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july/august 2009

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Thank you for the honor of asking me to chair the VVA Agent Orange/Dioxin and Other Toxic Substances Committee (AO/DOTS). I am Alan Oates. I am a Vietnam veteran and a retired Army First Sergeant.

First, the AO/DOTS Committee is not about me or what I have accomplished. It is about serving our veterans. So I won’t take up time talking about myself. I am replacing Buzz Sawyer as chair of the committee. Thank you, Buzz, for your service as chair over the last three years. Buzz will continue as an advisor to the Committee. We wish Buzz the best as he spends more time fly fishing.

Taking care of troops doesn’t stop once we leave the military. We would not leave a troop behind on the battlefield, and we must not leave any more veterans and their families behind on the battlefields of diseases that result from toxic exposures. Our committee has an important role to ensure that we don’t.

As the AO/DOTS Committee carries out its duties, we will focus on our work with renewed vigor. We know what we are doing has an impact on the quality of life for many veterans and their families. The three vice chairs of the committee—Bill Dumsick, George Newell, and John Weiss—are proven leaders who will provide the leadership, organizational skills, and dedication to make this committee successful.

The near future presents us with many challenges. Changes in the leadership of the Department of Veterans Affairs present the opportunity to address toxic exposure and health issues that concern all veterans. Early this summer, the Institute of Medicine will release the 2008 biennial update to the Veteran and Agent Orange (VAO) report. The review may present opportunities to get some diseases added to the presumptive list. The Agent Orange Committee will review this report, looking for those immediate opportunities as well as issues we will need to focus on to prepare our input for the next review in 2010.

Hypertension, heart disease, birth defects, intergenerational diseases, and Parkinson’s disease are some of the issues that need our immediate attention. The committee is challenged to look at environmental exposures outside the well-known Agent Orange and other herbicides. Look for us to post more information on these non-herbicide exposures on our web page.

As chair, I ask that each VVA member and every veteran help the committee in its work. We especially need people who have medical and scientific backgrounds to help review the research on diseases and environmental exposures. Also, I would ask those who have collected studies and research in these areas to please share that information with the committee. We are particularly interested in scientific studies that connect a particular disease to any chemical exposures.

The best way to share that information is in an electronic format such as a PDF file. Email the committee at to find out how to share your collection of research and information or contact me directly at



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