VVA CALLS FOR CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATION OF GOVERNMENT'S FLAWED AGENT
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, 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 serve 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."
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