VA predicted that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan would lead to toxic exposure, officials said

Immediately after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, illness researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs began internal discussions on how to prepare for war-related illnesses they knew would follow, agency officials told McClutchie.

“I don’t know what to expect, but I’m expecting results,” said Victoria Davey, a service member, epidemiologist and deputy senior researcher who will be sent overseas in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks. There was a lot of talk. A VA executive told McClatchy in an exclusive interview.

“We expected it to be there Dangerous exposure, “She said.

The Department of Veterans Affairs was trying to act aggressively after researchers generally felt unprepared to deal with the toxic substance-exposed illnesses that the military developed after the previous conflict. Said.

“Our main, main impulse is — — It’s not another Vietnam, “Davie said. “Don’t follow these people and look forward to the results of the service in the deployed environment.”

As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs began pursuing military personnel as military operations began in Afghanistan and eventually Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

“We’ve been looking at these populations, and we’ve been collecting data since the conflict began,” said Davy, who has been with the Department of Veterans Affairs since 9/11 and earlier.

“I think the first feature we came back to was the so-called” Iraqi lungs, “respiratory problems,” Davy said. “It’s complicated by the sandstorm environment and the high exposure to smoke, dust and solvents in more types of military occupations. Since then, concerns about these chemical and biological weapons have continued.”

Revelations that veterans are concerned that some veterans will return home due to illness and have been collecting data on veterans since the beginning of the war between Iraq and Afghanistan have revealed that their illness is abroad. Link to service.

Many of them have been informed by VA for the past 20 years that there is no known relationship between overseas expansion and illness, resulting in refusal of medical and compensation claims.

“This is an insult to learn that VA has begun planning exposure to toxic substances shortly after the plane crashed into the Twin Towers,” said it was deployed in Ballad, Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and is now The reliant reserve, Captain Leroy Torres, said. About oxygen supplementation for breathing. He was exposed daily to a military soccer field-sized outdoor garbage burning pit at the base.

“It’s been more than a decade for people sent to Iraq, but the only conversation I’ve witnessed is [with the VA] It’s about not having enough science, “says Torres.

Rachel Ramoni, Chief Research Officer of the Department of Veterans Affairs and Davy, said the current agency’s focus on identifying the cause of illness and improving current health of veterans is on two sides. ..

“Knowing the reasons for the symptoms doesn’t mean we can’t treat them,” Davy said.

As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack approaches, Capitol Hill is gaining momentum to provide relief to veterans who have become ill after serving abroad.

Some people inhaled air contaminated with ash and metal particles from hundreds of incinerators in Afghanistan and Iraq. There, the military incinerated human feces, ammunition, plastic, and other toxins in large fire trenches.

Some have been deployed at toxic bases such as Karshi-Khanabad in Uzbekistan known as “K2”. A McClatchy Survey The first exposure in K2 was the emergence of “black goo” from soil contaminated with radiation, chemical weapons and jet fuel.

“This is Year of toxic exposureWe feel we have moral imperatives and political considerations here, at least because I think the remedy for it has reached some critical mass of understanding and perhaps political support. Sen. D-Conn to take care of those veterans. Richard Blumenthal told McClatchy in an interview.

It has become a generational issue, with some sick veterans witnessing young families working in the military and facing the same toxins, fighting for change.

Retired Army Sergeant Mark Jackson was 26 when he first deployed to K2 in 2003. It was then deployed at Bagram Airfield in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a survivor of cancer and has recently undergone a series of tests to determine if cancer or anything else is causing a serious loss of his bone density.

“I remember the first time I ran around. It was around dusk. And I remember people telling me the size of the Bagram, but I really didn’t prepare myself. “It was,” Jackson said of the Bagram Burnpit. “It just looked like a river of fire. This melted mass and, of course, this oily smoke rises from it.”

Jackson currently has a son-in-law who is in the military and has recently returned from deployment to Bagram.

“My son-in-law explained it in the same way. He explained the ashes that fall like snow but adhere to the skin and the smell that he feels in his lungs after first tasting. And he is 24 years old. “Jackson said.

“I hope we haven’t talked about this yet by the time he retires in 20 years, but I hope I’ll talk about something., ” Jackson said.

Blumenthal and several other lawmakers introduced a law this year to improve the care of sick veterans working at toxic bases abroad.The rally at Capitol Hill is scheduled for April 13th Comedian Jon StewartPreviously, he advocated providing medical care to firefighters and first responders exposed to toxins at the site of the collapsed World Trade Center. He is currently pressing Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs to make veterans from 9/11 more accessible to medical benefits for illnesses associated with exposure to toxic substances.

It’s too late for some people.

“I just lost my son and I don’t want to take him anymore,” says Rudy Gilkison, the mother of the Marine Corps Sergeant. Mark S. Villamac Ho said in tears on the phone.

Ho was a firefighter in Iraq. There he was exposed to a cancer-related PFAS compound in military fire extinguishing foam and burned the pits.

Ho’s fight against multiple myeloma after being diagnosed at age 38 was featured in McClutch’s 2019 series “It was struck” It reported a surge in cancer treatment at Veterans Affairs hospitals.

“I got cancer for military service. There could be hundreds or thousands of veterans behind me,” Ho told McClutchie.

At the end of last year, doctors found more tumors in Ho’s lungs and spine, Gilkison said. He had completed another radiation therapy when he was infected with COVID-19. He was hospitalized and died on December 27, at the age of 41.

“Without his cancer, Mark would have been so strong that he could really fight COVID,” his mother said.

Ho frequently assisted other veterans in navigating VA Healthcare. He also advocated to the government to admit how many of them got sick from toxic exposure.

He told Gilkison that she had to remain his voice before he died, she said.

“I know he won’t be peaceful until this problem is resolved,” she said.

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