Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Specter,
distinguished members of the committee, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is
very pleased to have the opportunity to share our views with you today on a
topic that has been at the very core of VVA’s mission from day one:
investigating toxic exposures among America’s veterans. On behalf of Tom Corey,
VVA National President, and all of us in VVA, we thank and congratulate you and
your colleagues for demonstrating strong leadership on these vital veterans
First, let us briefly summarize the 60-year
history of the Pentagon’s use of American military personnel as human guinea
Mustard gas testing on
servicemembers during WW II
Atomic testing on servicemembers
during the early Cold War period
LSD experiments on servicemembers
during the 1960’s
Herbicide use and concomitant
exposures among troops in Vietnam, Panama, and stateside
Chemical exposures during and
immediately after the Gulf War.
The use of investigation
chemical/biological warfare drugs and biologics during the Gulf War
The ongoing use of the
controversial (and likely unsafe) anthrax vaccine
The most recent revelations about Project 112—the
Pentagon’s master chemical/biological warfare agent testing program from the
1960’s—have only added to our sense of legitimate moral outrage over the
permanent bureaucracy in the executive branch’s cavalier approach to troop
health and safety.
Two days after the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, Department of Defense (DoD) officials invited
representatives of the veterans service organization’s (VSOs) to a briefing on
what has since become known as Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD).
Rather than provide the VSO’s with declassified documents, officials from what
was once known as the Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI)
provided sanitized, derivative documents labeled “Fact Sheets” regarding three
test series: AUTUMN GOLD, COPPERHEAD, and SHADY GROVE.
As VVA began doing our own research into this
issue, we uncovered a number of important facts:
SHAD was only part of a much larger testing initiative, known as
Project 112. According to the U.S. Army’s unclassified history of its biological
warfare program, Project 112 was initiated by then-Secretary of Defense McNamara
in September 1961 at a funding level of $4 billion. When Pentagon officials
originally briefed us on Project SHAD, we were told that as many as 113 tests
may have been conducted. We have recently learned that Pentagon officials are
now backing off of that figure, claiming that 113 total Project 112 tests were
planned but that SHAD only accounted for 34 of the tests.
Testing activities were
coordinated through a headquarters established at the Desert Test Center at Ft.
Douglas Utah in 1962. The overall program was governed by National Security
Action Memoranda 235, signed by President Kennedy on April 17, 1963. Testing
allegedly began in 1962 and continued through at least early 1969.
Our research indicates that
Project 112 tests took place off the east and west coasts of the United States,
in Alaska, and in Panama. VVA believes that additional test sites were used but
because of the Pentagon’s refusal thus far to declassify the records neither we
nor the affected veterans have a full understanding of the true number and scope
of the tests nor the potential health risks that may have resulted from their
participation in Project 112 testing activities.
Without the original documentation before us, we
are being asked to trust the Pentagon’s good word about the scope, duration, and
potential hazards associated with the tests. Based on the 60+ year history of
the Pentagon’s role in other such tests, we have good reason and ample precedent
to believe that the “Fact Sheets” were and are an exercise in risk-minimization
and public relations, and the odds are that said “Fact” sheets may not be a
legitimate effort to come clean on the potential consequences of the tests. We
have recently obtained a document that fully validates our concerns as to the
lack of a corporate culture that promotes and rewards organizational integrity
and veracity of OSAGWI and its activities.
“PRSA Bronze Anvil Entry,” a partial copy of
which is attached for your review, was (and probably remains) OSAGWI’s media
battle plan for minimizing the damaging impact of Gulf War illness-related
exposure issues, and, now, Project 112. Let me quote a passage from the page of
this document that I think showcases DoD’s approach to military toxic
“Following the war, many veterans began to
complain of health problems they associated with their service in the Gulf. They
clamored for health care and answers, and the news media and some legislators
picked up the battle cry. The President ordered a thorough review and finally,
DoD conceded that America’s finest might have been exposed to low levels of
chemical warfare agent.
For five years, the DoD had denied the
possibility of chemical warfare exposure during the Gulf War. With this new
information in the news, the DoD faced charges of a cover-up and conspiracy.
Finally, in late 1996, a special office was created and charged to ‘turn over
every stone’ and find out what was making Gulf War veterans sick.
The Gulf War lasted only 100 hours. The public
relations battle is still on-going.”
“Bronze Anvil Entry” is rife with such language,
Mr. Chairman: talk about “tactics” and “strategy” for dealing with the media,
the veterans, the Congress. By their own admission, the [Bronze Anvil Entry]
“communications plan is the basis, guide, and baseline for almost everything the
organization does, from investigating what happened in the Gulf War, to media
relations and responding to veterans concerns.”
In other words, everything OSAGWI has done has
been guided not by a quest for the facts and the truth but by a
media-driven PR-strategy designed to absolve the department of any and all
responsibility for the illnesses reported by the veterans. Some might well
maintain that this is a self-serving bureaucratic protectionism strategy that
has absolutely nothing to do with either true national security concerns nor
with the health and welfare of the many decent Americans serving in the Armed
services at the time who may well have been affected.
What has this exercise apparently driven by
public relations concern cost the American taxpayer? Over $150 million since
FY1996. For this amount of money, not one single peer reviewed scientific
article has been produced, making all of the “materials” and so-called “case
studies not worth the paper they are written on. The American tax payers have
decidedly NOT gotten their money’s worth from this exercise in appearing to do
What has it cost the veteran? Continued pain and
suffering, compounded by a relentless less than forthcoming, forthright, and
honest Pentagon spin-machine that has effectively obstructed genuine scientific
inquiry and debate over Gulf War illnesses.
How effective was the OSAGWI “spin machine”? The
document boasts that “Media relations have matured with national press calling
to ask if controversial issues are ‘news’ before determining level of
Earlier this year, Secretary Rumsfeld said that
the proposed Office of Strategic Influence had been abolished. In fact, it has
been operating since 1996 and continues operating to this day. Once known as the
Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illness, it now masquerades under
the title of “Deployment Health Support Directorate.”
VVA believes that the permanent bureaucrats and
seemingly permanent agents of contractors that staff this “Deployment Health
Support Directorate” continue to deliberately mislead the Secretary and his
office as to the truth about this operation, as it is in their immediate
pecuniary interest to do so, and they appear to be unfettered by sense of duty
and loyalty to the good American men and women who honorably served our Nation
in military service who may have be harmed by this course of action/inaction.
In the near term, Congress can best serve ill
veterans by striking the Deployment Health Support Directorate’s funding from
the TRICARE Management Activity (where it is currently funded) and prohibiting
the Pentagon from any further expenditures on this office, pending GAO’s
examination of this office and its activities over the past several years. VVA
believes that any such GAO investigation should be spearheaded by GAO’s
Strategic Issues or Applied Research Methodologies divisions, which have very
good track records in investigating DoD activities.
To restore the trust and confidence of the
American people, and particularly American veterans in the federal government’s
response to these kinds of exposure-related controversies, more sweeping changes
will be required.
There are four common themes that run through
nearly all of the historical examples I’ve enumerated thus far:
In nearly every case, servicemembers who were
test subjects rarely if ever were informed of the potential health consequences
of the exposures;
The tests were almost invariably deemed “secret”
or a “national security issue” by the Pentagon bureaucracy, which routinely
classified the tests and prohibited affected personnel from discussing the tests
or seeking medical treatment for symptoms associated with exposures;
Medical record keeping and follow up of the
affected personnel was nonexistent;
When evidence of a nexus between potential
service-connected toxic exposures and subsequent illnesses veterans emerges, the
Pentagon (and Department of Veterans Affairs) immediately seeks to denigrate or
minimize any such connection.
At VVA, we have a phrase to describe this
phenomenon: the disposable soldier syndrome.
In our view, the Pentagon has always viewed
us—the soldiers, sailors, airman, Marines, Coast Guardsmen—as nothing more than
disposable cogs in the giant military machine. In reality, we are the most
critical component of the machine: the literal flesh-and-blood that gives this
machine its ability to defend America, her citizens, and her interests. We will
not be treated as one more consumable, disposable, National Stock Number item.
We never did, and would hope the distinguished Senators on this Committee will
disavow this latter day version of Robert McNamara’s “spare parts” theory of
American military personnel.
Mr. Chairman, you and other distinguished
colleagues in the Congress have begun to recognize the need for fundamental
reform in this area. We applaud Representative Thompson and Senator Nelson for
offering the “Veterans Right to Know Act of 2002,” which addresses the Project
112/Project SHAD controversy by charging GAO to thoroughly investigate and
oversee the declassification and dissemination of the test records. The Congress
must do much more, however, if we are to ensure that no such episodes occur in
Because DoD and VA bureaucrats have politicized
the medical research arena and monopolized control over research funding
decisions, it is completely impossible for most non-federal researchers with
unconventional or controversial theories about the origins of Gulf War illnesses
to receive federal funding. Moreover, both DoD and VA have an inherent conflict
of interest when it comes to investigating these kinds of issues.
Consider the following analogy. When the
Bridgestone/Firestone “exploding tire” scandal erupted, the Congress did not
tell the manufacturer, “We trust you: go investigate yourself, make
recommendations for change, then implement those changes…you have our blessing!”
Congress held hearings and monitored the National Highway Transportation Safety
Administration’s investigation of Bridgestone/Firestone. The same model applies
to airline crashes. Congress does not rely on the aircraft manufacturers crash
report; it listens to the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigators,
who are independent of both the manufacturer and the aviation industry as a
whole. Congress set up this system to ensure that no conflict of interest would
compromise safety investigations, a wise and sensible approach to transportation
Yet for the last decade, the Congress has
allowed the agency that most likely created the Gulf War illness problem (DoD),
and the agency charged with paying for the problem (i.e., the VA, through health
care and disability payments to sick veterans), to both investigate Gulf War
illnesses and their own role in responding to sick Desert Storm veterans. This
is an obvious conflict of interest, one that has prolonged the suffering of the
veterans, destroyed their trust in the federal government, and resulted in the
waste of at least $150 million over the past five years through OSAGWI, as the
Defense Department has “investigated” its own response to Gulf War illnesses. It
is also how the Pentagon and the Air Force have managed to spend over $180
million on Agent Orange-related Ranch Hand research that has produced less than
half-a-dozen peer-reviewed scientific papers over the last 15 years. Even those
few peer reviewed articles were produced just recently under extreme pressure by
the Congress to produce tangible scientifically valid results.
To end this conflict of interest and restore
integrity to the process of investigating and treating veteran’s medical
conditions, last year VVA called for the creation of a National Institute of
Veterans Health (NIVH) within NIH. This notional NIVH would not only eliminate
the conflict of interest problem outlined above, it would provide a vehicle for
establishing a medical research corporate culture focused on veteran
health care, in contrast to the current VA medical corporate culture of
“health care that happens to be for veterans.”
VVA recognizes that the VA has established a
reputation for providing advanced care for blinded veterans or those with severe
ambulatory impairments. However, the VA has never truly
developed a corporate culture focused on the diagnosis and treatment of the full
range of environmental and occupational hazards that are unique to military
service. This is especially true of the VA’s Research and Development
Office, where the overwhelming majority of VA-funded research programs are
geared towards medical problems found in the general population, not those
specific to the veteran patient population or those with military service. Even
though it is possible at virtually no additional cost to collect veteran
specific variable information on all the studies funded though this section, the
current leadership of VA Research & Development refuses to do so.
By establishing a new NIVH with veteran
advocates serving on the peer-review panels that make research funding
decisions, the Congress would be creating a research institute that would be
truly focused on the unique medical needs of veterans. Locating the NIVH within
NIH would ensure that the full medical resources of the federal government and
private sector could be marshaled in a rational, veteran-friendly environment,
free of the politicizing and conflict-ridden influences that have for more than
20 years precluded effective research into the unique environmental and
occupational hazards that have impacted the health of American veterans.
One of the first lines of inquiry that should be
pursued by this proposed entity is what we term “the in-country effect,” the
idea that the totality of the military experience in a theater of operation has
a cumulative effect on the health of the veteran. We believe that more than
enough epidemiological research exists to show that both Vietnam and Gulf War
veterans display higher rates of illness than their nondeployed counterparts.
Researching the mechanisms that produce these higher morbidity rates among those
who serve in theater should be a top research priority for the notional NIVH.
Additionally, this proposed NIVH must be
supplemented by the creation of a Congressionally directed mandatory
declassification review panel, whose purpose would be to screen (on both a
historical and an ongoing basis) and declassify any operational or
intelligence records for evidence of data that would have an impact on the
health and welfare of American veterans. The need for such an entity—completely
independent from the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community—is obvious.
Even today, thousands of pages of Gulf
War-related records remain classified. In January 1998, the CIA admitted that
its own internal review had identified over 1 million classified
documents with potential relevance to Gulf War illnesses. Virtually no documents
associated with the 1960’s era SHAD program have been declassified, and DoD has
thus far rebuffed VVA’s FOIA requests that the documents be made public. Through
the experience of the Kennedy Assassination Review Commission and the Nazi War
Crimes Declassification Review panel, we have learned that such specialized
declassification panels work well. If we are to be certain that all
data that may effect the health of American veterans is to be available for the
veterans and their physicians, the Congress must create such a standing
declassification review panel immediately. Such a move would also help to
restore trust and confidence among veterans in the federal government and its
response to veteran’s health issues.
VVA believes that the VA should remain in the
veteran health care business, but only if there is a dramatic change in the
corporate culture of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
During his tenure as Undersecretary for Health,
Dr. Thomas Garthwaite put forward a proposal known as the Veterans Health
Initiative (VHI). The purpose of the VHI was to put veteran patient care at the
core the VHA’s corporate culture. As Dr. Garthwaite testified before Congress in
“The Veterans Health Initiative was established
in September 1999 to recognize the connection between certain health effects and
military service, prepare health care providers to better serve veteran
patients, and to provide a data base for further study
The components of the initiative will be a
provider education program leading to certification in veterans’ health; a
comprehensive military history that will be coded in a registry and be available
for education, outcomes analysis, and research; a database for any veteran to
register his military history and to automatically receive updated and relevant
information on issues of concern to him/her (only as requested); and a Web site
where any veteran or health care provider can access the latest scientific
evidence on the health effects of military service.”
VVA’s experience is that while some progress has been
made in development of curricula by the Office of Public Health and
Environmental Hazards, virtually no one at the service delivery level, or at the
researcher level know that these exist. After three years, there is still not
visible effort to train or enlighten staff at the hospital level or actually
doing research of the importance of taking a complete military history and
testing for various natural and man-made risk factors that a veteran may have
been exposed to based on when, where. branch of service, and what the veteran
actually did in the military. VVA maintains that this is what Veterans Health
Care (and hence VA) should be all about, not just general health care that
happens to be for veterans.
We note that to date, comprehensive clinical practice
guidelines and continuing medical education courses in dealing with Gulf War
illnesses have yet to be distributed throughout the VA medical system. The
visualized cash awards for clinicians passing competency exams in veteran
specific health issues has not materialized. We know from internal VA emails
obtained via FOIA that senior officials in Public Health and Environmental
Hazards resisted creating a registry for Vietnam era SHAD veterans. As many
members of this committee may recall, there was tremendous resistance by VHA to
the idea of creating a Gulf War registry in the early 1990’s; it took an act of
Congress to get that effort off the ground. Given this institutional resistance
to identifying environmental hazards and their impact on the health of veterans
from multiple eras, how can we trust these same office with no apparent change
in corporate culture to implement Dr. Garthwaite’s well-conceived vision for
veterans’ health care?
We have communicated these concerns to Secretary
Principi, urging him to recognize that changing the existing VHA corporate
culture immediately is imperative, and we look forward to working with him
towards that end. VVA believes that this committee can play a key role in this
process by offering comprehensive legislation to create NIVH and an affiliated
declassification body. The VA’s Gulf War Research Advisory Committee has already
sent such a recommendation to Secretary Principi. VVA hopes the committee will
use the Research Advisory Committee’s recommendations as a blueprint for
changing the way veterans exposure-related health issues are addressed.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my written statement. On
behalf of our national president, Tom Corey, please accept my thanks for
allowing VVA the opportunity to share our views on this very important topic.
At the time, the Gulf War appeared to be an overwhelming
public relations success. The American public gave whole-hearted support to
their military sons and daughters, sending them off to fight the world’s largest
army. The media provided minute-by-minute coverage from the good-by kisses
through the daily military victories to the tearful reunions. Cheering crowds
across the nation lined graffiti-filled streets to honor the returning victor.
Following the war, many veterans began to
complain of health problems they associated with their service in the Gulf.
They clamored for health care and answers, and the
news media and some legislators picked up the battle cry. The President ordered
a thorough review and finally, DoD conceded that America’s finest might have
been exposed to low levels of chemical warfare agent.
For five years, the DoD had denied
the possibility of chemical warfare exposure during the Gulf War. With this new
information in the news, the DoD faced charges of cover-up and conspiracy.
Finally, in late 1996, a special office was created and charged to “turn over
every stone” and find out what was making Gulf War veterans sick.
The Gulf War lasted only 100 hours. The public
relations battle is still on-going.
One of the first actions of the Office of the
Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses (OSAGWI) was to review the backlog of
incoming correspondence and identify the concerns and interests of veterans.
Meetings with representatives of 60 national veterans groups (VSOs) were
conducted, and congressional interest identified. Goals, objectives, strategies,
tactics and messages were formulated. Letters, emails, and telephone contact
were all targeted to specific audiences including veterans, veterans’ groups,
Congress, and other government agencies. Monthly updates for VSOs allowed them
to pass information to their millions of members while town hall meetings across
the nation provided one-on-one interchange with veterans. An interactive
Internet site was created (GulfLINK, TAB X) receiving up to 60,000 “hits” a
week. Audience analysis indicated that many might not have access to the
Internet, so a newsletter (GulfNEWS, TAB X) was developed. By March 1997, most
of the national press and veterans’ groups appeared satisfied that the DoD was
on the right track and many thought the issue was dead. However, the public
relations professionals were not so sanguine.
Based on the textbook model
of “lifecycle states of issues.” (Tab X), the team projected that there
was potential for a second wave of high concern and high interest. Additionally,
there was also a strong possibility that the DoD was actually facing two
lifecycles—one in the Washington D.C. area, and a second, later one, in ‘Middle
America.’ (TAB X) The team also analyzed current
goals and objectives; strategies and tactics; media coverage; veterans’
correspondence; and message delivery and acceptance. Media analysis
indicated decreasing interest by national and military press; however, a few
influential media continued their negative coverage, which was repeated in
regional and local press on a regular basis (Tab X). A few vocal legislators
continued to challenge the DoD’s commitment to Gulf War veterans. Incoming
emails, letters, and telephone calls from veterans, analyzed for content and
tone, indicated a shift toward an increase in level of trust and a greater
desire for information. Interviews with veterans’ service groups indicated
similar shifts in interest, focusing more on applying lessons learned from the
Gulf War to future operations. Informal surveys indicated that service members
still in uniform have a vested interest in the DoD’s efforts and the eventual
outcome. Conversely, activist groups had formed and were becoming very active.
Research confirmed that the crisis had not been
resolved. While some veterans still accused the DoD of cover-up and conspiracy,
many simply didn’t know what to think—they provided fertile ground for
Following this analysis, the communication plan
was updated with two new objectives while strategies and tactics were greatly
expanded and energized for a proactive and synergistic effort (TAB X).
New objectives featured DoD’s commitment to the
health and welfare of Gulf War veterans as well as current and future service
members and veterans (TAB X). Target audiences were expanded to include all
active duty, Guard, and Reserve and their family members; health care providers
in the DoD; plus veterans and community members living and working near military
installations. The overall strategy was to create ‘message redundancy’ through
personal and second party contact. Military members would become “ambassadors in
uniform,” influencing other audiences such as neighbors, peers, and extended
was expanded to target military installations and more conferences, conventions,
and seminars. Town halls at each installation would still target veterans and
their families, while briefings would reach the new audiences. Briefers were
selected and trained for specific venues and audiences. Manned displays were
developed for high traffic locations and local media heavily marketed to provide
radio, TV, and newspaper coverage. Presentations, brochures, displays, and
visual aids were targeted to widely varied audiences, incorporating of risk
communication techniques. The brochure was sized to fit in uniform pockets and a
pocket added to the tri-fold.
With no dedicated public affairs budget,
all research, graphic design, product production and planning was done with the
existing staff. The budget for printing had to be greatly increased as well as
travel since a large team now goes on each trip.
The communication plan is the basis, guide and
baseline for almost everything the organization does, from investigating what
happened in the Gulf War, to media relations and responding to veterans
All investigations of the Gulf War are based on veterans’ expressed concerns.
Veterans are personally interviewed and their comments incorporated into
comprehensive reports, which are then posted on the interactive Internet site,
GulfLINK with a request for comment from any reader (TAB X). Many Veterans are
personally notified, provided copies, and asked for feedback (TAB X). Fact
sheets, news stories, press releases (TAB X) and often a press conference
accompany every new report when it is published. Veterans’ service
organizations (VSOs) are hosted each month for a roundtable discussion on
releases, updates, or to discuss other issues and concerns. To date, more than
25 narratives, reports, and information papers have been released (TAB X).
From the beginning, OSAGWI has had a proactive media approach. More than 150
news releases have gone to hundreds of national and local media via the DoD and
OSAGWI Internet sites, list servers, and multi-fax/email (TAB X). Press
conferences are held regularly. Thousands of media queries receive timely and
comprehensive response (TAB X) by public affairs professionals while CBS, MSNBC,
ABC, CNN, 60 Minutes, BBC, NPR, Washington Post, etc. interview experts on
controversial issues. Extensive media training precedes al interviews and Q&As
are prepared for every release and emerging issue. Media relations have matured
with national press calling to ask if controversial issues are “news” before
determining level of coverage. Currently, approximately 300 local media around
the nation are individually marketed resulting in extensive coverage of OSAGWI’s
outreach efforts. Trade and specialty media are also heavily marketed (TAB X).
OSAGWI is a unique government organization—providing one-on-one interaction via
an 800 number 16 hours a day, and more than 200,000 personal responses via
emails and letters (TAB X). Q&As for every issue and concern ensure all
interactions with veterans provide consistent and correct information.
We work closely with the VA, and other government agencies to provide answers to
all veterans’ concerns.
All products are posted on GulfLINK and veterans notified about new postings.
Nearly 25,000 veterans subscribe to GulfNEWS, a bi-monthly newsletter containing
highlights of GulfLINK.
Most members of the organization participate in the national outreach—whether
going to military installations for weeklong visits, or participating in
conferences, conventions, or seminars. All receive training on communicating
with veterans, family members, or the news media. All are prepared to discuss
individual issues while many are trained as briefer for specific audiences.
Media are also heavily marketed any time we participate in an event—medical
media at medical conventions, local media at base visits, and others whenever
possible. Local VA representatives and VSOs actively participate in base visits
designed specifically for each unique audience.
Products and Distribution.
Brochures (TAB X) provide answers to frequently
asked questions while the tri-fold is more generic, but contains a pocket to
hold a postcard, newsletter, and GulfLINK information (TAB X). Five display
panels can be grouped for maximum effect or stand-alone for greater distribution
(TAB X). Briefings are tailored for individual audiences and briefer selected
for credibility with audience (TAB X). An annual report targets Congress (TAB
X). Approximately 5,000 brochures, tri-folds, maps, fact sheets, etc. are
individually distributed at each base visit. Additionally, these same products
are regularly distributed around the nation to base libraries, clinics, and
family support centers; VA clinics and hospitals; veterans’ support groups such
as VFW chapters; regional veterans’ service centers; and even state libraries.
The Department of Defense and its subordinate units are not funded to conduct
formal research in the form of scientific surveys. However, regular analysis of
media coverage, correspondence, activist groups’ issues, and individual
veterans’ feedback, can provide insightful information to evaluate the success
of public affairs programs.
Evaluation of programs is almost a weekly
process. Analysis of correspondence tone and content,
media coverage, activist issues, VSO concerns, and informal surveys result in
minor modifications of tactics on a constant basis. Focus groups held at
four installations helped reshape the products while risk communication
professionals also provided their expertise on both products and processes.
After each outreach, team members participate in an extensive evaluation of
presentations; product and display design and distribution; and audience
response. Although the erosion of DoD credibility
cannot be rebuilt quickly, analysis indicates that we’re on the right track.
VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
July 10, 2002
organization Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) is a non-profit veterans
membership organization registered as a 501(c)(19) with the Internal Revenue
Service. VVA is also appropriately registered with the Secretary of the Senate
and the Clerk of the House of Representatives in compliance with the Lobbying
Disclosure Act of 1995.
VVA is not
currently in receipt of any federal grant or contract, other than the routine
allocation of office space and associated resources in VA Regional Offices for
outreach and direct services through its Veterans Benefits Program (Service
Representatives). This is also true of the previous two fiscal years.
For Further Information, Contact:
Vietnam Veterans of America.
(301) 585-4002 extension 127
Richard F. “Rick” Weidman serves as Director of Government Relations on the
National Staff of Vietnam Veterans of America. As such, he is the primary
spokesperson for VVA in Washington. He served as a 1-A-O Army Medical Corpsman
during the Vietnam war, including service with Company C, 23rd Med,
AMERICAL Division, located in I Corps of Vietnam in 1969.
Mr. Weidman was part of the staff of VVA from
1979 to 1987, serving variously as Membership Service Director, Agency Liaison,
and Director of Government Relations. He left VVA to serve in the
Administration of Governor Mario M. Cuomo (NY) as statewide director of veterans
employment & training (State Veterans Programs Administrator) for the New York
State Department of Labor.
He has served as Consultant on Legislative
Affairs to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), and served at
various times on the VA Readadjustment Advisory Committee, the Secretary of
Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans Employment & Training, the President’s
Committee on Employment of Persons with Disabilities - Subcommittee on Disabled
Veterans, Advisory Committee on veterans’ entrepreneurship at the Small Business
Administration, and numerous other advocacy posts in veteran affairs.
Mr. Weidman was an instructor and administrator
at Johnson State College (Vermont) in the 1970s, where he was also active in
community and veterans affairs. He attended Colgate University (B.A., (1967),
and did graduate study at the University of Vermont. He is married and has four
Linda Spoonster Schwartz
RN MSN DPH, MAJOR USAF, NC (RET)
Linda Schwartz received her
diploma in Nursing from Saint Thomas Hospital School of Nursing in Akron, Ohio,
She is a Cum Laude graduate of the University of Maryland and received a Masters
in Psychiatric Nursing from Yale University School of Nursing. She completed
her Doctoral Degree in Public Health from Yale University School of Medicine,
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in April 1998. Her dissertation
“Physical Health Problems of Military Women Who Served During the Vietnam War”
is the first major research investigation of the health of women veterans of the
She is medically retired as a Major from the
military due to injuries she sustained in an aircraft accident while on duty in
the Air Force.
Dr. Schwartz has a long history of involvement in nursing and
veteran organizations. She has served as President of both the Connecticut
Nurses Association, and the Connecticut Nurses Foundation. In 1987 she was
elected to the Board of Directors of the American Nurses Association (ANA). She
also served as Member of the Board and Treasurer of the ANA PAC (1987-1989).
She is currently an Associate Research Scientist at the Yale School of Nursing.
She has served as Trustee of the Connecticut
Department of Veteran Affairs since 1989. She served 10 years on the VA
Advisory Committee on Readjustment of Vietnam Era Veterans. She has also served
as Chair of the VA Women Advisory Committee from 1997 to 2000. Dr. Schwartz was
a member of the Board of Directors of Vietnam Veterans of America from
1989-1995. She was one of the founders and served (1990-1996) as the President
of the Vietnam Veterans Assistance Fund (VVAF), a charitable organizations
certified from the Combined Federal Campaign, which focuses on the needs of the
nations 9.2 million Vietnam Era Veterans.
From 1992-1999 she served in a volunteer
capacity, as the Co-Director of “Project Partnership” which is a program in
which VVAF acquired and developed four homes for homeless and disabled veterans
in conjunction with the West Haven VA Medical Center. Project Partnership
became incorporated as s (501)© (3) non-profit organization on November 22, 1997
in West Haven, Connecticut.
Dr. Schwartz resides in Pawcatuck, Connecticut
with her husband Stanley a restaurateur and her daughter Lorraine a 1998
Graduate of Syracuse University.
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