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VVA Committee Reports, July/August 2022 -   -  

Agent Orange & Dioxins

The committee has been working hard to improve the situation for veteran families with toxic exposure. The committee has a mix of interested and exposed veterans hoping for relief from these problems, and looking for relief for families. We have attorneys who work on expanding that relief.

At the last committee meeting, which was virtual and in-person, we decided to ask the VVA Board of Directors to file legal action against the VA Secretary for failing to implement the Veterans Child Toxic Research law. This law not only includes the offspring of Vietnam War veterans, but also the children of any American veteran. The Board agreed to the request.

The science has improved since the Ranch Hand study was conducted by the Air Force more than 40 years ago. Specimens from that study are currently being kept by the Air Force, and at the request of VVA a task force is reexamining the data. The task force is made up of members from the VA, the Air Force, the National Academy of Sciences, and VVA — scientists, administrators, and VVA people who have been involved with studying toxic exposure for many years. The task force continues to meet on a regular basis. Linda Birnbaum, our the committee’s Leadership Conference committee seminar leader, has been chosen to lead the research subgroup.

Universities today have an interest in epigenetics and researching birth defects. These researchers are dissatisfied with the numbers of people on the current birth defects registry and the information contained about many of them. Therefore, we are requesting that anyone who knows people with birth defects encourages them to register with Birth Defects Research Center, Inc. There is no financial cost to register; the only cost is the time of the parent or other person dealing with the structural or functional problem. The last researcher requested 10,000 sets of data on a particular defect, yet BDRC only had 3,000 data sets available.

The incidents of birth defects are not limited to the children of veterans. Birth defects can occur in any birth. Now is the time to give researchers the information they need for that research. BDRC registers anyone with a birth defect, so our grass roots effort needs to get every family with a birth defect on the BDRC registry. The data form is available at Birth Defects.org

On the bright side, we have been putting a cog in OMB’s mission of waiting for the Army to die. The after-action report of the Vietnam War has to include lessons learned about toxic exposure from a rainbow of chemicals. These are the forever chemicals with detrimental effects that can be transmitted to families. For recent wars the after-action reports have to include mistakes repeated with toxic exposure from at least 28 substances.

For the remainder of our lifetimes, I believe our mission should be to put pressure on our nation’s leaders and researchers to come up with answers and effective policies to end the pain their actions forced upon military and veterans’ families. I believe together we can achieve our goal.

Minority Affairs


Greetings from the Minority Affairs committee. I hope that you all are having a wonderful summer and getting ready for our Leadership Conference in August in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Committee prepared a seminar dedicated to Native American veterans’ issues. Our presentation will include how VVA can become instrumental in helping Native American veterans.

We been working very closely with the Puerto Rico Statehood Council for the last six month to help Puerto Rico’s residents obtain equal representation in the nation. Puerto Rican men and woman have been serving our nation since World War II, yet they have no voting representation in Congress nor may Puerto Rican citizens vote in presidential elections—in other words to help choose the commander-in-chief of the military services.

On July 20 the House Committee on Natural Resources reported out H.R. 8393, the Puerto Rico Status Act, a step that could lead to approval by the House of Representatives. We hope that the House will take this vote by September. I would like to thank the VVA Board of Directors and VVA President Jack McManus for sending a letter in support of the bill.

We continue to support H.R. 234, the Korean American VALOR Act, which was introduced in the House of Representatives last year. It would provide VA health services for American Korean Vietnam War veterans.  We continue to meet with staffers of legislators throughout the country to support this important.

We continue to stay busy with minority veterans’ issues and we will continue to be involved until we achieve success.

Public Affairs Committee


It’s been a very hot summer. However, it is heartening that despite the weather every opportunity has been taken to keep the VVA banner visible throughout our chapter community activities. Thank you for your hard work keeping us in the forefront.

I send my sincerest condolences over the loss of Kerwin Stone, a very good man, outstanding veteran, and constant contributor to the benefit of VVA.

Another bit of sad news was the passing of Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient. You might remember that at our April meeting the Public Affairs Committee voted to ask the VVA Board of Directors to write a letter from VVA President Jack McManus encouraging the White House to arrange for a state funeral for Williams when the time came. A true American hero, Williams died on June 29. Shortly afterward, it was announced that there would be a state funeral and he would be honored in Washington, D.C.

My appreciation goes out to the state councils that have been helped with legislation that would designate U.S. Highway 20 as Medal of Honor Highway from coast to coast. As the individual state legislatures make the designations, state councils and chapters are encouraged to mark the occasion with ceremonies and to pursue their members of Congress to join in co-sponsoing the national legislation. Thanks to the driving force, Dick Tobiason in Oregon.

We recently had a tremendous fundraiser in Utah. We are raising funds to build a Freedom’s Memorial Plaza with a reflecting pool near our replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. This would be a great attraction at a future VVA Convention or Leadership Conference. The fundraiser was is a tribute to the Bob Hope shows in Vietnam. Bill Williams portrayed Hope at the event, which also included Michelle Della Fave, Kim Walters, and Holly Faris. I was honored to be one of the singers. It gave the Utah State Council and Utah’s VVA chapters a lot of community exposure and raised a substantial amount of money for the project.

I look forward to seeing you at the National Leadership & Education Conference in Greenville, S.C., and invite you to attend the Public Affairs Committee seminar. It will include information of VVA awards and medals. Thank you for all you do and be safe.

Thank you for your service then and now.

PTSD & Substance Abuse


When we returned home from war and sought help for the invisible wounds that resulted from our experiences, the behavioral health services of the VA did not recognize PTSD as a real concern. Veterans were shuffled around to psychologists and psychiatrists and generally told they weren’t eligible for services or they were misdiagnosed. A  few people were treated in very extreme cases—and only for a short period of time.

As many of you know, after years of pressure from VVA, Congress finally began the process of establishing Readjustment Counseling Centers, commonly known as Vet Centers. The founding principal of the Vet Centers in 1979 was to create a place for peer-to-peer counseling organized around the needs of the veteran. Vietnam veterans—including myself—saw this as a significant improvement and began to use Vet Centers to get the behavioral health support they needed and deserved.

However, as more veterans have become eligible for this care — along with a national shortage of mental health providers and more and more requirements from the VA moving Vet Centers more toward medical models and standards — they have strayed far from the path of peer to peer.

The Committee is getting reports from veterans working in Vet Centers that their leaders have begun a campaign of intensification. That is to say that the Vet Centers leaders are pressuring counselors to see many more veterans than the numbers recommended by their own clinical Capacity Group, which is made up of Vet Center directors and counselors.

This push for increased capacity is happening despite a 2015 internal VA report prepared by a volunteer group of Vet Center leaders and counselors that analyzed the clinical capacity workload for the centers and concluded that many of them “have exceeded their real capacity.” The report recommended that the productivity standards for counselors be set at 18 visits (clinical hours) per work week, two fewer than the standard at that time.

And yet VA leadership now wants the standards to be increased to a goal of 30 client contact hours per week. This recommendation does not take into consideration the amount of time needed to effectively work with clients on their concerns and help them carve out a life. It is merely based on having a number that appeases congressional pressure and paints the VA in a positive light.


Aside from meeting with veterans, therapists have may other critical duties. That includes holding staff meetings, charting each client, making phone calls to set up resources, seeing clients in crisis who walk in, and attending required agency training sessions. The 30-contact hour expectation or goal fits a factory model of the 50-minute hour a veteran has to see counselor.

One of the most important activities of a Vet Center is to see veterans who request help in a timely manner. With 30 required visits, where is the wiggle room for an in-session crisis? Where is the time to see a walk-in client in any meaningful way? Where is the time when a scheduled client develops a crisis or that client finally opens up to address long-held concerns? What happens when a veteran needs more meetings, not fewer? The result is a counselor seeing a person in need less often.  

Counseling must be fluid and mental health oriented. Many issues require expanding the 50-minute hour. You can’t tell clients to leave or see you less often as if they’ve used up their time on a tennis court. Going from 20 contact hours to 30 pushes the counselor to do just that and essentially speeds up the production line under the guise of doing more with less.

Metrics are an important way to see that agencies are performing the services. But metrics can also overburden a system not designed for such constraints. Metrics above recommendations places unfair burdens on those providing services to the veteran. Many Vet Center counselors work well beyond full time hours because they care and want to help veterans.

In an attempt to meet the higher metrics, we are seeing an increased use of group sessions. Not all veterans like group or do well in group. Groups take time and deliberative thought to be developed. While the issues the veteran brings steer the direction the group, the counselor must also have a curriculum to help the group focus on processes that build knowledge skills and attitudes to achieve and maintain mental health—not to mention the charting required for each person after the group.

There’s also the toll that the increased metric places on the health and well-being of Vet Center staff and the quality of the experience for the veteran. Setting a goal of 30 contact hours rapidly becomes an expectation from leadership. This increased goal is a recipe for therapist burnout amid a national shortage of clinicians. These increased metrics are a powerful ingredient that could alienate an already skittish veteran because counselors have a bureaucratic stick pushing them to get to the next client. The result: They see their counselor watching the clock and shutting them down as they are finally willing to open up.

It is essential to remember that Vet Centers were founded because Vietnam War veterans were put off by the rigid structure of the VA’s behavioral health care when we returned from war. Vet Centers are supposed to be a peer-to-peer experience of non-clinical, welcoming, validating experiences and help with issues that were getting in the way of transitioning back home after military service. These metrics of 30 some contacts a week with clients and manualized clinical practices flies in the face of what has drawn generations of veterans to Vet Centers.

The quality of Mental Health and support consistent with the intention of Vet Centers is only available if counselors have the time to give it. Counselors have dedicated their lives to help us—to have our six. It is now up to us to have their backs.

I am asking you to reach out and tell your congressman and senators to demand that the Vet Center leadership in D.C. return Vet Centers to being client centered and not just another off-putting bureaucracy more interested in numbers than in treating veterans.

Tell them they can do so by supporting the Vet Center Improvement Act of 2021 (S. 1944 and HR.l 3575).

VA Voluntary Service


In the last issue of the online edition of The VVA Veteran, I discussed the VA’s Asset and Infrastructure Commission (AIR). Since then, President Biden has released a list of the proposed AIR commissioners. I was encouraged by the names on the list.  

There is much to be done, and the clock is ticking toward January 2023. Please keep up with the progress and how it may affect your area. Initially, the AIR was counting on local civilian hospitals to help with the treatment of VA patients. In the last year, more than a hundred rural hospitals have shut down. In my own area, around the Coatesville VAMC — which the VA has suggested should be closed — in southeastern Pennsylvania, two local hospitals have closed their doors.

The Coatesville VA has a very large campus with enough room to build a new hospital on-site, but it has been suggested that the hospital move to another location. The commissioners need to be aware of all the details of an area before they close any VAMC. Around the country, COVID-19 is still taking a toll on volunteers, and our age and health aren’t helping. But VVA volunteers have been manning many vaccine clinics at VAMCs and CBOCs (clinics), when other volunteer opportunities were not available.

Our Reps. and Deps. have stepped up to help local staffs. Our volunteer hours may be down, but thanks to the dedication of these great volunteers, we have helped many fellow veterans. If a chapter or state council wants to put forward a name for a VAVS Representative or Deputy and if no one is in that position at their VAMC or clinic, it must be sent through me at VVA National. I am the Certifying Official for VVA Voluntary Service.

Our legacy still requires your voice. Please send any questions to krose@vva.org

POW/MIA Affairs

As of June 3, 2022, the number of Americans Missing and Unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War was 1,584. The locations are: Vietnam-1,244 (North Vietnam-442, South Vietnam-802), Laos-285, Cambodia -48; China,-7.

April 7 marked the 21st anniversary of the Mi-17 helicopter crash in Vietnam. The crash took the lives of seven U.S. servicemen and nine Vietnamese government officials and crewmembers serving as an advance party for a MIA joint field activity. The men died when the helicopter hit a cloud-draped mountain in Quang Binh Province. The men will be remembered as embodying a post-war legacy of cooperation between the United States and Vietnam on the POW/MIA issue.

In the first three months of 2022, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Indo-Pacific Command has conducted operations in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and India. The Joint Field Activity in Laos consisted of four Recovery Teams. Due to COVID-19 concerns in some of the provinces, the Investigation Team mission was postponed until April.

The RTs focused on four incidents in southern Laos and recovered possible osseous material (human and nonhuman bones and teeth) at one crash site and material evidence from all four incidents. The Investigation Team worked three incidents and two uncorrelated crash sites from northeastern Cambodia down to the southern coast. The team successfully conducted three archeological surveys and five witness interviews.

The JFA in Vietnam consisted of three RTs focused on two sites in northern Vietnam and one in the central part of the country. The teams ended operations on April 22 and recovered possible osseous remains and possible life-support material at two of the sites.

In mid-April, one IT deployed to Laos, the first in two and a half years, to investigate 14 sites. One IT arrived in Korea on April 30 to investigate three cases; they will met with the Ministry of National Defense Agency for Killed in Action Recovery and Identification to discuss future operations and visit ongoing operations at White Horse Hill in the Demilitarized Zone.

In mid-May, one IT and one partner Underwater IT team deployed to Vietnam. The IT will focus on 14 sites in the Central Highlands, while the UIT will investigate four sites off the coast of Vung Tau. Planning for fourth quarter missions in both Vietnam and Laos continues if additional funding becomes available.

The Veterans Initiative Program needs your help. Objects taken from the battlefields of Vietnam are more than souvenirs or war trophies. Maps, stories, after-action reports, pictures, and military items may have a story that could result in finding the location of missing war dead. Contact the Veterans Initiative at:

Veterans Initiative Program
Vietnam Veterans of America
8719 Colesville Rd., Suite 100
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910 vi@vva.org




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Geoffrey Clifford Mark F. Erickson Chuck Forsman