Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Roth Effect: We Need to Be Better

 

U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Logistics Group (1st MLG) burn black water aboard Taqaddum, Iraq, September 22, 2008. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jason W. Fudge.)
You all know I loves me some Marines. Even if you’ve been a civilian your entire life, once your son or daughter joins the Corps you become a member of the extended family. If every Marine is your child’s brother and sister, then all of those Marines become your sons and your daughters. And when they put themselves on the line and leave their health on the battlefield it is up to us, the people that they fought for, to demand the government not abandon them once they leave the service – and this true for all the services, not just the Corps.

The guest on this week’s Roth Effect podcast, Matthew Betley, is a ten-year veteran of the Marines who was exposed to open burn pits in Iraq. Simply put, the Marines were disposing of waste by burning it and it included everything from chemicals to human waste. The smoke hung over our Marines in a toxic cloud almost every day. In time Betley would be separated from the Corps and return home to battle a new foe: the Veterans Administration. Because he was a successful author and columnist, he was better equipped to battle the VA’s bureaucracy than most. That’s not the case for everyone.

Mealy-mouthed words such as those found on the Department’s website, “At this time, research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to burn pits. VA continues to study the health of deployed Veterans,” are unacceptable. They burned batteries, chemicals, arsenic, paints and more. And as CBS News reported last August:

“It is indefensible that U.S. military personnel, who are already at risk of serious injury and death when fighting the enemy, were put at further risk from the potentially harmful emissions from the use of open-air burn pits,” said a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The report also said that millions of dollars were spent on incinerators to properly dispose of waste, but that many sat idle next to the active burn pits. (Emphasis mine.)

Please listen. Get angry. And demand the Veterans Administration do better.

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There are 13 comments.

  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    If the Marines think they are untouchable, they should ask the people at Area 51 about this. It was literally the same issue that got the Area 51 installation on the map.

    Also, if burning that stuff did not cause issues in Marines nearby, the Devil Dogs must really be superhuman. There’s a reason we don’t use this kind of disposal method. Even normal household trash being burned is a problem – any vinyl becomes hydrochloric acid gas, along with all the other nasty stuff in smoke.

    • #1
    • January 28, 2020, at 2:19 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Stina Member

    That is an amazing photograph.

    • #2
    • January 28, 2020, at 3:55 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  3. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    EJHill: Please listen. Get angry. And demand the Veterans Administration do better.

    This you for this post. I had no idea.

    • #3
    • January 28, 2020, at 4:35 PM PST
    • 1 like
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I’m not sure it is mealie mouthed. The VA was actually proactive, having learned from the pounding it took over Agent Orange, to encourage veterans to join a burn pit exposure registry early on. Actual levels of exposure for any individual, let alone knowledge of what was in any given burn pit at any given time, and actual causal links are not easy to prove. 

     

    • #4
    • January 28, 2020, at 8:38 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Clifford A. Brown: Actual levels of exposure for any individual, let alone knowledge of what was in any given burn pit at any given time, and actual causal links are not easy to prove. 

    A registry is not care. If they were burning tobacco it would have been a crime.

    • #5
    • January 28, 2020, at 10:26 PM PST
    • 1 like
  6. Skyler Coolidge

    Claiming VA benefits is quite the industry. When I returned to reserve status after Iraq and Afghanistan deployments they went out of their way to try to jam questionable disabilities on us.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I’m not buying it. It’s just another version of the agent orange business.

    • #6
    • January 29, 2020, at 5:41 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Boss Mongo Member

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Claiming VA benefits is quite the industry. When I returned to reserve status after Iraq and Afghanistan deployments they went out of their way to try to jam questionable disabilities on us.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. I’m not buying it. It’s just another version of the agent orange business.

    Yeah, so one of my guys caught a profile shot of shrapnel from a Chinese RPG in Afghanistan. Because it was a profile shot, his plates didn’t help. He caught it from knee to armpit. Docs told him it would take a coupla/three years for all the shrapnel to work its way out; 8 years on, he still sets off airport magnetometers.

    When he did his VA claim (and it was quite a claim, the brother had 6 Purple Hearts), the VA said that the shrapnel left in his body was “not service related.”

    We had a good laugh at this over mason jars full of corn liquor. My guy’s comment was, “So, what? I was bee-boppin’ through the hood and got RPG’ed? Really?”

    Yes, there are many that take advantage of the VA. If the VA were less broke-dick than they are, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    • #7
    • January 29, 2020, at 7:00 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    I’m not sure it is mealie mouthed. The VA was actually proactive, having learned from the pounding it took over Agent Orange, to encourage veterans to join a burn pit exposure registry early on. Actual levels of exposure for any individual, let alone knowledge of what was in any given burn pit at any given time, and actual causal links are not easy to prove.

    I would say that the idea that these events are not easy to prove is rubbish. Companies have to submit various items regarding the flammability and the by products of such materials during temperature changes when they apply for various licenses from various agencies in the USA.

    Also these vets have been fighting this battle since 2004. If CBS is doing a program on this problem in Autumn of 2019, it shows that there has been a whole of foot dragging.

    Gas spectography when used to examine the components of incinerated materials helps the members of other societies gain benefits from their government when they are injured by such situations. We have as much access to gas spectography as anyone else on the planet.

     

    • #8
    • January 29, 2020, at 7:27 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Skyler Coolidge

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):
    When he did his VA claim (and it was quite a claim, the brother had 6 Purple Hearts), the VA said that the shrapnel left in his body was “not service related.”

    That is the standard answer, so far as I know, for maladies that are not reported while in the service. In this case, I imagine it is an interim response until such time as the service connection can be established. The VA is a bureaucracy and a certain amount of this is to be expected.

    The real problem is that the government considers that we have been on a war footing non-stop since the Gulf War and that means anyone who has served the minimum time in the military (typically a week or two of boot camp can be sufficient, again I’m not an expert) gets declared to be a war veteran and thus is eligible for VA medical benefits for life.

    The result of this largess is that the VA is overburdened by a couple generations of veterans who would in normal times not have this benefit.

    Now, someone serving in Afghanistan and getting RPG shrapnel in his leg pays the price of politicians being overly generous to non-wartime veterans (miraculously labeled as wartime veterans) sucking up VA resources.

    • #9
    • January 29, 2020, at 7:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Bill Nelson Member

    EJHill: it is up to us, the people that they fought for, to demand the government not abandon them once they leave the service

    Why the government? Isn’t the very first line of support to come from us, the people they fought for? Because frankly, the government solutions are not going to be that great.

    When my son was doing his surgical residency, he spent several months at the VA hospital in Brooklyn. His experience was that the doctors are lazy. They get paid the same no matter what they do, and it is far easier to not do a surgery.

    But like with private charity, if the private charity element is turned over to the government, there is no guarantee, or even probability, that things will be better. I would like to see the many private organizations (e.g. Wounded Warriors) come together and better coordinate. I think what the loose organization Stand Together (formerly the Koch Network) is doing is a great example.

    “If your government is big enough to give you everything you want, it is big enough to take away everything you have.” – attributed to many, but I’ll go with Gerald Ford (falsely attributed to Jefferson).

     

    • #10
    • January 30, 2020, at 8:31 AM PST
    • 1 like
  11. The Reticulator Member

    Bill Nelson (View Comment):
    Why the government? Isn’t the very first line of support to come from us, the people they fought for? Because frankly, the government solutions are not going to be that great.

    Because the government is the agency that is used to take them into harms way.

    There are a lot of arenas in which it would be better for local communities to be the primary support, but in order to get to that point we should not start with the V.A. And in order to get there, we’d have to make a lot of other changes that I’m pretty sure you’d oppose every step of the way, starting with cuts to corporate welfare, such as the Ex-Im. (Which Trump worked a lot harder to reform than I ever would have expected, but which reforms were ignored by his base and opposed by the GOP Establishment).

    • #11
    • January 30, 2020, at 8:44 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. Bill Nelson Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Because the government is the agency that is used to take them into harms way.

    Doesn’t make government the solution. The very concept of citizen soldier is that when battle is over the soldier returns to being a regular citizen in their community.

    But frankly, when anyone calls for a government solution, it has to be questioned. And the current state of the VA is direct evidence that the government solutions are not the best.

    On the occurrence of almost any negative event, a democrat is going to be yelling “there oughta be a law!”

    • #12
    • January 30, 2020, at 9:19 AM PST
    • 1 like
  13. The Reticulator Member

    Bill Nelson (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    Because the government is the agency that is used to take them into harms way.

    Doesn’t make government the solution. The very concept of citizen soldier is that when battle is over the soldier returns to being a regular citizen in their community.

    But frankly, when anyone calls for a government solution, it has to be questioned. And the current state of the VA is direct evidence that the government solutions are not the best.

    On the occurrence of almost any negative event, a democrat is going to be yelling “there oughta be a law!”

    The government is never the solution, because there are hardly ever any solutions in politics. However, the government is the agency by which compensation and redress to soldiers is made. It has been that way since day 1 of this republic, and has been the way citizen soldiers, including those in local militias who fought for their country in good causes and bad, have been compensated for their injuries and service. It’s pretty weird for a person to start there in wanting to redress the balance between public and private.

    BTW, several years ago I blogged about a person whose tombstone reflects some of the libertarian ideology you’ve been stating (though perhaps not in such extreme form) but who in fact actually received a government pension for his Revolutionary War service: Lemuel Bolter’s Pension.

    • #13
    • January 30, 2020, at 10:39 AM PST
    • 1 like