Seeing the Round Corners


October 31, 2016

   Here we are beginning the final week of the 2016 Presidential campaign. The FBI’s near earth-shattering announcement that it was “re-opening the investigation” into the Hillary Clinton e-mail scandal garnered big headlines. Turned out to not be quite the wording used by the FBI, but somewhat of an over-statement, courtesy of a zealous media ever desperate to bring the world “breaking news.”

   Voters may find themselves voting on November 8th without knowing what was so “significant” as to have the FBI director make the announcement phrased as he did. That phrasing set off yet another barrage of speculation from both Republicans and Democrats. Regardless of the election outcome, FBI Director Comey is probably sprucing up his resume for his next job.

   America should probably not be surprised by any such revelations in this election year that is being referred as “like none other in history,” maybe that should be at least not in modern-day history.

   Such handling as the American public has seen in the Clinton e-mail scandal only further plays to voters who no longer trust their government. Taking the government at its word is foolish. What is said by one slate of government bureaucrats typically gone by the time consequences arrive on Americans’ doorsteps is foolish, whether it is health care, entitlements, whatever. Readers should go into the Congressional record to just see how long it takes from the date of introduction to getting a measure on the books as law.

   Trustworthiness has been a big talking point in this year’s election. Hillary Clinton’s reaction to the recent FBI’s announcement was at first to question why make the disclosure at the time so close to election day, but that rhetoric quickly took an about face turn over the weekend with Clinton now returning to hammering her opponent’s fitness to be President. This tactic says volumes about what is likely in those many thousands of e-mails now being reviewed.

   Trust in government is nearing the status of being an oxymoron. The FBI’s announcement warrants a re-run of a column from this writer’s archives on credibility of government from way back in 2006.



September 15, 2006

   There was a time when being employed by the United States Government offered not only security – after all government never gets put out of business, does not become obsolete, is pretty much always expanding – but it also offered excellent health coverage and other benefits.

    This country’s veterans and workers at many government installations such as Rocky Flats and the Rocky Mountain Arsenal have learned over the years, that “myth” long ago disappeared. Veterans of all the wars America has fought in have seen their benefits cut back and medical facilities closed, forcing them to travel long distances for medical attention, or do without health care when they could no longer afford the travel expense.

   Hundreds of thousands of veterans established homes in locations where veteran’s facilities were within reasonable traveling distance, only to have those facilities closed in the forever ongoing budget cutting saga.

   Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has haunted veterans since the Civil War. Referred to in those days as “soldiers’ heart,” then as “battle fatigue” by those veterans surviving World War II and Korea, PTSD as it is recognized today, went pretty much undiagnosed until Vietnam. For so many years, soldiers returning from Vietnam suffered with an unending list of not only medical problems that went untreated, but psychological problems they could not understand.

   Soldiers returning from Vietnam were the first American soldiers to ever return to American soil from a war to be booed, or shown anything less than a hero’s welcome home. Even the least gung ho soldier is reluctant to be seen as weak, and seeking help was perceived as just that.

  The last fighting American troops were actually withdrawn from Vietnam by President Nixon on March 29, 1973, but it was not until April 30, 1975 that the last Americans (ten marines) departed Saigon. Said to be America’s longest war, and its first defeat, the statistics on those involved in fighting: “During 25 years of military involvement, over 2 million Americans served in Vietnam with 500,000 seeing actual combat, 47,244 were killed in action, including 8,000 airmen. There were 10,446 non-combat deaths – 153,329 were seriously wounded, including 10,000 amputees. More than 2,400 American POWs/MIAs were unaccounted for as of 1973.” And all this for what!

   It was not until 1980 that PSTD was officially recognized – seven long years after the last fighting American left Vietnam.

   Last November, the inspector general of the Veterans Administration (VA) recommended review of 72,000 cases where Vietnam veterans were granted 100 percent disability, because according to a VFW spokesman, the VA acknowledges PTSD is real, but the VA had failed to properly document SOME cases. After protests to Congress from veterans groups and Colorado’s Senator Ken Salazar, and only after all that, did VA Secretary Jim Nicholson finally put a stop to the review, saying, “We’re not going to put our veterans through the anxiety of a widespread review of their disability claims.”

   Now, by some estimates, one in six combat veterans of the Iraq War suffers symptoms of PTSD. Nicholson also admitted this past November that soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who find themselves homeless, will be included in the estimated 200,000 homeless veterans from all other wars – a forewarning that the VA is no better prepared now than it was after Vietnam to help returning soldiers.

   Americans, both men and women, have worked in this nation’s nuclear defense industry since World War II ended 61 years ago. During their work history, those workers were exposed to beryllium, ionizing radiation and other hazards unique to nuclear weapons and testing. Yet, government bureaucracy is still here today in 2006, fighting workers who are suffering with breast cancer, brain cancer, colon cancer, lymphoma, beryllium disease, the list goes on.

   Public Law 106-398 authorized the President to implement the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000 (the Act) – a mouth full to put it mildly. Passed six years ago, workers and their families here in 2006 are still begging their government to provide medical coverage and treatment for illnesses.

   To get a glimmer of just what size the bureaucratic red tape is on this, to reveal what the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health is about, it takes 27 letter-size pages to cover the purpose, how it is to function, its authority, the structure, the experts, the ever-ending list of meetings to be held and the minute points of those.

   “The purpose of the compensation program is to provide for timely, uniform and adequate compensation of covered employees, and where applicable, survivors of such employees, suffering from illnesses incurred by such employees in the performance of duty for the Department of Energy (DOE) and certain of its contractors and subcontractors.” TIMELY???

   Critical to qualifying for medical coverage and a one-time payment of $150,000.00 in return for a promise not to sue the government, is radiation dose reconstruction for certain workers with cancer who file claims for compensation under the Act.

   “The basic principle of dose reconstruction is to characterize the occupational radiation environment to which workers were exposed using available worker and/or workplace monitoring information. In cases where radiation exposures in the workplace environment cannot be fully characterized based on available data, default values based on reasonable scientific assumptions are used as substitutes.”

   The next step of the bureaucratic red tape involved development of modules that could be “used to evaluate the biological intake, excretion and dosimetry of a wide variety of radioactive isotopes.”

   Significant to the dosimetry modules is “the extent to which an organ or tissue accumulates and clears radioactive material is highly dependent on the specific radioactive element or elements encountered in the workplace.” Ignored is just how the specific radioactive element or elements encountered in the workplace could be accomplished in that 30, 40, 50 or more years have passed and most of those facilities, including records have been destroyed or literally covered up as was done at Rocky Flats.

   And finally, internal dose as opposed to external dose – internal dose is “the radiation dose received as a result of radioactive materials entering the body through either inhalation, ingestion or absorption, where it then accumulates in specific organs or tissues and delivers a radiation dose to those organs or tissues. External dose is the radiation exposure received as a result of standing or working near radioactive material.”

   The additional monkey wrench? Due to the passage of such an enormous amount of time, workers’ exposure records which were supposed to be kept so meticulously, have long ago gone missing, were incomplete or just plain wrong. How likely is it that a worker who worked for more than two decades at Rocky Flats could have received enough radiation exposure elsewhere to cause cancer? Yet, the dose reconstruction test described above is being used to deny coverage to many workers.

   Approximately 2,400 Rocky Flats workers have asked for medical coverage and compensation. Nationwide, the number of nuclear weapons workers who suffered illnesses or died is estimated at 23,000, but there is no way to estimate how many more just gave up and died. Remember, long ago, patriotism was a terribly quieting reason for not questioning one’s government.

   Colorado’s Congressmen, Mark Udall (D) and Bob Beauprez (R) have introduced legislation that would place Rocky Flats workers in a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC). As members of such a “cohort,” members would “not have to offer individual evidence of exposure to qualify for compensation.”

   The question comes to mind, why the bureaucratic stall tactic of Public Law 106-398 and the waste of six years to implement the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act of 2000? How many nuclear weapons workers have died during that time?

   The government could have lived up to its obligations to those workers in a responsible, humane way, without the waste of the last six years, and maybe have saved lives along the way. The added aspect of the government living up to its obligations and responsibilities to those thousands of workers would be the moral things to do.

   Of course, considering the immorality of what the nuclear weapons industry brought to the world and the pollution that will never go away, that is probably a moot point.

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