- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dear Sgt. Shaft,

I have a question about Agent Orange. My last recollection is that when asked, the National Academy of Sciences investigated Vietnam veterans’ complaints and did not find a correlation between Agent Orange and their conditions. However, the vets complained so much that Congress awarded them benefits even though there was no medical evidence of cause and effect.

Did that change and how did it change? Was medical evidence eventually found?

Robert J.,

Korean War vet

Dear Robert,

You have been misinformed.

On July 27, 2007, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Institute of Medicine issued its most recent report on its formal review of the scientific and medical literature on health effects potentially related to exposure to herbicides and related materials used during the Vietnam War, “Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2006.” A task force was formed to review the findings of the report, including other pertinent information, and to make recommendations to the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs with respect to adding any additional diseases to the list of diseases currently recognized as being associated with herbicide exposure in Vietnam.

Based on the recommendations of the task force, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs announced his decision that the evidence warrants establishment of a presumption of service connection based on service in the Republic of Vietnam for primary AL amyloidosis. As required by law, a notice was published in the Federal Register announcing this addition and 38 Code of Federal Regulations 3.309(e) was amended to include this disease.

Additionally, the secretary determined that there was no evidence to support the establishment of a presumption of service connection for any other condition reviewed in the NAS report, including hypertension. More information can be found on VA’s Agent Orange Web site.

Shaft notes

c Congratulations to Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, who was honored recently by the Association for Service Disabled Veterans (ASDV) for his overall dedication and commitment to serving veterans, and specifically for his efforts to increase veterans’ employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Mr. Buyer, who serves as ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, received ASDV’s award during the annual National Task Force for Veterans’ Entrepreneurship promoting veteran-owned businesses. Mr. Buyer, himself a veteran, is a 1980 distinguished military graduate of The Citadel and a career Army Reserve officer who continues to serve with the Judge Advocate General corps as a colonel. He has received numerous military honors, including the Bronze Star Medal.

“Throughout the years, Steve Buyer has been a superb friend and ally of veteran-owned small businesses and veterans in general,” ASDV Chairman John Lopez said. “Today, our organization pays tribute to his steadfast advocacy and commitment to helping veterans and all people with disabilities.”

Recognition of Mr. Buyer’s accomplishments were well-timed, as later in the day, the Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee on health and the subcommittee on disability assistance and memorial affairs both approved legislation Mr. Buyer introduced to bolster health care and insurance programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive recognition from this esteemed group of veterans, who have sacrificed so much in the name of liberty,” Mr. Buyer said. “It has been my privilege to serve the men and women who have defended our nation and freedom we cherish. For me, there is no higher calling.”

c Mountain State University (MSU), a multicampus and online university based in West Virginia, is expanding its benefits to military personnel and their families. Beginning with the summer semester, Mountain State is lowering its tuition for active-duty military, reservists and National Guard members to $250 per credit hour for many of its undergraduate programs. Spouses and dependents are also eligible for the offer.

“At MSU, we are proud of our history of support to military service members - as part of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges consortium, through our long-standing partnership with the West Virginia National Guard, and in providing academic programs that are relevant and accessible. At a time when members of our armed forces are making such great personal sacrifices, were glad to make it more affordable for them to continue their education,” said Charles Polk, president and CEO of Mountain State University.

“For 76 years, we have been committed to making education affordable and accessible for people from all walks of life. Continuing our tradition and recognizing how important family is to the success of our service members, we decided to extend the same commitment and tuition benefits to their spouses and dependent children,” he said.

Mountain State University is offering the reduced tuition on such associate- and bachelor-degree programs as business administration, accounting, legal studies, medical assisting, criminal justice, aviation, forensics, leadership, computer science and information technology.

In addition to delivering most of the courses online, the university, which is based in Beckley, W.Va., has branch campuses in the metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh; Orlando, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Washington, D.C. Another campus is located in Martinsburg, W.Va., serving Northern Virginia and Maryland. The institutions accreditation was recently renewed by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools for 10 years, the longest possible term.

Mountain State University, founded in 1933, is a not-for-profit independent institution serving more than 8,200 students a year in such market-relevant fields as business, accounting, computer science, information technology, criminal justice, nursing, medical sonography and leadership. Many degrees are also offered online.

The offer cannot be combined with other promotional rates. Some additional restrictions may also apply.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail [email protected]

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