No. 002-00  
IMMEDIATE RELEASE                             January 14, 2000                           (202) 628-2700 Ext. 158 


Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) National President George C. Duggins expressed outrage at the Pentagon's $200 million Ranch Hand Study of the health effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam War veterans and their children.

The General Accounting Office's report on their investigation of the Operation Ranch Hand Study validated what VVA said of the study two years ago.  The Air Force study is flawed and unreliable, Duggins said. The federal government still  has a responsibility to find out how exposure to Agent Orange has affected the health of Vietnam veterans and their children.  The Ranch Hand Study, sanctioned by the Department of Defense, has not accomplished that mission.  We need a competent study and analysis of what may well be a very reliable data base of information by an independent body.

Now that the GAO report substantiates those allegations, it is time to stop slow-rolling the data gathered and clear up the misleading, incomplete, and inaccurate information released by the Air Force.  The health of veterans and their families depends on it.

Two years ago, an 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.  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.

"The GAO report underscores the uselessness of this study where millions of dollars and volunteer time spent by veterans in helping compile this valuable data base have been wasted," Duggins said.  "This report proves that there has been widespread incompetence, what VVA can only characterize as 'willful ignorance'  The Ranch Hand Study was so slow to recognize the scientifically proven fact that dioxin, perhaps the most toxic chemical ever synthesized, causes cancer.  Now is the time to turn all data over to a reliable agency, outside the military, for salvaging the information, and getting the answers America's veterans need.

   - END -  

VVA's point of contact for additional information is Scott D. Campbell at (202) 628-2700 Ext. 158.

  Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) 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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