“IT IS TIME TO PART OUR WAYS”

by Tom Pastore, Vietnam Veteran, ©2014

(Jun. 20, 2014) — [Editor’s Note:  This is the third and final part of Mr. Pastore’s series covering the treatment of veterans throughout U.S. history.  Parts 1 and 2 can be found here and here, respectively.]

The Korean War appeared to be one in which the government and the people simply chose to forget about Veterans and their service. The “Forgotten War,” as it has been called, left many Veterans feeling as if no one cared about them or the consequences of combat. Approximately 5.7 million Veterans served in the Korean War. The Korean War Veterans are more prone to suffer from disabilities related to cold injuries as a result of exposure to severely cold climates. Cold weather accounted for 16% of Army non-battle injuries, and over 5,000 U.S. casualties of cold injury required evacuation from Korea during the winter of 1950-1951. In many instances, service-members could not seek or were unable to obtain medical care for cold injuries because of battlefield conditions.

Korean War Veterans were also identified as the “Atomic Soldier,” as many soldiers of the era “participated” in atomic weapons testing, and the effects of the radiation.  From 1945 to 1962, the U.S. military conducted nearly 200 nuclear weapons tests in building America’s Cold War arsenal. Many of the 550,000 Veterans being “used” for these tests who showed the results of radiation poisoning were soldiers of the Korean War era. The Operation Castle series of blast tests released large quantities of radiation into the atmosphere, according to the National Association of Atomic Veterans, a Texas-based service organization representing sick Veterans.

The V.A. (initially) and for years later refused to recognize the resulting sicknesses from the radiation poisoning.  Years after those tests, some veterans filed class-action lawsuits claiming diseases from radiation exposure. Congress developed a program to pay restitution to those military veterans. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed in 1990 and broadened in 2000 as an alternative to costly litigation…..Why do Veterans always have to fight “the enemy from within” (the U.S. government) to seek justice?  Forty-five years after the fact, Veterans finally received the proper medical treatments and compensation they deserved years earlier!! ….Is this any different than the Revolutionary War Veterans waiting 35 years for a pension promised to them by “The Continental Congress,” or a Combat Bonus promised, denied and delayed (20 years later), by a deceitful U.S. government to our World War I Veterans?

Other Korean War “guinea-pig” experiments on American Soldiers:

  1953 U.S. Army experiments with LSD on Soldiers at Fort Detrick, Md. Some willingly, most not knowing what they were being subjected to.
 .
 1954-1974 U.S. Army study of 2300 Seventh-Day Adventist Soldiersin 150 experiments code named “Operation Whitecoat.” ……Project Whitecoat was unique in the armed forces in that it exclusively used as test subjects soldiers who were Seventh-day Adventists. These young Adventist men had been drafted into the army and registered as “conscientious objectors,” those who refused to perform combat roles on religious grounds. These objectors were given a 1-A-O classification and sent to the U.S. Army Medical Training Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. There they trained to be Army medics. It was from this non-combatant medical corps that the Army selected its test subjects for Project Whitecoat.These soldiers, mostly of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, participated in experiments (most of which took place at Fort Dietrick, Maryland) where they were exposed to various levels of infectious agents and diseases. By using these individuals as “human guinea pigs” military medical personnel were able to demonstrate the feasibility of preparing a defense against biological warfare agents and known risk factors that existed not just in the battlefield, but also in the workplace. 1955— A second government reform commission again finds widespread instances of waste and poor care in the VA system, according to the Independent Institute.

The Vietnam War era

A time of pain and abandonment from wounds that never heal; once again, a heartless government maintains its historical arrogance and mistreatment of America’s best

There is far too much to write about from this tumultuous time in America’s history. One constant, though, is the same historical feeling of abandonment, lies, and mistreatment by a self-absorbed government whose performance resembles the likes of some of the enemies all good soldiers confronted in foreign lands. Whoever thought that Veterans had to come home to “battle” all over again.

One of the most noted betrayals was the never-ending denials from our own government that there were any adverse medical impacts from the use of Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. sprayed more than 20 million gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange over eastern Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Contamination of the 2,4,5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid — which serves as the active chemical in Agent Orange — with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin, a highly toxic dioxin derivative, led to soil and water contamination hundreds of times greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

Of the 3 million Americans who served in the military during the Vietnam War, a large number came in contact with Agent Orange. Veterans returning from the war started to report psychological symptoms, birth defects in their offspring, skin rashes, cancer and a wide swath of other health problems. Eventually, the federal government recognized Agent Orange exposure as a compensable war injury entitling affected veterans to health care and financial compensation nearly two decades after the war’s end. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 sought to cut through the medical and scientific quandaries by establishing two official presumptions: that veterans who served in Vietnam from 1962 to the end of the war were exposed to Agent Orange, and that those diagnosed with certain illnesses associated with TCDD would have developed those illnesses at least partly as a result of their service in Vietnam. Yet 15 years after the law was passed, fewer than half a million Vietnam veterans had undergone the standard Agent Orange examination offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify possible effects of their exposure.

Agent Orange is now considered the most toxic chemical ever created. Service-related disability payments to Vietnam veterans reported in 2009 have surged 60 percent since 2003, reaching $13.7 billion last year, and now account for more than half of such payments the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provides to veterans of all wars. The average compensation payment for Vietnam Vets is 41 percent higher than that for World War II veterans and 35 percent higher than for those who served in Korea. Those disability checks do not include the billions spent on health care for Vietnam veterans. Unfortunately, even to this day, there are some Veterans who are not recognized as having any “service-connected” illness from Agent Orange, though they have the same sicknesses, symptoms, and diseases as their fellow brothers and sisters.

One group of Veterans who was denied benefits is known as the “Blue Water Navy Veterans.” They were denied automatic presumption due to the fact that their service areas were not in areas sprayed with Agent Orange. The VA ruled that only Blue Water Navy veterans who went ashore or traveled inland waterways and can prove it can claim an Agent Orange-related illness. For the surviving 100,000 Blue Water Navy veterans, however, this denial of presumption is a slight against them by the VA. On Aug. 2, 2013, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Association and Military Veterans Advocacy, Inc. jointly filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against Eric K. Shinseki in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the immediate restoration of Agent Orange presumptions of exposure.

Additionally, HR 543, The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2013, has been introduced in the House to restore the Agent Orange presumption. Advocates for the restoration of the presumptions argue that the naval ships used distilled water filtered from runoff water from the coast and that the food the sailors ate on board was, in part, grown in Vietnam. To the best of my knowledge, this bill sits in Committee. It is 40 years after the war ended, and Vietnam Veterans are still fighting their government for care that is needed.

Medical care in some V.A. hospitals in the 1970’s was infested with the same disregard and mistreatment of America’s Veterans as it is today in the year 2014. Disabled Veterans have been sitting in their own feces and urine for days without attendance. Rats and mold have infected the rooms that were supposed to be their “shelters of healing.” Peeling paint and rotting floors are part of the environment they were forced to endure. Soldiers still healing, but once able to walk, have had to minister healthcare to their fellow soldiers due to a massive shortage of hospital personnel.

**Curiously, one constant you will discover is that all politicians and high-ranking officers who went to the same military hospitals for treatment throughout many decades past always got the best healthcare, in extravagant, well-furnished rooms with VIP treatment. Waiting rooms were adorned with artwork and antique furniture.  ***A notorious example was of Walter Reed Hospital, where Ward #72 was the representation of “Aristocracy,” greed, and selfish attendance that served ONLY Elected Officials and Generals, who then pretended to NOT know what kind of treatment the regular citizen/soldier was getting or not getting. Bldg. #18 was (an example of the “regular” soldiers’ “Dome of Disgrace,” as America’s wounded Veterans were of such large numbers that they flooded the hospital wings such that the V.A. had to lease hotels in run-down neighborhoods to “house” the wounded warriors. Right outside of Walter Reed Hospital was the Infamous Bldg. #18, where healing veterans had to clean their own “wards,” treat their fellow soldiers, and stand guard at night so the neighborhood drug dealers didn’t try and sell their drugs to fellow Veterans.

Why do these good soldiers keep fighting for us?? We don’t deserve them.

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During these times of immense struggle and comprehension of why Veterans were being treated in this manner, other clandestine “testing” was going on with thousands of unsuspecting soldiers:

1962-1974 — Project 112 and Project SHAD….The Department of Defense planned and conducted a series of biological and chemical vulnerability tests. Six thousand soldiers from various branches of service were subjects of the testing, which, until recently, was classified information. Reports state that some of this testing was done with the deadly “Sarin” nerve gas. Many Veterans are pleading for medical assistance which cannot be given until all the information is declassified. We don’t know the depth of the illnesses these soldiers have incurred since much of this still remains secret, but the V.A. made a request in the year 2000 that they be given the names of those who were subjects of the “guinea-pig” experiments so that they could “reach out” to them for medical treatment……Why did we wait so long? How many Veterans innocently infected their wives and offspring with illnesses yet unknown???

1970s — Veterans grow increasingly frustrated with the VA for failing to better fund treatment and provide assistance programs, and later to recognize exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange by troops in Vietnam as the cause of numerous medical problems among veterans.

1976 — A General Accounting Office investigation into Denver’s VA hospital finds numerous shortcomings in patient care, including veterans whose surgical dressings are rarely changed. The GAO also looked at the New Orleans VA hospital and found ever-increasing patient loads were contributing to a decline in the quality of care there as well.

1982 — Controversial VA director Robert Nimmo, who once described symptoms of exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam war as little more than “teenage acne,” resigns under pressure from veterans’ groups. Nimmo was criticized for wasteful spending, including use of a chauffeured car and an expensive office redecorating project, according to a 1983 GAO investigation. The same year, the agency issues a report supporting veterans’ claims that the VA had failed to provide them with enough information and assistance about Agent Orange exposure.

1984 — Congressional investigators find evidence that VA officials had diverted or refused to spend more than $40 million that Congress approved to help Vietnam veterans with readjustment problems, The Washington Post reports at the time.

The Vietnam Veteran, chastised, spit on, mistreated both physically and mentally, by both government and fellow American, continues to suffer for merely “Answering the Call” to duty. Here in the year 2014, well over 100,000 Vietnam Veterans have committed suicide since they came home, almost twice the amount of American soldiers who died in Vietnam…What wrong did they do to deserve this treatment????

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The Gulf War

Soldiers coming home from the Gulf War fought some of the same fights as their fathers and grandfathers did in Vietnam: lack of jobs and denial of proper disability benefits intentionally designed by the V.A. so as to avoid paying “permanent disability” payments. An under-reported scandal was designed to keep as many disabled veterans under the 30% disability “mark” so as to deny them lifetime benefits, and, in turn, grant the V.A. employees a large bonus at the end of each year. Gulf War Veterans coming home to find the job they had left behind, which was supposed to be protected under federal law, was not there when they returned home, and no one was around to help defend the laws violated by the safe, stay-at-home companies. What good is a law if the government wishes to not enforce it?

The Gulf War Veteran was coming home with a variety of illnesses that at first remained unexplained: “Chronic Fatigue Disorder,” fibromyalgia, “gastrointestinal disorders,” and many “undiagnosed disorders” that caused fatigue, joint pain, skin conditions, respiratory disorders, and many other symptoms. Charges of chemical warfare being used were denied (as usual) by the government. In 1996 the government finally admitted that “Desert Storm” soldiers were exposed to chemical agents.

1986 — A report to Congress reveals that the U.S. government’s testing of a variety of biological (chemical) agents has allowed them to “modify” viruses and other toxins (genetic engineering) to the point where they cannot be treated with any known vaccines!!

1986 — The VA’s Inspector General’s office finds 93 physicians working for the agency have sanctions against their medical licenses, including suspensions and revocations, according to a 1988 GAO report.

1991 — The Chicago Tribune reports that doctors at the VA’s North Chicago hospital sometimes ignored test results, failed to treat patients in a timely manner and conducted unnecessary surgery.  The agency later takes responsibility for the deaths of eight patients, leading to the suspension of most surgery at the center, the newspaper reported.

1993 — VA Deputy Undersecretary of Benefits R.J. Vogel testifies to Congress that a growing backlog of appeals from veterans denied benefits is due to a federal court established in 1988 to oversee the claims process, The Washington Post reports. The VA, Vogel tell the lawmakers, is “reeling under this judicial review thing.”

1994 — With a technique called “gene tracking,” Dr. Garth Nicolson at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX discovers that many returning Desert Storm veterans are infected with an altered strain of Mycoplasma incognitus, a microbe commonly used in the production of biological weapons. Incorporated into its molecular structure is 40 percent of the HIV protein coat, indicating that it had been man-made.

U.S. soldiers during the Gulf War

1994 — Senator John D. Rockefeller issues a report revealing that for at least 50 years the Department of Defense has used hundreds of thousands of military personnel in human experiments and for intentional exposure to dangerous substances. Materials included mustard and nerve gas, ionizing radiation, psychochemicals, and hallucinogens used during the Gulf War.

1996 — The government and Department of Defense finally admit that “Desert Storm” soldiers were exposed to chemical agents.

1999 — Lawmakers open an investigation into widespread problems with clinical research procedures at the VA West Los Angeles Healthcare Center. The investigation followed years of problems at the hospital, including ethical violations by hospital researchers that included failing to get consent from some patients before conducting research involving them, according to The Los Angeles Times.

2000 — The GAO finds “substantial problems” with the VA’s handling of research trials involving human subjects.

**2001 — Despite a 1995 goal to reduce wait times for primary care and specialty appointments to less than 30 days, the GAO finds that veterans still often wait more than two months for appointments.

**2003 — A commission appointed by President George W. Bush reports that as of January 2003, some 236,000 veterans had been waiting six months or more for initial or follow-up visits, “a clear indication,” the commission said, “of lack of sufficient capacity or, at a minimum, a lack of adequate resources to provide the required care.”

2005 — An anonymous tip leads to revelations of “significant problems with the quality of care” for surgical patients at the VA’s Salisbury, North Carolina, hospital, according to congressional testimony. One veteran who sought treatment for a toenail injury died of heart failure after doctors failed to take account of his enlarged heart, according to testimony.

2007 — Outrage erupts after documents released to CNN show some senior VA officials received bonuses of up to $33,000 despite a backlog of hundreds of thousands of benefits cases and an internal review that found numerous problems, some of them critical, at VA facilities across the nation.

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The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

You have already read and heard much of the same treatment that goes on from generation of American Veteran to the next generation. The only thing consistent that comes from “Government Rule” is the way they lie and mistreat the citizens they are pledged to represent…….Let’s start with a report from The Washington Times in 2008.

Currently, the VA and other federal agencies are conducting nearly 300 clinical studies involving veterans with PTSD. Most studies are behavioral, including one that tests the effects of yoga on PTSD sufferers. Twenty-five, however, are testing drugs on 4,796 veterans, more than half (2,488) of whom are just returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to clinical trials filed with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and reviewed by The Times.”

Perhaps no other news report involving unethical human experimentation demonstrates how far along the slippery slope the American government and the pharmaceutical industry have plunged. The report is about the exploitation of the vulnerability of disabled U.S. veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The veterans are being enrolled in an unethical drug experiment with the approval of the Department of Veterans Affairs, an experiment that exposes them to Pfizer’s controversial anti-smoking drug, Chantix, whose documented serious risks include psychotic episodes, violence and suicide.

The FDA acknowledges that nearly 40 suicides and more than 400 incidents of suicidal behavior have since been linked to Chantix.

“Just two weeks after a war Veteran began taking Chantix in November, the VA learned from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the drug was linked to a large number of hallucinations, suicide attempts and psychotic behavior. But the VA did not alert the Veteran before his own episode in February. In failing to do so, this combat Veteran said that the VA treated him like a “disposable hero.” “You’re a lab rat for $30 a month,” claimed the Veteran.

In all, nearly 1,000 veterans with PTSD were enrolled in the study to test different methods of ending smoking, with 143 using Chantix. Twenty-one of the veterans testing Chantix reported adverse effects from the drug, including one who suffered suicidal thoughts.”

2009 — The VA discloses that 10,000 veterans who underwent colonoscopies in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida were exposed to potential viral infections due to poorly-disinfected equipment. Thirty-seven tested positive for two forms of hepatitis and six tested positive for HIV. VA Director Eric Shinseki initiates disciplinary actions and requires hospital directors to provide written verification of compliance with VA operating procedures. The head of the Miami VA hospital is removed as a result, The Miami Herald reports.

2011 — Nine Ohio veterans test positive for hepatitis after routine dental work at a VA clinic in Dayton, Ohio. A dentist at the VA medical center there acknowledged not washing his hands or even changing gloves between patients for 18 years.

2011 —An outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease begins at the VA hospital in Oakland, Pennsylvania, according to The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At least five veterans die of the disease over the next two years. In 2013, the newspaper discloses VA records showed evidence of widespread contamination of the facility dating back to 2007.

2012 — The VA finds that the graves of at least 120 veterans in agency-run cemeteries are misidentified. The audit comes in the wake of a scandal at the Army’s Arlington National Cemetery involving unmarked graves and incorrectly-placed burials.

2013 The former director of Veterans Affairs facilities in Ohio, William Montague, is indicted on charges he took bribes and kickbacks to steer VA contracts to a company that does business with the agency nationwide.

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You already know about the most recent scandal of Veterans being denied simple appointments for treatment. **This actually was known more than ten years ago, but NO elected official did anything, although they all want their “15 minutes” in front of the “Media Microphone” now!!  The government’s performance is shameful in the way they treat these good soldiers, and quite frankly they should ALL resign!  Here are some of the statistics on Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers, wounds that will stay with them always as our ego-driven politicians get the best of medical care.

1) More that 1600 Americans have lost a limb. Even more have lost fingers or toes.

2) More than 156 have lost total sight, and thousands more have permanently-impaired vision.

3) More than 177,000 having suffered hearing loss, and more than 350,000 report tinnitus.

4) Thousands have come home disfigured, with hundreds coming home in such bad shape that they need face transplants.

5) More than 400,000 have reported suffering from PTSD, while tens of thousands have suffered traumatic brain injury (TBI).

**Consider all these injuries when you think of Barack Obama wanting soldiers to pay for their health care.  They are sent to war and return disabled and injured, and they should pay for their “Healing?” Yet he gets FREE health care that covers him even when he is out (far too often) on the golf course!!!…..An “out-of-touch” individual who couldn’t understand the outrage from citizens and soldier alike when he made that suggestion!! 

6) In 2013, this very paranoid and narcissistic government sent letters to Veterans stating that it was proposing a “rule” that would determine if you, the war Veteran, were competent enough to own a weapon here at home. They were going to decide your degree of competency, though that same competence was not in question when they needed you to serve their purpose. Another fragment of evidence showing that this government is far too disconnected from the people they were to serve.

7) Sadly, statistics show that Veterans from both Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide on an average of one (1) Veteran a day. How can you stop this travesty when the people these Veterans believed in, their government, are the first ones to make them feel forgotten, and abandoned??

8) The V.A. suggests that there are close to 600,000 backlogged Veterans’ claims from all wars, but I suspect that this number is a Lie, as everything else that comes from this present “regime” has been. The numbers stated in 2008 were at least one million backlogged claims, and I’m sure we haven’t moved from that number in the last six years!!

Final Comment

Another disgraceful performance from an uncaring, undeserving government that no longer, or perhaps never has, served the people. The differences between the government and the people, especially our Veterans, have been so distinct as to show that we never have been and never will be a United States of America with both people and government as ONE. We cannot pretend any longer and deny the historical facts, some of which are laid out before you in this writing. We are two entities that have only drifted farther apart in the past few centuries. Should we have a desire to exist as a free nation, then we seriously need to examine what has happened. The “Experiment” of living in a Free State that was to breathe all the inherent rights that the human race desired to embrace is still that:  an experiment. Perhaps even one on the brink of failure?

We have an opportunity to learn from these flagrant, abusive, and many intentional infractions, but these resulting lessons have to be learned OF, FOR, and BY the people, for the purpose of forming a true government of the people.  There is NO chance that the present government will ever learn anything because it largely consists of people who are far too selfish and ego-driven to understand what “Serving your fellow man” means. Words embraced by the people such as Loyalty, Unity, and Patriotism are foreign words to those in government who will voice these terms only when attempting to hide the Truth. Our internal conflicts (Veterans vs. government) and abstract differences shows that the historical atrocities inflicted by this distant government on the people of these United States have left us with no choice but to declare a separation of such a degree that it must be recognized as an  immutability, incurable, irreparable, and  irreversible, relationship of Irreconcilable Differences.

To my fellow Veterans, I thank you so much for what you have done for us…….We truly are not worthy of all you have sacrificed for us.

To the United States Government, an entity more foreign to us than any alien that may observe this planet, I must declare that you do not deserve the people of these United States, and it is time to part our ways.



 

 

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