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Mar-17-2009 07:57printcomments

Veterans for Change Fights for Presumptive Disability

TCE is a widespread contaminant among many water systems in the U.S. A 2003 Air Force Pentagon report estimated that there were 1,400 TCE-contaminated military sites.


(SOMERDALE, N.J.) - The Veterans for Change (VFC) supports legislation to include veterans under the VA presumptive disability category who were exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) and tetrachloroethylene (PCE) in the military and are seriously ill from diseases linked to these chemicals.

The VFC was founded in 2006 by Jim Davis, son of retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt) Lesley Davis who died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Davis said that the VFC supported a successful national effort to include ALS under the VA Presumptive Disability category in 2008.

Davis, President of the VFC, also said that the VFC recently prepared a draft TCE/PCE Reduction bill modeled after a previous bill (2008 TCE Reduction Act), which did not make it out of committee for a Congressional vote.

Davis indicated that he met with California Congressional staffers, and is now circulating a petition for support among veterans and others.

Copies of the petition can be obtained from the VFC by sending an email to Jim Davis at

According to Davis: “If the VFC legislation is signed into law with the TCE/PCE presumptive disability provision intact, veterans with illnesses linked to TCE/PCE exposure and stationed on military bases where there’s evidence of exposure to these contaminants would be eligible for VA compensation disability payments and medical care from the VA. This is not like winning the lottery, but for many disabled veterans, this would definitely help pay the bills.”

TCE is a widespread contaminant among many water systems in the U.S. A 2003 Air Force Pentagon report estimated that there were 1,400 TCE-contaminated military sites.

Military Bases Contaminated

The Marine Corps Times reported 22 military bases with TCE contaminated water in June 2007:
Air Force Plant #4 (General Dynamics) — Fort Worth, Texas
Andersen Air Force Base — Yigo, Guam
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow — Barstow, Calif.
Cornhusker Army Ammunition Plant — Hall County, Neb.
Fairchild Air Force Base (4 waste areas) — Spokane, Wash.
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant — Independence, Mo.
March Air Force Base — Riverside, Calif.
Mather Air Force Base — Mather, Calif.
McChord Air Force Base — Tacoma, Wash.
McClellan Air Force Base — McClellan AFB, Calif.
Middletown Air Field — Middletown, Pa.
Naval Air Development Center — Warminster Township, Pa.
Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant — Bedford, Mass.
Nebraska Ordnance Plant — Mead, Neb.
Norton Air Force Base — San Bernardino, Calif.
Old Roosevelt Field — Garden City, N.Y.
Otis Air National Guard Base/Camp Edward – Falmouth, Mass.
Picatinny Arsenal (U.S. Army) — Rockaway Township, N.J.
Pease Air Force Base — Portsmouth/ Newington, N.H.
Whiting Field Naval Air Station — Milton, Fla.
Wurtsmith Air Force Base — Oscoda, Mich.
New Brighton/ Arden Hills (Army) — New Brighton, Minn.

The same Marine Corps Times news story provided internet links with information on the health effects of exposure to contaminants found on these bases. The information was compiled by The Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR), a Federal agency charged with responsibility for performing public health assessments. (See:

Our research found that the National Priority List (EPA Superfund) contains 133 military bases. Many of these bases are contaminated with TCE/PCE and other deadly contaminants. Not everyone on these bases was exposed to these chemicals. Exposure to TCE/PCE can occur through ingestion (drinking water), inhalation, and dermal contact. (See: www.

FC Supports Presumptive Disability

According to the San Bernardino County’s Department of Veterans Affairs: “In many cases the veteran or dependent must provide a statement, preferably a medical statement, that links (nexus) the current disability with a disability incurred or worsened in service. Or, you must provide medical evidence to link a new condition to an existing service-connected disability (secondary service-connection). The nexus statement must be very clear to fit the criteria required by the VA. You need to discuss this issue with your representative, who can help you write a letter for your doctor or tell you what you need to do to get a nexus statement.” (see:

Davis told us that including exposure to TCE/PCE under the VA’s Presumptive Disability category eliminates the need for an expensive medical nexus statement that many veterans can’t afford.

The VA currently has four groups of veterans under the Presumptive Disability category, including former POWs, Vietnam veterans (exposed to Agent Orange); atomic veterans (exposed to ionizing radiation); and Gulf War veterans.

TCE and PCE Known Carcinogens

In Congressional testimony on TCE/PCE contamination of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in June 2007, ATSDR reported on some of the health effects of exposure to TCE/PCE.

Dr. Thomas Sinks, Deputy Director, ATSDR, stated that: “Occupational exposure to TCE may cause nervous system effects, kidney, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and possibly death. Occupational exposure to TCE also has been associated with adult cancers such as kidney cancer, liver and biliary cancer, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

TCE in drinking water has been associated with childhood leukemia in two studies and with specific birth defects such as neural tube defects and oral clefts in one study.”

Dr. Sinks noted that: “PCE is a manufactured chemical used for dry cleaning and metal degreasing. Occupational exposure to PCE can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness, Exposure to PCE-contaminated drinking water has been linked with adult cancers such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, and breast cancer.

Inhalation and ingestion are important routes of exposure for both TCE and PCE. Both chemicals are listed in the 11th Report on Carcinogens from the National Toxicology Program as reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established Maximum Contaminant Levels for drinking water of 5 parts per billion (ppb) for PCE in 1991 and for TCE in 1987.” (See:

The latency period or the time between first exposure to a cancer-causing agent and clinical recognition of the disease can be 20 years or more. For many veterans this means that there is no record of cancer in their military service medical records, requiring them to obtain an opinion from a medical expert linking their cancer to military service. The VA calls this a nexus opinion and this can cost thousands of dollars.

We called one medical doctor and toxicologist on the west coast and confirmed that a one page medical report would cost about $3,000. The doctor’s office advised the cost would go up depending upon the medical records required to be reviewed.

The rub is that seriously ill veterans, out of work, often lack the financial means to pay for these services. Without a medical nexus opinion, the VA will likely deny the veteran’s disability compensation claim.

There's a better way to repay those who served our country: Include disabled veterans exposed to TCE/PCE under the VA’s presumptive disability category. It’s the right thing to do.

For more information on the VFC, see


Bob O’Dowd is a former U.S. Marine with thirty years of experience on the east coast as an auditor, accountant, and financial manager with the Federal government. Half of that time was spent with the Defense Logistics Agency in Philadelphia. Originally from Pennsylvania, he enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 19, served in the 1st, 3rd, and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings in 52 months of active duty in the 1960s. A graduate of Temple University, Bob has been married to Grace for 31 years. He is the father of two adult children and the grandfather of two boys. Bob has a blog site on former MCAS El Toro at This subject is where Bob intersected with Bob served in the exact same Marine Aviation Squadron that Salem-News founder Tim King served in, twenty years earlier. With their combined on-site knowledge and research ability, Bob and Tim and a handful of other ex-Marines, have put the contamination of MCAS El Toro on the map. The base is highly contaminated with TCE, trichloroethelyne

  • . You can email Bob O’Dowd, Environmental and Military Reporter, at this address:

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    Kubishin June 18, 2014 8:56 am (Pacific time)

    I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and my nexus letter was written by a VA Oncologist. I was denied because the VA said they put more credence on their own doctors versus my private doctor. I DID NOT HAVE A PRIVATE DOCTOR IT WAS A VA DOCTOR!!! They didn't even look at the letter head the letter was written on or they would have seen it was a VA oncologist at the Albuquerque VA Hospital. Then they also said the cancer should have shown up sooner, I asked on my NOD where is it listed in any records on how long it takes a carcinogen to take effect? The Camp Lejeune cancers/health problems should be presumptive like the way we handle Agent Orange. I don't have the web site handy but I came across documentation that 84% of Camp Lejeune disability cases are denied. It is law but there's a little glitch that says the VA has the power to deny if they think there isn't enough proof. So my VA doctor, no esophageal cancer in my family and an unknown time line gave me the thumbs down.

    Norman B. Leafer July 5, 2011 10:26 am (Pacific time)

    No one has really explaind taht low dose long term of ionizing radiation is much mor dangerous than high dose short term.

    Kelly Tadlock March 12, 2010 10:39 pm (Pacific time)

    I am thankful for Debra's post identifying WACS from Ft McClellan having been contaminated with TCE and PCB etc. There is much research on this topic including The book detailing the 70 Million dollar Settlement with Monsanto " My City was gone" By Dennis Love. It seems the only folks who CARE about these Women Army Corp Veterans are other WACS one of which has died from this contamination. I invite you to support our efforts to make this right. Please join our Facebook group Ft McClellan, Al./Exposure if you wish to support us we were veteran also no less deserving of long healthy lives.

    Debra G Carter March 9, 2010 3:12 pm (Pacific time)

    I do not see the chemical contamination of US Army personnel from Ft McClellan, Alabama listed here. While there is evidence proving that the water there was contaminated from the Chemical School and the nearby Monsanto plant. Private citizens were paid for their exposure but the soldiers were left to wonder. One of the major groups to be exposed were the WAC basic trainees who were all young and became contaminated and lost the ability to have a normal healthy life. When will they address these concerns???

    Editor: Debra, we have been concentrating on the Marine Corps issues for a little less than three years, and we have barely scratched the surface.  I know there are similar issues at Army and Air Force installations, Navy also.  Hopefully over time we will find the support we need to report these issues.  If you are inclined to want to help us explore the issues of this particular base we perhaps can help.  Feel free to drop me an email:  Thanks for writing.

    Tim King 

    Norman B. Leafer May 13, 2009 12:15 pm (Pacific time)

    You need to do more for us vets that were exposed to ionizing radiation. Low dose,delayed effects. ect. Thank you

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