WASHINGTON, D.C., (November 6, 1998) -- Vietnam Veterans of America national President George C. Duggins called on Congress to launch a complete investigation of the Pentagon's $200 million Ranch Hand Study of  the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans and their children.  "We need congressional hearings on this matter, along with an in-depth General Accounting Office study of the Operation Ranch Hand Study," Duggins said.  "The federal government has a responsibility to find out how exposure to Agent Orange has affected the health of Vietnam veterans and their children.  If the recent reports are even partly accurate, it seems likely that the Ranch Hand Study is not accomplishing that mission.  We need a fair and reliable study by an independent body.  Congress should look into the matter as soon as possible.  The health of veterans depends on it."

A just-concluded six-month investigation by the San Diego Union Tribune found monumental flaws in the study--flaws that the investigators said may render the entire study "useless."  The study, which began in 1979, is named for Operation Ranch Hand, the code name for Agent Orange spraying missions in Vietnam.  It tracks the health of some 1,000 veterans who took part in the spraying missions in Vietnam.  It tracks the health of some 1,000 veterans who took part in the spraying missions, comparing them with a group not involved in spraying.

The San Diego Union-Tribune investigation reported, among other things, that Air Force researchers discovered serious birth defects among children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange, but withheld that information for years, leaving a generation of men and women who served in Vietnam to start families without knowing the risks.  The investigation also claimed that a report expressing concerns about Agent-Orange-related cancers and birth defects was altered and that the government ignored a National Academy of Sciences recommendation that the study be done by scientists outside the military.

"We've suspected all along that the Air Force study was seriously flawed," Duggins said.  "If true, this report proves that, at the very least, there has been widespread incompetence.  We've wondered why the Ranch Hand Study was so slow to recognize the scientifically proven fact that dioxin, perhaps the most toxic chemical ever synthesized, causes cancer.  This investigation convinces us that the Air force has failed to produce a fair, unbiased, scientifically sound survey on the effects of Agent Orange on the health of those who served in Vietnam."

 Contact:  Mokie Pratt Porter, Communications Director, 202-628-2700 Ext. 146

Vietnam Veterans of America is the nation's only congressionally chartered veterans service organization dedicated solely to the needs of Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA's founding principle is "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."
E-mail us at communications@vva.org

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