of Representatives Appropriations Sub-Committee on Veterans
Affairs, HUD and Special Projects Testimony for the 2000-2001
Presidential Budget Hearings
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to present public testimony on behalf of the Lymphoma Research Foundation of America (LRFA). LRFA is a private, non-profit foundation, and is a leading lymphoma resource in the United States. The foundation funds research and has awarded $3 million to support 90 research projects.
I am Genevieve Douglass, the widow of Vietnam Veteran, Bob Douglass. In addition to membership in LRFA, I co-founded the Agent Orange Widows Awareness Coalition, (AOWAC), with Karen, who is here with me today and is the widow of Robert Olszewski, another Vietnam veteran. Both our husbands recently died of Agent Orange related lymphoma. It is with great honor and humility I speak to you today on behalf of the Foundation, AOWAC, Vietnam Veterans, and their post-war children across the nation.
I bring you the story of my husband, Bob, who died last year. His death was 100% service-connected, as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, the defoliant used in Vietnam. I am testifying to respectfully request your support for expansion of the Veterans Administration research portfolio on lymphoid malignancies.
Lymphoma is the second fastest growing incidence of cancer in America. It is estimated that over 87,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lymphoid malignancies in the year 2000, with a 50% mortality rate. Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are two of the ten diseases and conditions recognized by the VA as service-connected for Vietnam Veterans, based on their exposure to Agent Orange.
My husband, Bob, served in Vietnam from 69-70, as a cook in a base camp near DaNang. In August 1997, Bob discovered a small lump on the side of his neck. A biopsy revealed an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Within two weeks, the lump had grown so fast that it blocked Bob’s breathing and forced him to go on a liquid diet. He lost 25 pounds and his voice, all within the first month of his diagnosis.
In trying to figure out how Bob developed lymphoma, we recalled hearing news stories about Agent Orange related illnesses. When we asked our doctors if they knew of the connection, they did not. In August of ’98, after a recurrence of lymphoma in Bob’s liver, we sought a second opinion at UCLA Medical Center. They also were unaware of the connection to Agent Orange related diseases. A more aggressive treatment of chemotherapy was recommended.
At this point, we contacted the LRFA, who finally knew of the connection to Agent Orange. We then went to the VA hospital to enroll, but had to wait six weeks for an appointment.
Bob’s lymphoma took a turn for the worse on February 10th. Nine days later, Bob died at the age of 49, leaving me a widow, and our two sons, Shawn and Corporal Daniel Douglass, fatherless.
Although we are now in the year 2000, currently the VA still has limited research information regarding Agent Orange related lymphoma. The VA estimates over 3 million veterans served in Southeast Asia, during the Vietnam War, where an estimated 20 million gallons of chemical defoliants were sprayed. The VA acknowledges that all Vietnam personnel were exposed. There has been insufficient research and data to determine the true relationship between Agent Orange and second and third generation lymphoma cases.
It has been 25 years since the end of the war, and we now have a generation of veterans who are getting sick and dying, across the nation, leaving families devastated in grief, despair and financial distress. The United States government is failing the people who served our country.
On behalf of the Lymphoma Research Foundation, I ask for your assistance with the Foundation’s request for expansion of VA resources and increased funding of Agent Orange related lymphoma research regarding the development, diagnosis and treatment of the disease in Vietnam Veterans and their post-war children.
Please seriously consider our request, as we try to assist veterans with lymphoma, who must face the challenge of fighting for their lives once again. Thank you very much for your attention to this important issue.
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.