Saturday, May 29, 2010

VA Establishes Burn Pit Web Site to Help Veterans

The Veterans Administration (VA) has established a web site to provide information about potential exposures from burn pits, medical information and benefits available thought eh VA.

Burn Pits

Information about potential exposure to toxins from burn pits, possible health-related problems and VA benefits

Open air burn pits have been used extensively in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste.

Many returning Veterans have expressed health concerns related to their exposure to smoke from burning trash and human waste.

Types of Waste Burned

Waste products include, but are not limited to:
Chemicals (e.g., paints, solvents)
Incomplete combustion by-products
Medical and human waste
Metal/aluminum cans
Munitions and other unexploded ordnance
Petroleum and lubricant products
Plastics and styrofoam
Wood waste
Possible Health Problems from Exposure to Toxins

Exposure to specific individual toxins may affect the skin, respiratory system, eyes, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, peripheral nervous system, and gastrointestinal tract.

Click here to read more about burn pit exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Click here to read more about burn pit claims for benefits and lawsuits.

Yuma veteran joins burn pit lawsuit | yuma, lawsuit, battle - News - YumaSun

Yuma veteran joins burn pit lawsuit | yuma, lawsuit, battle - News - YumaSun

Thursday, May 13, 2010

U.S. Intervenes in Suit Against KBR and Panalpina Alleging Kickbacks Under the False Claims Act

Allegations of Kickbacks and Overbilling Related to Logistical Support in Iraq

The Justice Department has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), Panalpina Inc. and others that alleges that employees of two freight forwarders doing business with the companies provided unlawful kickbacks to KBR transportation department employees. KBR is the prime contractor under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP III) contract for logistical support of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The whistleblowers also allege overbilling by a KBR subcontractor in the Balkans, Wesco, under a military contract.

The United States is pursuing allegations that the two freight forwarders, Eagle Global Logistics (which has since merged with TNT Logistics and become CEVA) and Panalpina provided unlawful kickbacks in the form of meals, drinks, tickets to sports events and golf outings to KBR employees. The government will seek damages and penalties under the False Claims Act and common law, as well as penalties under the Anti-Kickback Act. The United States has declined to intervene in the remaining allegations of the relators’ suit.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by David Vavra and Jerry Hyatt who have been active in the air cargo business–the industry relevant to the case. Under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, a private citizen, known as a "relator," can sue on behalf of the United States. If the suit is successful, the relator may share in the recovery.

"Defense contractors cannot take advantage of the ongoing war effort by accepting unlawful kickbacks," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. "We are committed to maintaining the integrity of the Department of Defense's procurement process."

The United States previously intervened in and settled the relators’ allegations that EGL included non-existent charges for war risk insurance in invoices to KBR for air shipments to Iraq, costs that KBR passed on to the Army. Two EGL employees pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. EGL paid the United States $4 million in the civil settlement.

The government also intervened in and settled the relators’ allegations that EGL’s local agent in Kuwait, a company known as Al-Rashed, overcharged it for the rental (or demurrage) of shipping containers. The United States resolved potential claims arising from that matter against EGL for $300,000. Finally, EGL paid the government $750,000 to settle the relators’ allegations that the company provided kickbacks to employees in KBR’s transportation department. Former EGL employee Kevin Smoot and former KBR employee Bob Bennett pleaded guilty to related criminal charges in federal court in Rock Island.

This case is being prosecuted as part of a National Procurement Fraud Initiative. In October 2006, the Deputy Attorney General announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in government contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force is chaired by the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and includes the Civil Division, United States Attorneys’ Offices, the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General community and a number of other federal law enforcement agencies. The Defense Criminal Investigative Service and Federal Bureau of Investigation participated in the investigation of this matter. This case, as well as others brought by members of the task force, demonstrates the Department of Justice’s commitment to ensure the integrity of the government procurement process.

The case is United States of America ex rel. Vavra, et al. v. Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 1:04-CV-00042 (E.D. Tex.).

See also:  
KBR to Get No-Bid Army Work as U.S. Alleges Kickbacks Bloomberg Newsweek May 6, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Doctor Links Burn Pit Exposures to Respiratory Illness

Medical doctors associated with Vanderbilt University have linked a rare and incurable lung disease with exposure to toxic  dust, fumes and smoke of burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Robert Miller with Vanderbilt Medical Center, who testified before the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in October 2009 said, "We began referring them for open lung biopsies and found they had a condition called constrictive bronchiolitis. Constrictive bronchiolitis is a scarring of the small airways of the lungs."

The news was reported by Fox 17 (WZTV Nashville) and reveals that doctors at Vanderbilt University  have beens studying the problem since 2004 and have conducted open biopsies on 45 soldiers. Additional research is on going at Vanderbilt University concerning this serious and permanent condition that has been considered irreversible

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dan Rather TV Documentary Highlights Burn Pit Health Hazards

An investigative report, concerning the alleged environmental health hazards of the burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, was broadcast on HDNet on Tuesday, May 4, 2010.  The program, Dan Rather Reports, highlighted interviews of physicians, shoulders and environmental experts who spoke of toxic hazards of burn pits and related medical conditions and illnesses. 

Dan Rather reported, "A mystery that doctors and scientists are just beginning to unravel. It began when servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan began complaining of breathing problems. And it has grown into what may be the next gulf war syndrome, the next 9-11 ground zero disease, maybe even the next agent orange. All of those maladies were initially dismissed as figments of the imagination. We now know they were all too real, each caused by exposure to environmental hazards. In this case, the military initially said that the suffering soldiers were only victims of coincidence. But that didn't satisfy a small group of doctors and soldiers. They're convinced it can all be traced to something in the air."

"They can be seen curling into the sky or hanging low to the ground over many U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. Billowing clouds of smoke emanating from mountains of burning trash. They're called burn pits, and at one point there were estimated to be hundreds of them in both countries-- some small some enormous. Staggering amounts of waste are generated in military operations. Not only do commanders have to figure out how to fight, they have to figure out what to do with all that garbage for example here in Baghdad where thousands of soldiers live and work, hundreds of tons of trash are produced each day. That trash includes many thousands of things like plastic water bottles and foam trays -- along with a lot of other stuff. For years much of it ended up in burn pits."

Friday, May 7, 2010

VA Outlines New Policy to Address Burn Pit Hazards

The Veterans Administration (VA) has released a new 30 page letter outlining a new policy for regional VA offices to following in determining benefits to be paid to veterans.  The Marine Corps Times reported that this is the first time in history that the VA has addressed potential battlefield hazards while troops remained in a combat zone.

The Veterans Administration stated in the letter:

"Service members can be exposed to environmental hazards in the course of their military duties, which may result in adverse health effects.  Numerous environmental hazards in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other military installations that could potentially present health risks to service members and Veterans have been identified.  The hazards discussed in this training letter are as follows:  (1) Large burn pits throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, and Djibouti on the Horn of Africa; (2) ”particulate matter” in Iraq and Afghanistan; (3) a large sulfur fire at Mishraq State Sulfur Mine near Mosul, Iraq; (4) hexavalent chromium exposure at the Qarmat Ali Water Treatment Plant in Basrah, Iraq; (5) contaminated drinking water at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina; and (6) pollutants from a waste incinerator near the Naval Air Facility (NAF) at Atsugi, Japan.  It is imperative that regional office personnel are aware of these environmental health hazards and are well-trained to handle disability claims from Veterans based on exposure to them. "

Click here to read more about burn pit exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan
Click here to read more about burn pit claims for benefits and lawsuits.