VVA Testimony VVA Testimony
VVA Testimony













JULY 10, 2002


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 issues. 

First, let us briefly summarize the 60-year history of the Pentagon’s use of American military personnel as human guinea pigs: 

·        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 exposure-related episodes: 

“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 something. 

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 coverage.” 

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: 

1.   In nearly every case, servicemembers who were test subjects rarely if ever were informed of the potential health consequences of the exposures;

2.   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;

3.   Medical record keeping and follow up of the affected personnel was nonexistent;

4.   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 the future. 

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 safety policy. 

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 April 2001,

“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.


Appendix I: 

Extract from OSAGWI’s “Bronze Anvil” Communications Plan





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 activists. 


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 family members. 

The outreach 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 concerns.   

Investigations.  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).  

Media.  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). 

Public Communication.  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. 

GulfNEWS/GulfLINK.  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.   

Outreach.  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.

Funding Statement
July 10, 2002

            The national 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:

Director of Government Relations
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 children.


Linda Spoonster Schwartz

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 Vietnam Era. 

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.

E-mail us at govtrelations@vva.org

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