the ceremony offering a salute to an incoming vice
president. Far better, he said, to offer a salute of his own.
On the eve of the inauguration, the vice president-elect saluted
America's veterans at George Washington University Smith Center
here. He told the veterans his years as defense secretary were
the most rewarding of his public life.
"It is sometimes said that heroes are hard to find," he noted.
"But I never heard that said around the Pentagon. Those who would
understand the meaning of duty, honor and country, need look no
further than the nearest veteran of America's armed forces."
The United States is a peaceful nation and its people are
reluctant warriors, Cheney told the veterans. "We take up arms
only to protect our country, to throw back tyranny and to defend
the cause of freedom," he said. "At times the price has run high
and never higher than in the last century with so many conflicts."
After acknowledging Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell,
Defense Secretary-designee Donald Rumsfeld, Defense Secretary
William Cohen, and others in the front row, Cheney paid tribute
to the nearly 100 Medal of Honor recipients in the audience.
"When you meet one of them," he said, "remember the moment. For
you have just met one of the bravest men in our nation's history."
After a nearly two-hour tribute of poignant tales of heroism,
patriotic music and expressions of gratitude and pride,
excitement among the several thousand veterans and family members
ratcheted even higher when Cheney made a pledge to the military.
Of the many duties the president and vice president were about to
assume, he said, "none is greater than preparing the military for
the challenges and the dangers to come.
"We will give them training that is thorough and missions that
are clear," he vowed. "We will give them the kind of military
where men and women are proud to serve and proud to stay. We will
give them the respect they have earned and the support they
"All of this begins in less than 24 hours, when the Chief Justice
administers the oath of office to the man I now present, the 43rd
president of the United States, George W. Bush."
Just for a moment, there was a hush -- as if everyone in the
crowd was saying, 'Huh? What did he say?'
Then it registered. They realized the president-elect was making
a surprise appearance. Carol Rascon, wife of Medal of Honor
recipient Al Rascon, called the moment, "electric."
Whistles, cheers, and applause burst from the crowd. From the
stadium seats to the right and left, came a thundering rumble of
stomping feet. Secret Service agents cleared the way as George
"Dubya" entered stage right.
"I'm certainly glad the vice president-to-be invited me," Bush
said in amusement when the hoopla subsided. "It does not surprise
me, however, that he turned the tribute that was supposed to be
to him, to honor somebody else. That's why I picked him to be the
vice president. He is a decent, honorable man."
Referring to the Medal of Honor recipients and other heroes in
the audience, Bush said, "There are thousands of Americans who
when called are willing to serve a cause greater than self. What
an honor to be here."
Acknowledging those in the front row, Bush saluted his newly
designated national defense team. "I believe, in all due respect
to other presidents -- one whom I happen to know quite well --
that I believe the national security team that I put together is
the best in our nation's history, led by Colin Powell and Don
"I look forward to hearing their opinions. I look forward to
their advice. I look forward to doing what is right to make the
world more peaceful."
Gladly noting active duty generals in the crowd, Bush stressed
what he sees as the armed forces' overarching mission -- to be
prepared, trained and ready to fight and win wars, and therefore
prevent war from happening in the first place.
"In order to keep the peace our military must be strong, morale
must be high," he said. Then, like Cheney, the president-elect
made his pledge to the military. "We will make sure our soldiers
are well paid and well housed," he vowed. "We will make sure our
soldiers are well trained."
Bush then pointed out Tony Principi, on tap to head the
Department of Veterans Affairs, who was also sitting in the front
row. "In order to make sure that morale is high with those who
wear the uniform today, we must keep our commitment to those who
wore the uniform in the past," Bush said. "We will make sure
promises made to our veterans will be promises kept.
"In less than 24 hours I have the highest honor and that's to
become the commander-in-chief of the greatest nation in the
world," he said. "I accept that honor with pride. I accept that
honor with purpose. Thank you for having me. God bless America."
Several thousand veterans and family members attended the event
emceed by Gerald McRaney, of television's "Major Dad." Actress
Connie Stevens, who noted she's entertained G.I.s for five
decades, sang "God Bless America."
Actor and former Marine Robert Conrad, former Senator and World
War II veteran Bob Dole, and Senator and Vietnam veteran John
McCain paid tribute to the men and women of the military past and
A Holocaust survivor, a woman whose fiancée died in Vietnam, and
a policeman whose life was saved by a National Guardsman spoke of
how the American military members touched their lives. A video
tribute highlighted the sacrifices of those who served in the
Veterans and family members throughout the crowd wiped away
silent tears as Congresswoman Heather Wilson, an Air Force
Academy graduate, paid homage to the POWs and those missing in
Cheney summed up the remarks of all when he said that all who
have served the military have one thing in common. "In our
country's hour of need, they answered the call. They gave America
the best years of their lives and they stood ready to give life
Study Shows Better Outcomes for Blacks in VA System
By Merritt McKinney
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Black Americans may be receiving
better healthcare than whites at hospitals in the Veterans
Affairs (VA) system, results of a study suggest.
In contrast to numerous studies documenting racial disparities in
healthcare access and quality in the US, a review of patients
treated at VA medical centers nationwide shows that blacks are
less likely than whites to die from six common medical problems.
The authors of the study were not able to determine the reasons
that blacks fare better than whites, but they note that the
unique equal-access care provided by the VA system may help
explain why blacks were not worse off than whites, as is usually
the case in studies of healthcare.
``This study provides evidence that in an equal access, equal
quality healthcare system, African Americans have good
outcomes,'' Dr. Ashish K. Jha, of the San Francisco VA Medical
Center, told Reuters Health. A report on the findings appears in
the January 17th issue of The Journal of the American Medical
Association (news - web sites) (JAMA).
Jha noted that the VA may provide more consistent care than other
medical centers since its healthcare network includes not only
hospitals but also primary care medical clinics. ``This may lead
to better outcomes, especially for traditionally underserved
patients like African Americans,'' he said.
But in an accompanying editorial, a JAMA editor points out the
limitations of the data used in the study. The findings are based
on a type of database that often contains ``extremely limited''
information about the severity of patients' illnesses, according
to Dr. David H. Mark, a contributing editor at the Chicago-based
Since understanding differences in access to healthcare and
quality of care is important, Mark stresses the need to include
more detailed clinical information in the type of large
administrative databases used in the study.
Jha and his colleagues based their findings on a national
database of nearly 29,000 whites and more than 7,500 blacks who
received care at VA hospitals around the country. Since the VA
system provides care to very few women, the study included only
The researchers tracked patients who were hospitalized for one of
six common health conditions: pneumonia, congestive heart
failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, chronic
kidney failure and the crushing chest pain called angina.
Thirty days after being hospitalized for one of these ailments,
4.5% of blacks had died, compared with 5.8% of whites, Jha's team
reports. Blacks were also less likely than whites to die while
hospitalized and more likely to still be alive 6 months after
When the researchers took into account factors that might have
influenced the results, such as age, financial status, presence
of other illnesses and characteristics of the hospital, blacks
still had a lower risk of dying than whites. For instance, the
risk of dying within 30 days of being hospitalized was 24% lower
in blacks aged 65 and older, and 32% lower in blacks younger than
Jha's team tried to come up with explanations for the
differences, but they could not pinpoint any definite factor. For
example, one possibility is that whites seen at VA hospitals were
not as healthy as blacks, but the authors note that all patients
in the study were sick enough to be hospitalized.
He told Reuters Health that even though the study does not prove
that good access to care improves health outcomes among blacks,
it should encourage other medical centers to improve their care.
``I hope it provides impetus for all healthcare organizations to
work towards improving the access to and quality of care for all
patients, especially the underserved,'' Jha said. ``The VA is a
model for equal access and good quality care, as many studies
VA conducts study on "Toot Trapper"
Flatulence Cushion Works
By John Dillon
Wayne Story sells a cushion that absorbs the odor from
flatulence, so he's accustomed to the snickers his product
elicits. In fact, he happily participates in the jokes.
But flatulence is no laughing matter for those affected by it,
and Story can now point to a solemn medical publication that has
studied his "Toot Trapper." The study concludes it really works.
The July issue of Gut, the British Medical Journal specializing
in gastrointestinal disorders, said the cushion got rid of more
than 90 percent of the noxious odors.
"This cushion has activated charcoal," said Dr. Fabrizis Suarez,
a research associate at the Veterans Administration Hospital in
Minneapolis, Minn., which conducted the study. "Charcoal absorbs
The team performed two studies. First, researchers assembled 16
healthy volunteers to determine which gases they expelled were
offensive. The volunteers were fed pinto beans and lactulose,
foods known to produce flatulence. The study confirmed that
hydrogen sulfide was the major offender, along with a smelly
second gas called nethapilol.
Next, the effectiveness of the cushion with the two gases was
tested. Volunteers took turns sitting in chairs equipped with the
Toot Trapper and with a placebo cushion, and then with no cushion
at all. Controlled volumes of artificial versions of the gases
were injected between their legs into the seats.
As it turned out, the dummy cushion absorbed about 40 percent of
the smells, Suarez said. But that was less than half as effective
as the Toot Trapper, which trapped 90 percent of the odors. The
only problem with the cushion, the researchers found, was that it
was "unwieldy" -- too hard to carry around.
The cushion looks like a normal seat cushion, but it has
thousands of pores of activated charcoal underneath. "It's almost
like a magnet," Story said.
Story, president of Ultra Tech Products of Houston, Texas, has
marketed the device for four years. He declined to say how many
he sells, but it has become so popular that he recently changed
its name to the "Flatulence Filter."
"Doctors were kind of struggling with telling somebody to get a
Toot Trapper," Story explained.
What To Do
Flatulence is normal. Gastroenterologists say you should expect
to pass gas about a dozen times a day. Beans, broccoli and other
foods can produce additional gas because their carbohydrates
aren't absorbed by the small intestine. Medications can increase
gas, too, as can certain ailments such as irritable bowel
syndrome or Crohn's disease.
If flatulence is a concern for either medical or social reasons,
see your doctor. You may be lactose intolerant -- that is, your
body lacks an enzyme that breaks down dairy products. But
flatulence also could be the by-product of a healthy diet;
vegetarians eat a lot of fiber, and are known to have the
You can try the Toot Trapper yourself. Call 800-316-8668, or
check the Ultra Tech Products site. The device costs $40, or $35
each if you buy more than one. Said Story, "Nobody will know it
except for the smile on your face."
France Casts Doubt on Uranium Claim
By CLAR NI CHONGHAILE, Associated Press Writer
PARIS (AP) - France cast doubt Monday on claims that exposure to
armor-piercing ammunition containing depleted uranium may have
triggered cancer in French troops who served in the Balkans.
The fear that depleted uranium ammunition might be a health risk
has swept Europe in recent weeks as various nations have reported
cancer cases among their troops, and NATO (news - web sites)
medical experts are studying the possible health risks.
But the Defense Ministry in Paris said tests on five French
soldiers who served in the Balkans and who now have cancer did
not reveal any traces of depleted uranium. Tests on a sixth ill
soldier were continuing.
The findings mirrored similar research from neighboring Germany.
Last week, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said tests on
soldiers sent to Kosovo and those never deployed there showed no
differences. He said the incidence of two cancers - leukemia and
lymphoma - among German soldiers was no higher than among the
general population in 1999.
Depleted uranium, a slightly radioactive heavy metal, is used in
anti-armor munitions because of its high penetrating power. U.S.
forces fired weapons containing depleted uranium in Bosnia in
1994 and 1995, and in 1999, NATO fired such weapons during its 78-
day bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.
Depleted uranium has not been widely studied, and experts say
they don't know exactly how much must be consumed to be harmful.
The lack of conclusive scientific evidence has only served to
feed public concern, which emerged when Italy said it was
investigating illnesses in 30 Balkan veterans and then exploded
as tales of sick or dying soldiers poured in from local media
One European minister described the uproar as media-generated
``hysteria,'' and NATO has said there is no evidence that remains
of depleted uranium rounds pose a health risk. But in the face of
mounting public anxiety, the alliance's highest medical advisory
body met in Brussels on Monday to discuss the reports.
Several European countries have introduced screening programs for
Balkan veterans. And to be safe, Italy and Germany have called
for a moratorium on use of depleted uranium weapons until health
experts can study possible risks, but last week NATO turned down
On Monday, a Swiss ammunition company said it would investigate
its own testing of depleted uranium ammunition on a company-owned
range in the late 1960s.
Oerlikon Contraves Pyrotec said it used the foreign-made
ammunition on a range near Studen, in central Switzerland. It was
not immediately clear how much was used or whether the company
had permission. Swiss authorities said they would investigate the
possibility of long-term pollution at the site.
In Greece, where public opposition to the NATO strikes in Kosovo
was widespread, Defense Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said Monday
that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (news - web sites)
asked him to muffle complaints about possible health risks linked
to the munitions. In Washington, State Department officials who
asked not to be identified said they hadn't heard about any such
request from Albright.
New Members of House Veterans Affairs Committee
On January 5, 2001 Christopher Smith R-NJ-04 was chosen as
chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs
Committee.Congressman Smith has served on the House Veterans
Affairs committee for 20 years and was previously vice-
chairman.Congressman Lane Evans-IL is the Ranking Democratic
Newly elected Ander Crenshaw, R-FL-4 is the newest member of the
House Veterans Affairs Committee he defeated Tom Sullivan-D when
Tillie Fowler-R retired.
Newly elected Rob Simmons R-CT-2 is also the newest member of the
House Veterans Affairs Committee he defeated Rep. Sam Gejdenson-
D.Congressman Simmons a Vietnam Vet served in the US Army from
1965-1968 and served in the Army Reserve from 1970 to present.
These newly elected members will be replacing Congressman Lahood
and Congressman James Hansen of Utah.
With the 50-50 split in the Senate the Senate Veterans Committee
Chairman is Senator Specter-PA and Senator Rockefeller-WV is
Ranking Democratic Member.The committee may change membership
when President elected Bush formally takes his oath of office on
January 20, 2001.
New Veterans Clinic to Open in Santa Fe
By Wren Propp
Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
A new outpatient medical clinic for northern New Mexico veterans
is expected to open in six months, according to members of New
Mexico's congressional delegation.
The Santa Fe County clinic will cut down on the time and travel
of area veterans, said Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M.
"I think a clinic system that allows veterans to get their care
closer to home is important," said Udall, who represents the 3rd
congressional district in northern New Mexico.
"Sometimes a family member has to take off work for a day or two
to travel to the big VA hospitals" in Albuquerque or El Paso, he
The Santa Fe clinic would serve approximately 1,800 patients a
year with a staff of 11 employees. The clinic also would provide
primary mental-health services to veterans.
The federal Veterans Affairs Department is expected to spend more
than $300,000 on start-up costs for the Santa Fe County clinic.
The department is developing an expansion plan for 63 clinics
nationwide. The expansion plan also includes establishing a
clinic in Truth or Consequences.
The annual budget for the Santa Fe clinic would be more than
$800,000, including rental costs of a building.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., joined Udall on Tuesday in support of
the Veterans Affairs plan for the Santa Fe County clinic.
"Ensuring veterans have adequate health care is one very
important way we recognize the sacrifices our former soldiers
have made, and I'm pleased we're getting closer to opening this
long-awaited clinic here," Bingaman said in a prepared statement.
Bingaman, a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee,
co-sponsored an amendment to a fiscal 2000 appropriations bill
that increased veterans' health-care spending by $600 million,
according to his statement. That additional money "kept the ball
rolling" toward VA clinic expansion in fiscal 2001, according to
a Bingaman staff member.
Udall, a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee for the
past 18 months, said he was surprised that no VA clinic exists in
Santa Fe and heard strong support for a closer-to-home clinic for
local veterans during a forum this summer.
"We're looking forward to getting this open as soon as possible,"
Ex-Korean War GIs To Fly To Beijing
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - At China's invitation, six U.S. veterans of the
Korean War are flying to Beijing to discuss their experiences
with Chinese veterans - an unprecedented encounter that Pentagon
officials hope will lead eventually to new information about the
fate of Americans still missing from the war.
The arrangement is all the more remarkable for the fact that for
decades China refused to discuss with the United States its role
in the war. The war began when communist North Korea invaded
South Korea in June 1950. China entered the conflict four months
later as American forces approached the Yalu River on China's
border, and Chinese troops ran most POW camps in North Korea.
The six U.S. veterans are traveling with Robert Jones, the
Pentagon official in charge of POW/MIA affairs. It was during
Jones' talks in Beijing in September that China suggested the
Jones has pushed for China to open its military archives to U.S.
researchers seeking clues to the fate of American MIAs. China has
refused. Jones said the veterans exchange is a step in the right
``I'm optimistic that this will take us another step toward our
ultimate goal, which is getting more information'' about missing
Americans, Jones said in a telephone interview before departing
Tuesday. ``I see this as a major step forward in building
confidence with the Chinese.''
Among the six U.S. veterans making the trip is Vince Krepps, of
Towson, Md., whose fraternal twin brother Richard survived
ferocious battles and won a Purple Heart before he was captured
in December 1950, held as a POW, then reported dead by North
Korea. The brothers arrived at the war front in August 1950 but
were separated a month later and never saw each other again.
The five other veterans on the trip are Harley Coon, who spent 33
months as a POW in North Korea; Gerald Doyle, whose brother
Lawrence is listed as missing in action; Jack Carney, a Navy
corpsman who served with the 1st Marine Division; Kenneth Cook,
who was with the 195th Ordnance Depot of the 74th Ordnance
Battalion; and Donald Byers, who was with the Army's 2nd Infantry
The People's Liberation Army has insisted that Korean War losses
are a closed issue, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has
declared wartime records to be classified. Declassified U.S.
military records indicate some American POWs were taken into
China and some never returned.
Among the Americans the Clinton administration has asked China
for information about are Robert Snoddy and Norman Schwartz,
pilots of an unmarked C-47 aircraft knocked out of the sky over
northeastern China on Nov. 29, 1952, while attempting to pick up
an anti-communist Chinese agent. On board were two CIA officers,
John T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau, who were captured,
imprisoned in Beijing and held until President Nixon publicly
acknowledged they were CIA officers.
It had been generally believed that Downey and Fecteau were the
only Americans aboard the plane. But a June 1998 Defense
Department document - a cable to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing -
identified Snoddy and Schwartz as Americans. It said they were
killed and presumed buried at the crash site. The Pentagon wants
China to provide any information it might have about the pilots'
The June 1998 cable also mentioned three U.S. soldiers missing
from the war: Roger Dumas, William Glasser and Richard Desautels.
They were held in a Chinese-run POW camp in North Korea. Several
repatriated American prisoners reported seeing the three alive
and well at the close of the war in 1953.
Regarding Dumas, Glasser and Desautels, the June 1998 cable to
the embassy in Beijing said China must be pushed to provide
answers. ``We believe the Chinese should be able to account for
these individuals,'' it said. So far it has not.
Tribes Seek Code Talker Recognition
The Albuquerque Journal
POLACCA, Ariz. - The Hopis and other Indians want recognition for
the men who used their native languages to confound enemies
during World War II.
President Clinton decided last month to award congressional gold
medals to the original 29 "code talkers" and silver medals to
about 300 Navajo soldiers who followed them to the Pacific
Theater during the war.
But there has been little historical mention, much less
recognition, for code talkers from other tribes, including the
Hopi, Choctaw, Sioux, Chippewa and Seminole.
"I honor the Navajos for the excellent job that they did," said
Hopi Councilman Cliff Balenquah, a former director of the tribe's
Veterans Affairs office. "But they find no shame in giving
themselves honor. There are a lot of code talkers and their
families who are equally deserving of these congressional medals."
Balenquah has been lobbying the state of Arizona to recognize the
Hopi code talkers and plans a national campaign on behalf of all
Indians who used their native tongues to radio messages during
But Thomas Begay, a Navajo code talker in the Marines during the
battle for Iwo Jima, said the Navajos' contributions were greater
than other tribes because they created hundreds of words in
special encoded vocabularies.
Franklin Shupla, a Hopi code talker, said the original 11 Hopi
code talkers also went to extraordinary lengths to use their
language and concepts to come up with terms for battle.
They came up with the Hopi word for eggs, "nu-hu," for bombs;
"bah-ki," a house on water, for ships; and the different kinds of
birds for planes, like "pah-we-waka," ducks, for sea planes. The
word for chicken hawks was used for dive bombers.
The Hopi Code Talkers first used the language in combat on the
Marshall Islands and later at New Caledonia before shipping out
to Leyte in 1944 after Gen. Douglas MacArthur honored his pledge
to reconquer the Philippines from the Japanese.
Still, Shupla believes his contribution is for others to judge.
"If the president included all of us, it sure would make us
happy. But I also think at times that maybe it should just be
forgotten about," Shupla said. "When I wake up in the middle of
the night, I'm thinking about my grandchildren, not the
Philippines in 1944."
But Lloyd "Van" Codynah of Lawton, Okla., whose father and uncle
were among the 17 Comanche code talkers in Europe, wants them
"It always really bothered my dad before he died in 1988 about
the lack of recognition they had received," Codynah said. "The
government tried to give my uncle a congressional Medal of Honor
a few years back, but he turned it down because they wouldn't
give it to the other code talkers, too, whom he considered his
Cancer-Uranium Link Questioned
By EMMA ROSS, AP Medical Writer
LONDON (AP) - While European governments scramble to screen
soldiers who may have been exposed to depleted uranium in the
Balkans, many medical experts are skeptical that it caused cancer
and other illnesses reported by veterans.
A heavy metal with low levels of radioactivity, depleted uranium
is used in ammunition to penetrate tanks and other armor. Some
scientists believe the dust created when rounds hit targets may
be harmful, but studies of Gulf War troops have found no proof it
Some experts say the health screenings are little more than a
political strategy to head off accusations that governments are
covering up ill health effects, as is alleged by some Gulf War
veterans with unexplained illnesses.
``Depleted uranium vaporizes instantly. You would have to be very
close to a damaged tank and be there within seconds of it being
hit,'' said Yan Grosse, a toxicologist at the International
Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health
Organization. ``These soldiers were very unlikely to have been
But Roger William Coghill, a British radiation researcher, argued
that depleted uranium - first used in ammunition during the Gulf
War - could be the cause of illnesses reported by soldiers who
served in the Balkans.
Not all the depleted uranium vaporizes immediately and
radioactive derivatives can linger in the air for months, he said.
``Just one particle in the lungs is enough,'' Coghill said,
adding a single particle could travel to the lymph nodes, where
the radioactivity would lower the body's defenses against
lymphomas and leukemia.
``There's still a lot of science to be found out, but I can't
believe you can dismiss the link out of hand,'' he said.
The controversy in Europe over NATO's use of depleted uranium in
Bosnia in 1994-95 and later in Kosovo flared in December after
Italy's Defense Minister Sergio Mattarella announced an
investigation of 30 cases of illness involving soldiers who
served in the region, 12 of whom developed cancer. Five have died
Spain, Portugal, Greece, Finland, Belgium, Turkey, Russia,
Bulgaria, Czech Republic and the European Union have also said
they would screen troops and check radiation levels where their
peacekeepers are serving.
The Pentagon said this week that regular health checks have
revealed no problems with leukemia and other illnesses among U.S.
troops who served in the Balkans.
A United Nations investigative team went to the region in
November and is expected to publish its report next month.
Uranium occurs naturally in soil, water and air, and humans
normally pick up trace amounts from food and water.
Depleted uranium carries two threats - radiation and chemical
poisoning. The main threat comes from inhaling the dust or
ingesting it, experts say.
Radiation can cause leukemia, and other cancers, while metal
poisoning can lead to kidney damage, experts said.
The five leukemia deaths among the 60,000 Italian soldiers
equates to a rate of 8 per 100,000. The Italian government has
not revealed whether any of the seven other cancer cases are
According to the World Health Organization, the normal leukemia
incidence for Italian men is 13 per 100,000.
``The scientific consensus for depleted uranium is that if you
ingested or inhaled the dust, you would see kidney damage before
you'd see leukemia,'' said Michael Clark, science spokesman for
the British National Radiological Protection Board. ``I can
understand the connection they are trying to make with the war
and it needs to be looked at, but to instinctively blame it on
depleted uranium? You have to be very skeptical of that.''
Depleted uranium, the spent fuel of nuclear reactors, is 40
percent less radioactive than uranium in its natural state.
Robert Haley, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas
Southwest Medical Center who researches Gulf War Syndrome, doubts
there is enough radiation in depleted uranium to cause radiation-
One reason depleted uranium is not a likely suspect is because it
doesn't emit gamma rays - the most dangerous type, Haley said. It
mostly emits alpha radiation, the least powerful, which reaches
about an inch from the source.
``In the Balkan case, you don't expect to see leukemia, and
certainly not this early,'' Haley said. ``If anything, you'd
expect to see lung cancer from the inhaled particles, but not for
another 20 years.''
Haley accused European governments of conducting the screenings
for political reasons.
``Everybody has learned from the Gulf War and what happened with
the veterans and the accusations of a cover-up. They've learned
that you better take it seriously and act early,'' Haley said.
The few studies on depleted uranium relate to the Gulf War.
The U.S. Defense Department says approximately 90,000 American
troops who served in the Gulf War complain of ailments such as
fatigue, rashes, headaches, muscle and joint pain.
A report in April by the U.S. General Accounting Office, which
reviewed the medical evidence, concluded that inhaling or
ingesting depleted uranium was unlikely to cause radiation
sickness or cancer.
Political and veterans groups forming 'Patriot's
Congress'Coalition to confront voting, military, and media
A San Antonio, Texas-based attorney has proposed forming a
coalition of interested parties to address military-voter
disenfranchisement in the wake of a class-action lawsuit filed on
behalf of service members who did not get to vote Nov. 7.
According to Philip E. Jones, "we are organizing a meeting of all
interested moderate, conservative and veterans organizations
March 17-18" in San Antonio, "for the purpose of consolidating
our efforts by forming a coalition of organizations" to address --
among other things -- why some military members did not receive
absentee ballots in time for the 2000 election.
Jones said the new coalition will have the organizational model
of the U.S. Congress, in that each individual organization
choosing to participate "will be authorized one seat in our
Patriot's Senate," no matter how large or small the group.
Also, Jones said, "each organization will be authorized seats in
the Patriot's House of Representatives based on their total
membership" -- a number to be determined at the March meeting.
Though there will be "no executive branch," Jones said his model
would include a "judicial branch ... composed of a small legal
staff whose purpose will be to determine the legality of
proposals" made by the Patriot's Congress.
Eventually, he explained, those proposals "will be presented to
... Congress" as bills "we consider mandatory. ... It will be
made clear that we plan to act as a massive voting bloc to
enforce our will."
Jones said the coalition "will have only administrative duties,"
"policymaking authority will be within the sole realm of the Patriot's
He has proposed that the coalition meet twice a year to determine policy
"Obviously, we cannot circumvent our political process by overriding the
of our elected officials," Jones said in a statement on Thursday.
do have a right to vote in a bloc, thereby flexing our unified political
Jones suggested that the coalition's proposals could be modified if its own
legal staff overlooked constitutional or statutory law.
But, he stressed, "our modifications will not be made for political
only for the good of the nation."
"For too long our elected representatives have promised one thing and
another," Jones said, "with little accountability. This coalition
to end that practice. It is time to take back our country and put it in the
rightful hands of the people."
Besides tackling the military absentee-ballot issue, Jones proposed other
issues that the coalition could consider:
Election fraud and remedies
Objective news reporting -- boycott vs. buying television stations
Voting bloc -- How to leverage power
Petition -- The lost art
Concurrent receipt for disabled veterans
Coalition and organizational issues
Veteran employment discrimination
Jones said other issues should be presented to him before Feb. 15, 2001.
Jones' law firm, Campbell and Jones, filed a lawsuit in mid-November in the
midst of a series of WorldNetDaily reports about active-duty military
who did not receive their absentee ballots in time to vote on Election Day.
The suit, filed in federal court in the western district of Texas, is aimed
"protecting [military members'] fundamental right to vote,"
spokesman Matthew Finch.
"It is our position that denial of the right to vote constitutes
not only a violation of one's fundamental constitutional rights,
but taxation without representation," Finch said in a statement.
"Our clients can be made whole by flying their ballots to them
immediately so that their voices may be heard," action that would
form the basis for "injunctive relief."
The Pentagon has denied culpability in failing to deliver
military absentee ballots to service members on time.
Italian 'Balkans Syndrome' Deaths Rise to Five
ROME (Reuters) - The death toll of Italian veterans of Balkan
peacekeeping missions linked to the so-called ``Balkans
syndrome'' has risen to five, Italian newspapers reported on
All five veterans died from cancer.
Italian newspapers said Italy's military prosecutor was
investigating some 20 cases which the media have linked to the
Press reports have suggested the illnesses could be linked to
depleted uranium shells used by Nato during its 1999 campaign to
oust Serb forces from Kosovo.
Official reaction has been to deny that such a link exists, but
on Friday Belgium called for European Union defense ministers to
discuss health problems suffered by peacekeepers in former
The call by Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut came amid
rising concern in Europe over mysterious illnesses among Balkan
In Lisbon, the Diario de Noticias newspaper reported that
Portugal had ordered medical tests for its soldiers serving in
Kosovo to check for radiation from depleted uranium ammunition
used in the NATO campaign.
Concerns over possible health effects of depleted uranium shells
in Kosovo have also been raised by service members or civilian
aid workers in Britain and the Netherlands.
U.S. attack jets fired some 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium
ammunition -- used to pierce armor -- at Serbian tanks and
armored cars during the Kosovo campaign, according to a United
Nations (news - web sites) expert.
The Pentagon (news - web sites) said in March that the remains of
the shells did not present a significant health hazard.
End of VetNews Digest
Douglas McArthur, Executive Director
The National Veterans Organization of America, Inc.
When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass
Bruce "Doc". Melson