(Department of Veterans Affairs)

A Vietnam vet stricken with cancer was overrun by ants and bitten more than 100 times days before he died at a VA hospital in Atlanta, his daughter said.

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to members of the press during his first joint press conference with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2019. (DoD/ Staff Sgt. Nicole Mejia)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs will take the lead on improving access to medical care for military members exposed to potentially cancer-causing compounds during their service, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Wednesday.

In response to a question from McClatchy on the rising number of cancers in the military that could be connected to compounds service members were exposed to while deployed overseas or during training, Esper acknowledged the role of both the Pentagon and VA may grow.

"That is one of the areas where I want to improve and make sure we are doing everything we can to assist soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines as they transition out of the service into the VA system," Esper said.

"VA has the lead on this," he added.

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U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2016 graduates celebrate during their commencement ceremony in New London, Conn., May 18, 2016. (U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall)

The Coast Guard Academy, which is involved in the most comprehensive concussion study to date, is preparing to track cadets after they leave the academy to examine the impact a concussion can have on a person's brain over time.

The study, launched in 2014 by the NCAA and the Department of Defense, initially looked at the impacts from concussions or repeated head injuries in the hours, days and weeks after the injury, and compared those to assessments done beforehand. Now, it is expanding the study to look at potential cumulative effects.

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U.S. Air Force Col. Jeannie Leavitt, the outgoing commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, pilots an F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft over North Carolina May 29, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho)

WASHINGTON — Former Air Force and Navy fighter pilots are calling on the military to begin cancer screenings for aviators as young as 30 because of an increase in deaths from the disease that they suspect may be tied to radiation emitted in the cockpit.

"We are dropping like flies in our 50s from aggressive cancers," said retired Air Force Col. Eric Nelson, a former F-15E Strike Eagle weapons officer. He cited prostate and esophageal cancers, lymphoma, and glioblastomas that have struck fellow pilots he knew, commanded or flew with.

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Ask a room full of veterans and service members if they've lived in a barracks with unsanitary conditions, and chances are a lot of hands will shoot up in the air.

Ask if they've complained about those conditions and some of those hands will stay there. Then ask if the complaints went unanswered; those remaining hands will likely stay up.

Now, post video of electrical fixtures in the ceiling leaking water, and photos of moldy showers, pillows, vents, shoes, beds, fans, floors, and walls on social media, and then ask if those complaints were still ignored. Most of those hands will drop like flies.

This is the story of the mold crisis at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas in a nutshell.

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(U.S. Army/Sgt. Ken Scar))

More than 16 percent of the drinking water wells tested near Fort Jackson during the past six years have shown contamination from a toxic chemical found in hand grenades used at the military installation to train soldiers, according to recently released federal data.

In some cases, the pollution levels are high enough to exceed federal safety advisories for RDX, a chemical that can cause seizures and cancer in people from long-term exposure. In others, RDX in private wells has fallen within safe drinking water limits, Army officials and state regulators reported this week.

But the finding of any RDX, short for royal demolition explosive, is a concern.

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