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VA to take lead on fighting potential military service-linked cancer, Esper says
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.
Earlier this year, the military service organization TAPS said that the top cause driving new survivors to join its organization will soon be military member cancer deaths. TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, is a support organization for spouses and family members who have lost a service member.
The Pentagon will continue to take the lead on addressing the number of military bases and communities with ground and well water contaminated by per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) compounds, which are cancer-linked chemicals found in the military's firefighting foam.
There's already some momentum within the Pentagon and Congress to address the impact of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which has been used since the 1970s to fight aircraft fires. The foam has concentrated amounts of PFAS compounds that are linked to cancers and birth defects. The compounds are found in everyday household products, but are concentrated in firefighting foam.
Over the past few decades, PFAS has seeped into groundwater and drinking well sources on military bases and the communities surrounding them. A number of cities are now calling on the Defense Department to clean up the contamination, citing rising numbers of cancers in their communities.
As the health risks have become more widely known, the services said they have backed off using the AFFF in training. For example, the Air Force now uses Phos-Chek 3 in training, which is a substitute foam that has lower levels of the compound.
The Marine Corps guidance now "is to use aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) for emergency firefighting only (i.e., no testing using AFFF) and minimizing releases to the environment where AFFF is required to be used," said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Joseph Butterfield.
The Navy "has ceased using AFFF for training purposes and has reserved the use of AFFF to rapidly extinguish Class B fires," said spokesman Lt. Tim Pietrack.
©2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
The Air Force's top general says one of the designers of the ride-sharing app Uber is helping the branch build a new data-sharing network that the Air Force hopes will help service branches work together to detect and destroy targets.
The network, which the Air Force is calling the advanced battle management system (ABMS), would function a bit like the artificial intelligence construct Cortana from Halo, who identifies enemy ships and the nearest assets to destroy them at machine speed, so all the fleshy humans need to do is give a nod of approval before resuming their pipe-smoking.
An F-15 is rocking a WWII paint job to honor a B-17 pilot who gave his life to save a wounded crewman
An F-15C Eagle is sporting a badass World War II-era paint job in honor of a fallen bomber pilot who gave everything to ensure his men survived a deadly battle.
A U.S. E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft crashed on Monday on Afghanistan, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has confirmed.
Beloved basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California on Sunday. Two days earlier, Army Spc. Antonio I. Moore was killed during a vehicle rollover accident while conducting route clearing operations in Syria.
Which one more deserves your grief and mourning? According to Maj. Gen. John R. Evans, commander of the U.S. Army Cadet Command, you only have enough energy for one.
After 70 years, service members are finally filing medical malpractice claims against the US military
Jessica Purcell, a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, was pregnant with her first child when she noticed a swollen lymph node in her left underarm.
Health-care providers at a MacDill Air Force Base clinic told her it was likely an infection or something related to pregnancy hormones. The following year they determined the issue had resolved itself.
It hadn't. A doctor off base found a large mass in her underarm and gave her a shocking diagnosis: stage 2 breast cancer.
Purcell was pregnant again. Her daughter had just turned 1. She was 35. And she had no right to sue for malpractice.
A 1950 Supreme Court ruling known as the Feres doctrine prohibits military members like Purcell from filing a lawsuit against the federal government for any injuries suffered while on active duty. That includes injury in combat, but also rape and medical malpractice, such as missing a cancer diagnosis.
Thanks in part to Tampa lawyer Natalie Khawam, a provision in this year's national defense budget allows those in active duty to file medical malpractice claims against the government for the first time since the Feres case.
With the Department of Defense overseeing the new claims process, the question now is how fairly and timely complaints will be judged. And whether, in the long run, this new move will help growing efforts to overturn the ruling and allow active duty members to sue like everyone else.