January 14, 2000
(202) 628-2700 Ext. 158
VVA DEMANDS DOD TURNOVER OF AGENT ORANGE STUDY TO COMPETENT RESEARCHERS
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.
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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