Agent Orange and the Fort McClellan connection

by Rebecca H. Fass

Many Veterans of the Vietnam War are now applying for benefits for presumption of service connected diseases related to their service being exposed to agent orange. This is due to the VA announcing on 3/9/2010 a aggressive initiative to solicit private sector input on a proposed fast track for Veterans claims for illnesses due to agent orange.  At the time they expected 200,000 claims and a average of 90 days to process the claim.

Presently there are complaints that it is taking longer. This is due to more claims being submitted than they had envisioned and their staff  limitations. Veterans applying who in the past were refused acceptance into the VA system if they get into the registry  can now receive health care at the VA. They are also eligible for $123 to $2,673 dollars per month disability which is non-taxable.

You can apply online at www.va.gov. Where there is also information of the diseases that are presumed service related. This list is growing as we veterans are aging.

Many people do not realize that PCB is a principal component of agent orange. Or that Monsanto was the company manufacturing PCB and helping the Military make agent orange. It is do to this relationship that Anniston, Alabama is the site of one of the worst cases of chemical poisoning.  They had Monsanto dumping tons of PCBs into the town and Fort McClellan nearby where the Army had their only stateside factory producing live agents of agent orange.

Fort McClellan was the army training fort for the WAC basic training.  The population on the fort was 10,000 and many lived in Anniston where they were doubly exposed with PCBs.  The Army Engineers stored their canisters of agent orange near the barracks of the WACs in basic training.

There is a saying in applying for benefits that there is a 1 boot rule. Which means if you stepped even 1 foot into Viet Nam or Thailand you have agent orange poisoning. However, this rule does not seem to apply to the WAC’s who lived there and their boots stepped all over the Fort in the footsteps of the engineers in the factory. As well as the smoke that we breathed from their factory.  I am now going to enclose a map of Fort McClellan which has a description as well from  Military records.

Name: Fort McClellan
Category: Military
Archive ID#: AL3139
Description: Fort McClellan was officially closed in 1999 and is now operated by the Alabama National Guard. For much of its history, Fort McClellan was one of the principal chemical and biological training centers for the Defense Department.

The Chemical Defense Training Facility at McClellan was the only facility in the country where live chemical agents were used in training. All military personnel who work with chemical weapons were required to train in the sealed chamber at this location, where they face live agents in full protective gear.

Over 28,000 personnel have been through the facility. McClellan had other facilities and training programs for the disposal and detection of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons. The post was also a major military police training center. The Fort covers 45,680 acres, much of which is training range that is still in use, administered by the National Guard, and as a support facility for operations at Anniston Army Depot, a major chemical weapons storage site nearby.

When I had my second of two heart attacks 8 years ago. I went to the DeBakey VA in Houston.  At that time it was the first time that it was suggested to me by my Doctor that I had agent orange poisoning and that I should apply for the registry. For me the presumption of service connection was that I had become a diabetic over night at age 30, had 2 heart attacks at a young age, menopause at age 30 and warts on my hands that no matter what therapy I used they returned with no family history of these medical problems. These warts are small clear areas that if you put a needle in a clear liquid flows out. You can laser them, cauterize them, cut them out, use wart solutions and they will always come back. Many people with agent orange poisoning  have brown spots, thin skin, bruise easily and sores that don’t go away.

I did apply and I was refused and not told why. Only that I had the right to appeal. At the times when I was in the VA system I always felt guilty using the services. Which is  the finest medical care there is. As I saw people who needed it more than I. Especially today the returning Gulf War Veterans who will never have a life time benefit as we Viet Nam Vets have. I therefore did not appeal, nor did I ask why I was refused.

Recently while having care for my hepatitis C it was suggested to me to open the case. The VA is actively recruiting for people to register. They have posters and stands at many of the VA Centers that you see as you enter offering to help you apply. I had time between appointments so I went to the office and found out I had been refused as the decision was that I had not been around Agent Orange. Me a person who spent a year at Fort McClellan exposed to it constantly.  I asked them what I should do to submit my appeal. I was told to research out the proof on my own  of the facts relating to Fort McClellan and attach it to my claim.  As well as attaching my present health records and getting 2 witnesses who have seen how my diseases effect my life.

I spent yesterday doing so much research that my carpal tunnel was bothering me so bad I had to fall asleep with wrist bands, heat rub and a pain pill. It was suggested to me by one of my recent caregivers that I might not have carpal tunnel,  but instead nerve damage from agent orange.  In doing so I found that there is a bill that was submitted to Congress on September 28, 2010 to make a special registry for Veterans who were stationed at Fort McClellan. I am putting it into this blog to share with those who served there and are not aware of it.

H.R. 6238, The Fort McClellan Health Registry Act

H.R. 6238 would direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a registry of certain veterans who were stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

HR 6238 IH

111th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 6238

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a registry of certain veterans who were stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

September 28, 2010

Mr. TONKO introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL

To direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to establish a registry of certain veterans who were stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited a `Fort McClellan Health Registry Act’.

SEC. 2. FORT MCCLELLAN HEALTH REGISTRY.

(a) Establishment- The Secretary of Veterans Affairs shall establish and maintain a special record to be known as the `Fort McClellan Health Registry’ (in this section referred to as the `Registry’).

(b) Contents- Except as provided in subsection (c), the Registry shall include the following information:

(1) A list containing the name of each individual who, while serving as a member of the Armed Forces, was stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, at any time during the period beginning January 1, 1935, and ending on May 20, 1999, and who–

(A) applies for care or services from the Department of Veterans Affairs under chapter 17 of title 38, United States Code;

(B) files a claim for compensation under chapter 11 of such title on the basis of any disability which may be associated with such service;

(C) dies and is survived by a spouse, child, or parent who files a claim for dependency and indemnity compensation under chapter 13 of such title on the basis of such service;

(D) requests from the Secretary a health examination under subsection (d); or

(E) receives from the Secretary a health examination similar to the health examination referred to in subparagraph (D) and requests inclusion in the Registry.

(2) Relevant medical data relating to the health status of, and other information that the Secretary considers relevant and appropriate with respect to, each individual described in paragraph (1) who– (A) grants to the Secretary permission to include such information in the Registry; or (B) at the time the individual is listed in the Registry, is deceased. (c) Individuals Submitting Claims or Making Requests Before Date of Enactment- If in the case of an individual described in subsection (b)(1) the application, claim, or request referred to in such subsection was submitted, filed, or made, before the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall, to the extent feasible, include in the Registry such individual’s name and the data and information, if any, described in subsection (b)(2) relating to the individual. (d) Examinations- Upon the request of a veteran who was stationed at Fort McClellan, Alabama, at any time during the period beginning January 1, 1935, and ending on May 20, 1999, the Secretary shall provide the veteran with a health examination (including any appropriate diagnostic tests) and consultation and counseling with respect to the results of the examination and the tests. (e) Outreach- (1) ONGOING OUTREACH TO INDIVIDUALS LISTED IN REGISTRY- The Secretary shall, from time to time, notify individuals listed in the Registry of significant developments in research on the health consequences of potential exposure to a toxic substance or environmental hazard related to service at Fort McClellan. (2) EXAMINATION OUTREACH- The Secretary shall carry out appropriate outreach activities with respect to the provision of any health examinations (including any diagnostic tests) and consultation and counseling services under subsection (d).

(f) Department of Defense Information- The Secretary of Defense shall furnish to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs such information maintained by the Secretary of Defense as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs considers necessary to establish and maintain the Registry.

Notes:

In my research I also found two women who served in Fort McClellan close to the same time I did and their stories are remarkable.  Agnes Bresnahan died in 2009 of her service related diseases, fighting for all of who served there and for herself to be admitted into the registry. The second Susan Fraser who has taken up Agnes cause. I am going to share both their stories in this blog. As well as a report link which is voluminous by the Environmental Science & Engineering Inc. who did a baseline survey for the US Army Environmental Center of Fort McClellan that will be helpful to anyone filing a claim who served there.

Also a link about the history of PCBs up to the present time of Monsanto making Round up the herbicide glyphosate which is being used today and carry’s all the same risks.

Agnes personal story written by Lonnie Brennan for The Valley Patriot on 4.2.08:

This is Susan’s personal story written for the Anniston Times Union by Dennis Yusko on 2/28/11.

 

About the Author: Rebecca Fass is a U.S. Army Veteran.  She’s traveled the world to over 70 countries, has worked in India with Mother Teresa, and is owner of  John Adams Ren Ellis Leather in San Miguel de Allende Mexico.   Visit her blog A Single Gringa in Mexico to read all of her articles and stories and contact info.

 



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Posted by on March 14, 2011, With Reads Filed under Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

19 Responses to "Agent Orange and the Fort McClellan connection"

  1. Jim Forrest  March 24, 2017 at 8:41 am

    Bekka, Agent Orange was not manufactured by the Anniston Monsanto nor at Fort McClellan. Agent Orange was stored at Fort McClellan, not used there. Anniston Monsanto did not pollute the drinking water of Anniston or Fort McClellan. TCE’s were found in Coldwater Creek which is where the Anniston/Fort McClellan drinking water comes from. The TCE’s were used by Anniston Army Depot and dumped there.
    Monsanto polluted Choccolocco Creek and Snow Creek.

  2. rfnorman  August 28, 2016 at 11:47 am

    I will add my voice with the others. I completed basic and Chemical School AIT on McClellan in 1983. During AIT, I was hospitalized for what they called advanced respiratory disease. I did not feel well for the remainder of my stay there, but managed to complete and move on to duty in Germany. In my early to mid 30’s, I started to have prostate problems. No history of this or of the respiratory problems in my family. I now have shooting pains in my feet and numbness in my hands. I hope we can get congress to establish the Ft. McClellan registry so affected Vets can get the healthcare they need.

  3. enigmatic  May 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I CLEARLY REMEMBER THE BARRELS DAMN!

  4. enigmatic  May 11, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    reading this i am becoming more angered. i made the smoke as a student and as an instructor….. the said the fog oil was harmless…..
    they made took us thru live nerve agent chambers after testing our blood and tested it twicw after we went thru … i thought i was brave but was i a fool i wonder now….i visit doctors weekly and they say i do not have a problem
    and i stumble on this today! just by telling someone about how army life was….
    now i am scared because i did not know that there could have been something then
    that i feel now i just never made the connection till now… i am in tears !!!!!!
    lord please direct me to someone to verify weather or not this is connected….
    do let me die unknowing !

  5. Rob  April 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Actually all the NG and Reserve in Iraq are and were considered Active Duty because anytime the President calls them up it is considered active duty, no matter what the circumstances are. There is a 180 day window. If you are on active duty for 181 plus days then you are active per regulations. We all know if you were in Iraq or Afghanistan you were there from 1-2 years…Hope this helps…

  6. Rilla  March 22, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I was. And I know that for a fact because I saw the barrels there in early 74.

  7. Gordon Duff  March 22, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    ..again..you were exposed to agent orange at ft mcclellan?

  8. Gordon Duff  March 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    no such statements

  9. Debra Gail (Heiser) Carter  March 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    The explaination is easy, the forces that were sent to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan were Reserve and National Guard Units. These are considered temporary employees and therefore not full time active duty. Vietnam Veterans signed statements while in basic and when entering the military being guarenteed that we will have lifetime benefits……..

  10. Debra Gail (Heiser) Carter  March 22, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    I was stationed at Ft McClellan in Alabama for my basic training in 1971-1972 and clearly recall the cloud of smoke or dew that was upon the base all times of the day. I also recall marching on day marches into the forest and coming upon a small cloud of white and being told that it was not harmful and to walk on through, which we did because we were supposed to follow orders. We were taken one time to a concrete building in the forest and given gas masks for training and during the exercise the masks were pulled off of our faces and we were told to breath and not to move until told to do so. During that exercise I recall many of the troops becoming very ill. We also became very ill after being given supposedly medical shots required by our command.

    Now I suffer with unknown skin cancers that my family has no history of, unusual gastrointestinal problems that are continuous on a daily basis. I have had a mild heart attack and am on daily aspirin therapy. I also have undiagnosed pain and muscular cramping. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, IBS, and am 100% S/C Disabled. I do not know what other problems I have or may be in my future. But I do know that when I was first married in 1976, my husband and I began trying to have a family, and after 6 miscarriages we stopped counting. We were given no reason that this was not possible or why any of the miscarriages were happening so we had no choice but to blame ourselves. Now I find that those who have been exposed to Agent Orange were unable to have children and also that I have warts on my hands that I began getting after I was in basic training at Ft McClellan. I also have undiagnosed problems with the nerves in my hands and arms and in my legs. I do believe that this is all caused by unknown or unverified activities at Ft McClellan Alabama.

  11. Rilla  March 22, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    It’s too bad we didn’t know this bill was coming up again so we could have sent emails, etc to our State Reps requesting that they co-sponsor it.

    Maybe next time we will hear about it BEFORE it dies again?

  12. Wendi  March 22, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Wake up, people. There is no “test” for Agent Orange. Furthermore, if the author of this story had done her research, she would know that HR 6238 is dead. It did not carry over to the 112th Congress. Sue Frasier couldn’t get enough Sponsors for it. She’s been trying for years and every year it dies.

  13. Kathy  March 15, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Bekka, God Bless you for your perseverence. I too am a vietneam era vet with so many agent orange related issues I ca not count. I was at Ft McClellan in 1975. Both my children suffer from various illnesses, one was born with a head the size of texas, and is now crippled by spastic paraparesis. My daughter had extra bones in her foot, has had immune system disorders since birth, was born without one breast, has a grapefruit size tumor on her ovaries at age 11 that reguired tube and ovary removal, and the list goes on. When I suggest I be tested for agent orange my doctor becomes angry. I have no VA rated disability and have no insurance, am unemployed waiting for a social security appointment and I am lucky to get a blood test out of my doctor. I am beginning to think he is mandated to limit my health care costs by some communist organization (LOL) Am I the only vet experiencing this kind of VA treatment.

  14. Bekka  March 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    There is evidence of a link between exposure to Agent Orange (or dioxin, the problematic contaminant in Agent Orange) and diabetes. Most of the association between Agent Orange and diabetes comes from studies of people who lived near or worked at manufacturing plants that produced large quantities of Agent Orange dioxin. As I did and in those cases, there appears to be some relationship between Agent Orange exposure and increased insulin resistance. In general the exposure that Vietnam veterans had to Agent Orange was much less than in the populations studied by scientists

  15. Ron  March 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    In your article mam you said the gulf war vets will not get a lifetime of benefits as the vietnam vets did? Could I ask you to please explain does this mean all gulf war vets will be cut off in future I dont understand that sentence?Please explain as I am an iraq vet served 06-07 in iraq and my mind hasnt been sharp maybe I missed something? thank you in advance for explanation.

  16. mike  March 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I’m sorry..I’m Vietnam Veteran (gator Navy) after all these years and I still suffer from the effects of possible exposure, two cancers, five related operations..President Lincoln’s quote is displaded in every V.A. Hospital, Sen. Dashel, Rep. W. Caranahan, even President Clinton have acknowledged that it was time for the country to own up to its commitment,to honor all the needs of ALL Veterams, However our OWN Supreme Court Justices have ignored the requests and even Presidential orders and have denied compinsation to those who have put their lives in danger for this country..SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE…I sincerely hope you and your families have better luck with our government than the Veterans of the Vietnam have had..best to all, Mike

  17. Bekka  March 14, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    They were making, and storing agent orange in the 70’s there. There is plenty of stats out there to support that. One of my best friends worked as a Engineer in the faculty in 71 & 72. I found hundreds of articles on it goggling yesterday. I just linked the ones I felt pertained to my particular blog. Cliff notes, as not to many of us have the patience for over load.

  18. Mike Farrell  March 14, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Fort McClellan was home to the Chemical Corps in the 50s and 60s and again from the 80s until the move to Fort Leonard Wood. Glancing at the map, I noticed that the “new” Chemical Center and School was the old WAC school. The MPs moved in during the early 70s as I recall. Another Superfund site and another disaster for the folks stationed there.

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