19 December 2014

VA Scandal: Twelve Key Quotes From This Year of Turmoil

by Jerry Shaw, Newsmax

The inadequate treatment of veterans under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs angered Americans across the country. Here are 12 quotes from officials and observers on this scandal that has embroiled President Barack Obama's administration.

“I will not stand for it. There must be consequences.” 
– President Barack Obama vowed following revelations of the VA scandal in May.

“When a veteran is denied health care, we are all dishonored.” When 400,000 veterans are stuck on a waiting list for claims, we need a new sense of urgency in this country.”
– Presidential candidate and then-Sen. Barack Obama, 2007. 

“Under his watch at my own hospital in Atlanta, four of our soldiers committed suicide, and the inspector general of the VA laid the blame directly at the foot of the VA administration.”
– U.S. Rep. David Scott, a Georgia Democrat, demanding the firing of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki

“Firing Shinseki would suggest he (Obama) was actually taking responsibility, rather than just talking about taking responsibility.” 
 John Kass, Chicago Tribune columnist, on the Barack Obama scandal.

The VA is “socialized medicine that works.” 
– Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner for economics, 2011

The VA represented a single-payer system that offers “better care for more people at far less cost.” 
– Physicians for a National Health Program, 2013

“I am pleased President Obama has finally recognized what we have been telling administration officials for years: that VA’s widespread and systemic lack of accountability is jeopardizing the health of veterans and contributing to all of the department’s most pressing problems.”
– U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, after Obama signed a $17 billion bill to address some of the VA problems. Miller said he hoped it wasn’t just a photo-op.

“If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired period. It shouldn't be that difficult. And, if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked.”
– President Obama, at the signing of the VA bill

“We are expecting (new VA secretary Robert McDonald) to hold his senior leaders accountable. And in turn, that will roll downhill and his senior leaders will then hold midlevel managers accountable who will then hold employees accountable.”
– Louis Celli, legislative director at the American Legion

“Congress will be tempted to wipe their hands of this, go to the Election Day and say ‘we've done our part’ and that’s where groups like ours, Concerned Veterans for America, veterans across the country have to keep the heat on them to say this is just the start. VA is not fixed.”
Pete Hegseth, CEO of Concerned Veterans for America

“This has been building for 10 or 15 years. Every crisis is also an opportunity. Fixes are available at the VA, and this is the time to put them in place.”
– Phillip E. Carter, expert on veterans' affairs at Center for a New American Security

“The president just promised $5 billion for terrorists around the world! At West Point! Where he could have used today to say, ‘I’m sorry! For the pain that I’ve caused you, the families! And I’m going to fix it today!’”
– Montel Williams, talk show host and 22-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and Navy 

16 December 2014

C-123 Flight Suits – Before & After Agent Orange Contamination Identified on Our Aircraft


We were issued regular Nomex flight suits for duty aboard the C-123 between 1972-1982. In 1994 the Air Force learned the former Agent Orange spray airplanes remained contaminated with dioxin since the end of the Vietnam War and return of the airplanes to the US in 1972. Everyone in or near the stored C-123s at Davis-Monthan was ordered to wear full HAZMAT, at this point 23 years AFTER the last Agent Orange spray missions in Vietnam. Now, VA insists that aircrews were unexposed even aboard those contaminated airplanes without wearing PPE. CDC says otherwise: we were exposed, suffered a 200-fold greater cancer risk, and should have been in full HAZMAT protection from the very first flights in 1972.

Full HAZMAT as on the right was the only thing good enough for AF civilian employees. The Air Force Surgeon General was quite clear that the C-123s were dangerous and authorities wanted to protect base workers.

For Air Force personnel, neither the AF nor the VA had the same concern for safety of our pilots, navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters, flight nurses, maintenance personnel and flight medics...green NOMEX flight suits, useless for any protection, were all we had issued us. Money saved, too, by not decontaminating the C-123s even after the 1979 tests started revealing the presence of deadly Agent Orange.
Conclusion: authorities pretend that aircrews were safe for the decade C-123s were flown after Vietnam, but realized that civilian workers, backed by unions which complained via the USAF IG, needed full HAZMAT. Because of the cost of providing medical care to Agent Orange-exposed C-123 veterans, the VA and AF together pretend there was no exposure even in the face of other federal agencies insistence that we WERE exposed. This is wrong!

15 December 2014

Another VA Fact Sheet Needs VA IG Review – The C-123 Fact Sheet

VA's Senate Briefer
In May 2013, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs responded to inquiries from Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, regarding VA management of C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims.

The Senate was fed two pages of deception. Here's how.

C-123 post-Vietnam exposure claims were ordered denied regardless of substantial proofs by Veterans Health Administration's Post Deployment Health Section and were the basis of Senator Burr's concerns. The Secretary's response was drafted for him by a Veterans Benefits Administration manager, Mr. James Sampsel, and has been found to present over twenty significant errors. Some can fairly be termed clearly deceptive.

Although the factual errors were pointed out to the VA soon after the Secretary's fact sheet was received by Senator Burr, no corrections were ever permitted. VA's consultant (who is a former Dow and Monsanto consultant well) even raised objections to the scientific merit of tests performed on Patches at the USAF Museum, but other experts disagree CDC, NIESH, the Committee of Concerned Scientists and Physicians, the original experts Dr. Ron Porter and LtCol (PhD) Wade Weisman, and the USAF-contracted testing facility Midwest Testing Institute... find the procedures and results appropriate and Drs. Porter and Weisman stand behind them, per their 2011 correspondence.

Objection now to these tests from a single consultant who has expressed for decades his belief as to the innocence of Agent Orange, and who also expressed his disdain for the veteran aircrews, and who was retained by VA at a cost of $600,000 to obstruct the veterans' claims, seems hardly appropriate. It is, rather, starkly anti-veteran. The Fact Sheet is policy, not science nor law. It reflects staff members' personal agenda, selective use of references rather than a broad assessment of materials, and is clearly not a neutral, objective, accurate assessment of a serious issue.

Readers must note that unlike the recent deception VA's own Inspector General found in a VA Fact Sheet given Congressional staff, this is far more troubling as it is over the Secretary's signature and directly to the Senate Veterans Affairs leadership.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 
Fact Sheet for the Honorable Richard M. Burr Regarding Processing of 
Disability Claims Based on Agent Orange (AO) Exposure Aboard C-123 Aircraft 
Outside the Republic of Vietnam 

Several hundred C-123 aircraft were used during the Vietnam War for a variety of
purposes, including troop and supply movements in Vietnam, flare dropping and
gunship security on Thailand airbases, and aerial spraying of insecticides to control
malaria-causing mosquitoes in both Vietnam and Thailand. Only a small number of
these C-123s (approximately 30) were rotated through Vietnam and used for the aerial
spraying of tactical herbicides, such as AO. This occurred from 1962 to 1971 during
Operation Ranch Hand, which was designed to destroy enemy food crops and reveal
enemy jungle positions. Following the 1971 termination of tactical herbicide use in
Vietnam, the involved aircraft may have been assigned other missions in Vietnam or
sent back to the United States.

Eventually, all C-123s in Southeast Asia were sent back to the United States, where they were used by Air National Guard or Reserve units for the remainder of their useful life. VA does not currently have a method of determining if a Veteran claiming stateside AO exposure was flying on one of the Operation Ranch Hand C-123s on one of the many other post-Vietnam C-123s flown stateside during the 1970s and 1980s.

The general claim of AO exposure among stateside C-123 crewmembers is based on a
wipe test sample of residual 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) (the
carcinogenic element in AO herbicide) found in only one C-123, which is exhibited at the
Wright-Patterson U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. That aircraft, named
"Patches" because of the numerous enemy bullet holes that were patched during its
Vietnam service, was assigned to Operation Ranch Hand initially and stayed with the
operation longer than other C-123s. Most of the Operation Ranch Hand C-123s arrived
in Vietnam after 1968, when the application of tactical herbicides was on the decline
and herbicides other than AO, such as Agent White and Blue, were in use. These other
tactical herbicides did not contain TCDD.

Despite these facts, there seems to be a widespread and unfounded assumption that all
other C-123 aircrafts would contain TCDD samples equivalent to "Patches," if tested.
VA has no way of verifying this assumption, but government documents provided by
Dr. Alvin Young, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and leading expert on tactical
herbicides, do shed light on the issue. Analysis of surface wipe samples taken from
four mothballed Operation Ranch Hand C-123 aircraft between 1996 and 2009 showed
no evidence of TCDD in two of the aircraft and only trace amounts of TCDD in the other
two. Air samples from all four planes showed no TCDD. It is not clear how VA could
obtain additional aircraft samples and determine if residual TCDD was present in other
C-123s because they are no longer in use, and in some cases, have been destroyed.

Additionally, wipe sampling is a universally accepted method used to detect at what
level a chemical is present on a surface, but cannot be directly extrapolated to represent
human health risk, as chemical intake must also be taken into account. Further, the use
of a solvent removes more of the chemical from the surface than would be available through casual contact with the surface. This illustrates the difficulty VA faces when evaluating whether a particular Veteran claiming stateside AO exposure was actually aboard a C-123 used for Operation Ranch Hand and, if so, whether there was any residual TCDD present in that aircraft, and if it was able to enter the body.

VA assumes that some Veterans flew stateside aboard post-Vietnam Operation Ranch
Hand C-123s that did contain residual solidified TCDD similar to that found in "Patches,"
and so the issue of exposure and long-term health effects among those Veterans must
be considered. To that end, the Veterans Health Administration's (VHA) Office of Public
Health has already conducted a specific scientific investigation into the theory of
exposure to TCDD via incidental aircraft contact. The results are posted on VA's Web

The general conclusion is that:
(1) any residual TCDD in the Operation Ranch Hand aircraft had solidified and is unable to enter the human body in any significant amount, and  (2) there is no scientific evidence that a Veteran's presence in an aircraft containing solidified TCDD can lead to adverse long-term health effects.

Regarding this VHA Office of Public Health scientific investigation:
1. Some scientists have argued against the VHA conclusions and provided opinions stating that the concentration of TCDD in "Patches" was excessive, and, therefore, crew members in any post-Vietnam Operation Ranch Hand C-123 would have been exposed to a high dose. However, several other scientists who are involved with ongoing toxicology research have independently and without solicitation contacted VA to refute the aforementioned opinions. They note that the percentage of TCDD in a wipe sample obtained with a solvent does not translate into a high dose that would be absorbed by the human body. They further note that studies show the skin to be a strong barrier against absorption and that extremely high temperature would be required to vaporize TCDD and make it available for absorption through the lungs.

2. Regarding VHA's conclusion on adverse long-term health effects, numerous public sources have identified the 20-year longitudinal Air Force Health Study, initiated in 1982, as a source of scientific information. It followed and studied 1,261 Vietnam Veterans who were actual pilots and crew members of Operation Ranch Hand C-123s. As such, they were exposed to tactical herbicides on a daily basis and testing showed the presence of TCDD in their bodies. However, current health data (obtained as late as 2012) fail to show a general increased risk of adverse long-term health effects as compared to other populations. Given that the evidence from actual participants in Operation Ranch Hand does not show a health risk from direct exposure to TCDD, it is difficult to ascertain a basis upon which to find a health risk among crew members of post-Vietnam Operation Ranch Hand C-123s.

Veterans Benefits Administration Veterans Health Administration
May 2013

Conclusion: There' much more for the VA IG to consider here! Denial by VA of essential medical care and other earned benefits, as VA staffers seek to implement their personal agendas, cannot be left unchallenged by VA's internal watchdog. Neither can VBA staffers' sabotage of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in this year of monumental scandals be left concealed.

Inspector General Scolds VA VHA for Deceiving Congress & Veterans on Fact Sheet

More scandal added to VA's Year of Scandals. Here...a deliberate deception of the House Veterans Affairs Committee as confirmed by VA's own Inspector General today, and reported in USA Today and other journals. (note: see related C-123 post.) Secretary McDonald personally apologized, stating, "VA has a responsibility to communicate clearly and accurately to Congress, veterans and the American public."

OIG evaluated Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA’s) review of “unresolved” consults and the accuracy of VA’s summary, the National Consult Delay Review Fact Sheet (Fact Sheet), as requested by the Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC).

Unresolved consults are requests for consultations that are open or active in patients’ electronic health records. In September 2012, VHA initiated a multi-phased review of consults that were unresolved for more than 90 days. By May 2014, the number of unresolved consults had decreased considerably.

However, because VHA did not implement appropriate controls, we found it lacks reasonable assurance that facilities appropriately reviewed and resolved consults; closed consults only after ensuring veterans had received the requested services, when appropriate; and, where consult delays contributed to patient harm, notified patients as required by VHA policy. Our review of the Fact Sheet found several key statements related to the scope and results of VHA’s review of unresolved consults were misleading or incorrect.

These statements were repeated by VHA leaders at meetings with congressional staff and during media events. In July 2014, VHA issued a letter to the Chairman of the HVAC that included information intended to clarify statements in the Fact Sheet.

We recommended that the Interim Under Secretary for Health (1) conduct a systematic assessment of the processes each VA medical facility used to address unresolved consults during VHA's system-wide consult review; (2) ensure that if a medical facility's processes are found to have been inconsistent with VHA guidance on addressing unresolved consults, action is taken to confirm that patients have received appropriate care; and (3) after reviewing the circumstances of any inappropriate resolution of consults, confer with the Office of Human Resources and the Office of General Counsel or other relevant agency to determine the appropriate administrative action to take, if any.

14 December 2014

VA Raters Deny Claims in Error, But Only Veterans Suffer Consequences


Vietnam War Navy Cross recipient Steve Lowery isn’t alone in his battle to convince the Veterans Benefits Administration that his wounds are linked to his military service.

Lowery, a retired Marine major from Las Vegas, took a long-awaited physical examination Thursday at the North Las Vegas VA Medical Center to show a doctor that scars from shrapnel in his knee and those on his thighs from an AK-47 resulted from a 1969 firefight in Vietnam.

In 1994, the VA benefits office in Reno told him those wounds weren’t related to his military service, and he’s been fighting with the agency ever since.

The VA apparently disallowed his initial claim because the government’s archive agency failed to send his records to Reno. Bewildered by the decision, Lowery provided a copy of his personal medical file in 2010. Two years later, his claim was rejected again.

Since the Review-Journal wrote about Lowery’s case last week, other veterans have come forward with complaints about tactics employed by the agency, which demands that veterans prove their injuries were service-related but can deny claims without proving anything.

Analysis: Reporter Keith Rogers describes the problem correctly. VA claims workers can deny a claim on any real or imagined flaw, and can even as with C-123 veterans' Agent Orange claims deny the claims for VA-recognized Agent Orange illnesses by insisting Agent Orange is harmless.

Truth and accuracy and legal justification seem of little matter to Veterans Benefits Administration and its Compensation and Pension Service. VA can cite any reason that comes to mind, ignore the law and VA's own regulations, thus forcing any hapless veteran into a years-long appeal process to correct a claim. VA is not accountable for such heavy-handed abuse of their program, and claims officials face no consequences for their mistakes or poor judgment or event spiteful personal anti-veteran agendas. Remember: the veteran is already sick with cancer or another ailment or injury and has waited an average of a year just for VA to deny the claim.

Agreed – most VA mistakes are innocent or even tied to the veterans' difficulties providing proper records. However, too many situations like those described by Mr. Rogers reflect a VA system favoring rapid denial of claims with inadequate oversight, over proper adjudication of a veteran's search for medical care and other earned benefits. VA needs a system providing bonuses, if it really must incent its workers that way, based solely on their accuracy and proper decisions, not just volume of claims handled.

BVA or CVAC reversals and remanded decisions should have career consequences for VA staff matching the harm caused the veteran suffering the years-long impact of VA's mistakes. Any such consequences cannot possibly compare to the VA-caused  suffering of a veteran seeking care for cancers or heart disease being wrongly turned away from VA hospitals because of flawed VA decision-making.

VA Defies NIH & CDC – Insists Dioxin is Harmless

The Department of Veterans Affairs defies scientific opinions from leading health experts at CDC, EPA, OHSA, the National Toxicology ProgramNational Institutes of Health, and elsewhere throughout the government. VA has refused veterans' dioxin exposure disability claims on the basis of dioxin being harmless. The veteran had claimed exposure to Agent Orange, which contained dioxin, the common name for the toxin TCDD.

"In summary, there is no conclusive evidence of TCDD causing any adverse health effects."

This statement summarizes VA's denial of a veteran's claim based on Agent Orange exposure aboard the Air Force Agent Orange spray C-123 transports, flown after the war until 1982. Agent Orange is simply harmless?

The summary is the official position of Veterans Benefits Administration executive Mr. Tom Murphy. Mr. Murphy is Director, Compensation and Pension Service, and heads VA's organization managing disability claims. His statement, over his signature, was read back to him at his office in February 2012, in the event of a possible misquote or typo. It was not retracted or modified and he allows it to stand as part of his decision to refuse VA medical care for an Air Force veteran's prostate cancer, a recognized Agent Orange exposure ailment.

Mr. Murphy did mention he could not be familiar with every document leaving his office over his signature, but again, permitted no change or modification of this unusual statement, even considering that it served as his basis for refusing medical care for a veteran's cancer, as well as several other ailments the VA associates with Agent Orange.

A year after being submitted, the veteran's claim was denied in 2012. The claim remains denied over two years later, still in appeal in the VA' s additional two to three year long process with the Board of Veterans Appeals. There, such an obvious scientific mistake is nearly certain to be corrected, but the process (called remand) merely sends the claim back to the original VA office with the errors pointed out and instructions to reconsider.

More years thus await a cancer victim seeking a VA's help surviving terrible illnesses. If he or she survives, it will only be because care was found somewhere other the the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Veterans who served in Vietnam are all presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange and are provided care. VA had been asked by Congress and veterans service organizations about meeting the needs of veterans exposed outside Vietnam and three times via the Federal Register VA assured Congress that all exposed veterans are to be treated. Here, by pretending both that Agent Orange is harmless and exposed vets somehow weren't' exposed per the VA's unique definition of "exposure," VA's unofficial policy of blocking disability claims perfected. Why?

VA is determined, as its Deputy Chief Consultant of Post Deployment informed the Associated Press, with denying Agent Orange claims because, "You have to draw the line somewhere." Other federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, CDC, OHSA and EPA, are concerned with health, not drawing lines over veterans' TCDD exposure claims. At VA, veterans' health and survival comes second to "draw line somewhere." In such denials, VA carefully considered the input received from Dow and Monsanto, who along with the VA's $300,000 per year Agent Orange consultant, strongly oppose veterans' exposure benefits.

This was strongly opposed by the Committee of Concerned Scientists and Physicians, with Dr. Jeanne Stellman of Columbia University as the corresponding scientist. The input of these dozens of experts was ignored because VA had predetermined (in VHA's Post Deployment Health Section) that all the claims were to be denied regardless of proofs and evidence.

Mr. Murphy was manifestly wrong in his statement regarding TCDD being harmless. Rather, TCDD is the most toxic and potent of the toxins.  To VA a denied claim, even if eventually overturned in the veteran's favor,  is a win-win situation because VA is able to deny medical care for many years in the process. Years when caring for cancer and heart disease patients becomes a very expensive proposition.

Here's what the National Institutes of Health tells us about about dioxin:
"TCDD dioxin is listed as a human carcinogen in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program because it causes cancer, particularly lung cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. 
Exposure to high levels of dioxins can cause reproductive and development problems, suppression of the immune system, increased heart disease and diabetes, changes in hormonal levels, liver damage, and abnormalities of the pancreas, circulatory, and respiratory systems. 
Exposure to low levels of TCDD can cause dermatitis, gastrointestinal problems, and excessive body hair. 
Exposure to low levels of all dioxins can cause a burning sensation in the eyes, nose, and throat; headache; dizziness; fatigue; blurred vision; urinary tract disorders; muscle and joint pain; impaired muscle coordination; nausea; and vomiting."
Here's what the Department of Veterans Affairs and Mr. Murphy tells us about dioxin:
 "Claim Denied." "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence of TCDD causing  any adverse health effects."  
The statement might be scientifically and medically wrong and absolutely contrary to experts throughout the government (as well as in the VA!) but Mr. Murphy's objective was met: VA drew its line and, as the VA and Office of Secretary of Defense Agent Orange consultant put it, veterans he considers "freeloaders, trash-haulers looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman" were told to seek care elsewhere...anywhere but the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Mr. Murphy's statement thus gets another claim out of the infamous VA backlog by the easy step of denying it, and helps resolve VA's budget and long lines in VA hospitals by keeping Agent Orange veterans' decisions denied as long as possible.

If only veterans could turn to Mr. Murphy to resolve their cancers with his pen as readily as he solves VA's problems.

12 December 2014

Armed Forces Pest Management Board Asked to Add C-123s to DOD/VA Agent Orange Lists

Today, various FOIAs released by the Department of Defense revealed that the actual OPR for
maintenance of DOD's Agent Orange list, by which VA determines exposures outside Vietnam, is the DOD Armed Forces Pest Management Board in Silver Spring, MD.

Because the AFPMB library contained only two Agent Orange C-123 articles (dated 1963 and 1981) and none of the more current scientific literature, a collection of relevant materials was provided by the C-123 Veterans Association.

Here's how the VA uses a site's absence from the DOD list to deny veterans' exposure claims. It explains a lot about why VA opposes any additional sites added to the DOD list, regardless of historical or scientific justification:

Today, the Chair of AFPMB, CAPTAIN Eric Hoffman USN MC, was asked to reconsider his organization's earlier recommendation to the Secretary of Defense and to add C-123s.

Secretary of Defense Asked to Designate C-123s as "Herbicide Storage/Transport/Manufacture" Sites

On December 12, Secretary Hagel was asked by the C-123 Veterans Association to designate (retroactively) the former Agent Orange spray aircraft as outside Vietnam military herbicide sites, an addition to the DOD 2006 list.

09 December 2014

VA Officials Asked to Designate C-123s as "Agent Orange Manufacture, Use, Storage, Transport" Sites

(Letter sent to dozens of VA & DOD officials, seeking proper OPR action for such designations)

Dear Sir or Madam,

This Friday, the Department of the Air Force General Counsel informed us that it is the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify and list Agent Orange (military herbicide) sites associated with manufacture, transport, testing and use. Three times in two years we have sought just such a designation from LtGen Judith Fedder, DOD's OPR for installations, and each time have been told it is a VA responsibility. VA has repeatedly assured us, to the contrary, it is a DOD or AF function.

What is clear, from the DOD 2006 list, is that VA requested DOD to provide a list which was then prepared by a consultant (who has labeled Agent Orange veterans as "freeloaders, trash-haulers looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect.") through Battelle. He also sought and received an unbudgeted $600,000 contract through Veterans Benefits Administration on a no-bid, sole source two year deal for opposing post-Vietnam exposure situations on behalf of VBA and VHA.

In somewhat of a curious historical background, the consultant, in his capacity of Senior Agent Orange Consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense, is credited by the USAF as being "the strongest proponent all along for immediate destruction without further testing" of the toxic C-123s in 2009, decades after they'd been designated by AF toxicologists as "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces" and "a danger to public health."

The VA consultant, towards the end of his two year contract, also assured the Institute of Medicine in June 2014 that the C-123s had been "decontaminated" after Vietnam although there is no documentation to that, and the suggestion runs contrary to Air Force tests over decades showing them still contaminated.

In reviewing the Air Force test results, the CDC informed the Institute of Medicine in June 2014 that aircrews should have been wearing full HAZMAT, or the airplanes grounded as unsafe in American airspace. The totality of this evidence of C-123 contamination exceeds that of nearly every site presently on VA and DOD lists.
• For instance, none of the vessels on VA's lists ever tested as positive for Agent Orange contamination, yet more than two dozen of our aircraft did.
• None of the Navy's ships were destroyed due to their contamination, yet all of our aircraft were.
• No Navy toxicologists testified in federal court that vessels were "a danger to public health," yet Air Force toxicologist Dr. Ron Porter did so regarding C-123s.
• No other federal agencies informed VA or DOD that Navy ships were contaminated and their crews exposed, yet CDC, NIH, USPHS, NIEHS and the National Toxicology Center have each so described our former Agent Orange spray aircraft.
• No naval ships were ever quarantined due to their herbicide contamination, yet all surplus C-123s were placed into HAZMAT quarantine at Davis-Monthan AFB.
• No US Navy ship were ever described by the Department of the Navy as "the Agent Orange ships" the Department of the Air Force referred to the C-123s as for decades.
• The EPA never proposed an illegal HAZMAT storage fine for naval vessels, yet EPA and AF JAG determined the Air Force was liable for a potential $3.4 billion fine for C-123s stored at Davis-Monthan, cited as partial authority for the unique destruction scheme in April-June 2010.

Accordingly, I request information as to the proper contact in your office of primary responsibility this function, as well as the criteria established for addition to the list, and your forwarding to them this request.

Please help us locate the authority by which Compensation and Pension rejects input from reputable toxicologists and epidemiologists, as well as physicians, who advised VA as to the contamination and exposure to military herbicides by C-123 veterans seeking who were seeking service connection for Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. C&P stated these professionals lacked credentials to address medical nexus, but it is clear in VA 21-1MR as well as the numerous Federal Register postings that medical nexus is not a requirement for claims for VA-recognized Agent Orange illnesses. Was C&P unclear as to this requirement or did it seek to introduce conflict?

In a related matter, I'd appreciate any basis for which Compensation and Pension Service denies Agent Orange exposure claims with their statement, "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects." This statement seems to run contrary to VA's long-established position, as well as contrary to contemporary medical and scientific understanding. It also seems contrary to the requirements of VA M21-1MR, Title 38, the Federal Register VA postings, and the 1991 Agent Orange Law: how can Agent Orange claims still be denied on the basis of VA suggestions that Agent Orange causes no adverse health effects?

We understand that addressing these questions might cause some difficulty, but please accept that our veterans being refused VA medical care also causes difficulty, as well as suffering and deaths. At least, the VA officials receiving this email and its associated documents will have the relevant materials in their files for which future examination might prove useful in understanding years of delays, circumventions and obstruction of benefits sought by eligible veterans – or our survivors.


Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Medical Service Corps
(former Stan/Eval Flight Instructor & Flight Examiner, C-123K aircraft)

07 December 2014

Air Force AGAIN Refuses to Designate C-123s as Agent Orange Sites

Received December 6, 2014 from the USAF General Counsel. This is their third refusal to acknowledge the issue. VA has said only AF or DOD can designate DOD sites as Agent Orange sites. AF here says that's a VA responsibility.

The problem: VA cites the DOD list of bases and ships which were potential Agent Orange exposure sites as proof in related disability claims. Whether or not a base, ship or airplane is labeled by DOD as a contaminated site affects whether VA will recognize the veteran's claim.

In the case of C-123s, their absence from the DOD list is cited by VA as "proof" we weren't exposed. VA says if the airplanes were contaminated, they'd be on the DOD list. As can be seen in the letter below, AF is making every effort to avoid any modification of the Al Young-produced list DOD provided the VA in 2006...despite the reams of documentation calling for just such a recognition.

06 December 2014

AME Flight Records Located

Buzz Bocynesky located a very good set of his Form 5 flight records. Because each of the missions he flew was aeromedical evacuation, others from the 74th AES with flight orders can compare their dates to his, and identify specifically which C-123K was flown. This is important as a step to prove that former Agent Orange spray aircraft were flown and by tail number.

Thus, Buzz' records establish his own Agent Orange aircraft, and because most AME kept their flight orders which didn't show tail numbers, comparing flight orders with Form 5 data completes the research. Suggestion: simply make a list of the dates flown, and compare to Buzz's records. The match of your dates and his, for Tail #s. Westover's Agent Orange spray planes included Tails 362, 361, 583, 607, 000 and 586. #635 seems to have been a spray plane as well, but research continues.

The Agent Orange aircraft on Buzz's Form 5s include only Tails #607, 365 and 361. AME without either flight orders for Form 5s can check Steve Caraker's or Paul Bailey's sets for their names – if their orders have show you listed there's your proof for the VA. Most of the Form 5s we have came from John Riley.

A spreadsheet combining what we have is available by clicking here, and we want to add crews and dates to compete the resource.

Thanks, Buzz. Everyone else, please scan your records and forward to me for our data base.

05 December 2014

Homeless Veterans Hotline Failing Terribly

A Department of Veterans Affairs hotline established to help homeless veterans missed thousands ofopportunities to help at-risk vets last year,
The VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, launched in mid-2012, didn’t consistently ensure that veterans who called the hotline received access to support services, according to findings released Wednesday.
“This is a huge national problem, our veterans deserve to have the phone answered when they call for help,” Rep. Jackie Walorski (R., Ind.), a member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said in an interviewThursday.
Ms. Walorski said this isn’t a one-off issue at the VA, but shows the depth of problems that face VA Secretary Robert McDonald , who has been at the helm since the end of July. “I think it’s symptomatic and we have a long way to go,” Ms. Walorski said.
Of the nearly 80,000 calls made to the hotline in fiscal-year 2013, more than 21,000 went to an answering machine because counselors weren’t available, and 13,000 calls weren’t returned because messages were inaudible or callers didn’t leave contact information, the inspector general said. And none of the more than 50,000 referrals made by the call center were monitored or followed up for quality control.
“Everyone is pretty disappointed in the execution of the call center,” said Baylee Crone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “The use of the voice-mail system should never have happened. ”
The inspector general found counselors “often did not log in or did not spend the entire day logged into the call center telephone system,” and records were inadequate so inspectors couldn't account for time not spent taking calls. Staffing at peak periods was inadequate, and many calls went to an answering machine rather than being handled by a counselor.
“In our opinion, the majority of these calls could have been answered by counselors, instead of the answering machine,” the report said. An inspector-general spokeswoman said the center had 60 workers at the time of the audit.
The VA concurred with the report’s findings and agreed to eliminate the use of answering machines, develop new training for counselors, and establish a system to measure employee performance—all things targeted for completion in early 2015. The VA is also in the middle of an overhaul known as the MyVA program, which includes streamlining the agency and improving customer service.
“As VA undergoes a major transformation to better serve Veterans thorough the MyVA initiative, we will be looking at how call centers like the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans and others can be organized to make it easier for Veterans to take advantage of the services and benefits that Veterans have earned and deserve,” the VA said.
“Their plan is pretty ambitious,” said a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office, who said the most pressing concern—that veterans are pushed into voice-mail queues—hasn't necessarily been addressed. “We’re not sure that if we called today that we wouldn’t get sent to an answering machine,” she said. The inspectors will check back with the VA in three months to check on progress of fixes.
In 2009, then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced a goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. The number of homeless vets fell by 33% since 2010 to just under 50,000 in January 2014, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Mr. Shinseki resigned in April, amid a scandal after whistleblowers exposed systemic problems at the department.including employees who routinely misreported patient wait times to make it seem as if benchmarks were being met. Long patient wait times didn’t directly cause patient deaths, but did contribute to them, according to inspectors.
Congress passed a more-than $16 billion emergency funding bill to help VA fill staffing gaps and speed treatment to vets who had been waiting for appointments.
In July, Mr. McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble Co. was named new secretary and immediately embarked on a nationwide tour of VA facilities and kicked off an effort to revamp the VA.
Write to Ben Kesling at benjamin.kesling@wsj.com

03 December 2014

VA Names VA Whistleblowers as "Public Servants of the Year"

By Joe Davidson December 3, from the Washington Post

Federal employee whistleblowers, too often an harassed segment of the workforce, were praised Wednesday by the agency responsible for protecting them.

The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) honored three Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) whistleblowers Wednesday, all physicians who had key roles in uncovering major issues at VA facilities.

Because they and other whistleblowers came forward, problems such as the cover-up of long wait times for veterans seeking medical care were exposed.  The wait-time scandal led to the resignation of the VA secretary and legislation providing the department with additional resources to meet patient needs.

The whistleblowers honored with OSC’s Public Servant of the Year Award were:
• Katherine Mitchell, who “disclosed critical understaffing and inadequate triage training in the Phoenix VA medical center’s emergency room,” according to an OSC statement.
• Phyllis Hollenbeck, who “blew the whistle on chronic understaffing at the Jackson (Miss.) VA medical center [and] problems with the supervision of nurse practitioners.”
• Charles Sherwood, who “brought forward concerns [about] improper practices in the Jackson VA medical center’s radiology department.”

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner said the three honorees “turned the public spotlight on serious threats to patient health and safety at the Phoenix and Jackson, Mississippi VA Medical Centers. Because of their efforts, veterans are now far more likely to receive the treatment they deserve.”

“They are part of a much larger group of whistleblowers,” she added, “who have contributed to much-needed reforms at the Veterans Health Administration.”

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012.

New Retired Affairs Office Report Issued

Recently the military's Retiree Affairs Office released a huge review of current military and veterans' issues. CLICK HERE for their December 2014 report. CLICK HERE for their equally-helpful October 2014 report, which includes an excellent article debunking the supposed-advantages of the Redux retirement option and its 15-year $30,000 bonus...which ends up costing retirees hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost retirement benefits compared to regular retirement plans.

Tom Philpott also did a great article on this scheme, so horrible a blow to military members it makes the military one of the worst predators around.

02 December 2014

Overview of Veterans' Agent Orange Legislation

http://covvha.net/© 2014 ‎(COVVHA) Children Of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance INC
Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange: Legislative History, Litigation, and Current Issues – R43790
By Sidath Viranga Panangala, first published December 1, 2014, Congressional Research Service
The U.S. Armed Forces used a variety of chemical defoliants to clear dense jungle land in Vietnam during the war. Agent Orange (named for the orange-colored identifying stripes on the barrels) was by far the most widely used herbicide during the Vietnam War. Many Vietnam-era veterans (and a great many scientists) believe that exposure to Agent Orange caused them to contract several diseases and caused certain disabilities, including birth defects in their children, and now their grandchildren.
The Aspen Institute provides an excellent overview of Agent Orange's tragic 50-year history. CLiCK HERE for an excellent summation of legislation being considered in the current Congress. Note that of over 10,000 bills now in process, fewer than 300 have resulted in new laws, and only three dealt with veterans' issues. Thus, any hope for a specific legislative approach to an issue such as Blue Water Navy has odds which appear insurmountable. Note further that the current Congress is properly termed a "do-nothing Congress" because it passed less than half the average number of new laws. And only a few weeks remain for the most serious issues facing the Nation to be addressed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) received the first claims asserting conditions related to Agent Orange in 1977. Although eventually thousands of veterans sought help, VA immediately took the position that Agent Orange was harmless, and any problem weren't anything worse 'than teenage acne," as the then-Administrator of the VA put it.
Since then, Vietnam-era veterans have sought relief from Congress and through the judicial system. Beginning in 1979, Congress enacted several laws to determine whether exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam was associated with possible long-term health effects and certain disabilities. The Veterans’ Health Care, Training and Small Business Loan Act (P.L. 97-72) elevated Vietnam veterans’ priority status for health care at VA facilities by recognizing a veteran’s own report of exposure as sufficient proof to receive medical care, absent evidence to the contrary. This requirement is frequently most noted for being ignored by VA rating officials.
The Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-262) completely restructured the VA medical care eligibility requirements for all veterans. Under P.L. 104-262, a veteran does not have to demonstrate a link between a certain health condition and exposure to Agent Orange; instead, medical care is provided unless the VA determines that the condition did not result from exposure to Agent Orange. This authority was permanently authorized by the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-163).
Likewise, Congress passed several measures to address disability compensation issues affecting Vietnam veterans. The Veterans’ Dioxin and Radiation Exposure Compensation Standards Act of 1984 (P.L. 98-542) required the VA to develop regulations for disability compensation to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange. 
In 1991, in total frustration with VA's determination to block veterans' access to benefits associated with their service in Vietnam, Congress passed the landmark Agent Orange Act (P.L. 102-4) established a presumption of service connection for diseases associated with herbicide exposure. This proved to be the foundational legislation for treatment of Agent Orange-exposed veterans.
P.L. 102-4 authorized (and required) the VA to contract with the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to conduct scientific reviews of the evidence linking certain medical conditions to herbicide exposure. Under this law, the VA is required to review the reports of the IOM and issue regulations, establishing a presumption of service connection for any disease for which there is scientific evidence of a positive association with herbicide exposure. Based on these IOM reports, currently 15 health conditions are presumptively service-connected. The last of the IOM Agent Orange reviews began in October 2014 and will report its results in about two years.
Under current regulations, a service member must have actually set foot on Vietnamese soil or served on a vessel on its rivers (also known as “brown water” veterans) to be entitled to the presumption of exposure to Agent Orange. Those who served aboard deep-water naval vessels (commonly referred to as “Blue Water Navy” veterans) do not qualify for presumption of service connections for herbicide-related conditions unless they can prove that the veteran’s service included duty or visitation within the country of Vietnam itself, or on its inland waterways. 
The law also provides that veterans who can prove exposure to Agent Orange in situations outside Vietnam will receive the same presumption of service connection for recognized Agent Orange illnesses, but VA has resisted any such addition to the numbers of veterans needing treatment. In an Associated Press interview, Dr. Terry Walters, deputy chief consultant for Post-Deployment Health, stated "we have to draw the line somewhere." Veterans object, pointing out that there is nothing in the law, the Federal Register, nor VA's own governing regulation, VA M21-1M, permitting such a line to be drawn, and suggest that Dr. Walter's position reflects unpublished policy, rather than lawful agency procedures. Dr. Walters even argues that few, if any, of the Vietnam war veterans were exposed to Agent Orange.
Post-Vietnam C-123 veterans are the subject of an IOM study due out in January 2015, addressing whether those aircrews will receive care for exposures aboard their former Agent Orange spray aircraft. Along with other veterans' organizations, they are alarmed at recent steps by VA to redefine the basic word "exposure" to exclude exposed veterans by linguistic tricks. VA's Office of General Counsel in September 2014 wrote that VA has the authority to redefine any words not otherwise defined in legislation, even if the redefined medical or scientific terminology conflicts with other federal agencies.
Recently, Vietnam-era veterans and scientists familiar with the issue have increasingly expressed concerns about all types of medical issues occurring in their children, regardless of age, and in successive generations. Furthermore, they have asserted that more research should be done on paternally mediated birth effects, so that compensation policies might be developed similar to those that address maternally mediated birth effects of Vietnam-era progeny.
The complete PDF of this Agent Orange report by Sidath Viranga Panangala is available:Date of Report: November 18, 2014pages: 22Order Number: R43790e-mail:congress@pennyhill.com Phone: 301-253-0881

29 November 2014

VA Redefines "Exposure" to Block Agent Orange Exposure Claims

OSHA, CDC, NIH and all the others...not quite good enough for VA. At least, not when VA is casting about for something to use to prevent veterans' exposure claims.

To other federal agencies, exposure is defined as contact between a chemical (of any type) and the outer boundary of an organism. CDC, in about the same manner, defines exposure as:
Exposure: Contact with a substance by swallowing, breathing, or touching the skin or eyes.
OHSA defines occupational exposure...the kind experienced by C-123 aircrews, as:
Occupational Exposure means reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee's duties. 
But the VA needed to create its own definition. Not that there was anything incorrect or unscientific in standard medical or scientific definitions of exposure...its just that VA needed to create a definition to prevent exposure claims. All the other, scientifically correct definitions were, in fact, accurate but that was exactly why VA needed to create its own. Accuracy, and scientific correctness, were what VA saw as the problem in standard definitions of exposure.

VA needed to change the meaning of the word to prevent exposed veterans from qualifying for treatment of Agent Orange exposures.  Here's what the VA invented in their Post Deployment Health Section of Veterans Health Administration, in response to staff members insisting that no C-123 veterans would be permitted to have their Agent Orange exposure claims approved:
Exposure = contamination field + bioavailability.
As VA's Office of General Counsel explained, VA hasn't needed to define the word "exposure" before. There hadn't been any need, because  for one thing, VA never pretended to have the regulatory or scientific authority, or the need, to create its own unscientific and policy-oriented definition of the word. For nearly every situation, the standard reference of Dorlands Medical Illustrated Dictionary was ideal for every occasion.

But that need to come up with VA's own definition, however unscientific, arose just as soon as C-123 veterans pointed out the 1991 Agent Orange Act, and the multiple postings in the Federal Register all very clearly specify "exposure' as the single qualification for veterans to be able to seek VA medical care for Agent Orange-related illnesses.

So VA couldn't easily escape the obligation, oft-repeated, of honoring exposure claims and thus it simply changed the definition of the word...at least, within the VA. That's how the DOD, USPHS, CDC,NIEHS, EPA, NIH, OSHA, WHO, and all other government agencies consider C-123 veterans to have been exposed to Agent Orange, but the VA uses its private, and very unique, redefinition just so that the vets' claims can be denied.

28 November 2014

VA Redefines "Exposure" All By Itself

Definitions. VA regularly uses standard definitions of medical and scientific terms. After all, the more inclusive the definition of any scientific term, the more scientific it is. But if VA simply doesn't like definitions universally accepted in medicine and science, VA has no problem creating its own definitions. And VA's Office of General Counsel suggests it can do just that, even if the redefinition is specifically to disqualify veterans claiming disability benefits.

"Exposure" per Dorlands Medical Illustrated Dictionary
The CDC definition wasn't good enough for VA. Neither was the National Toxicology Program. Not even Dorlands Medical Illustrated Dictionary, otherwise perfect for the VA throughout the medical and legal systems. But no reference, no glossary of terminology, was good enough to help VA ignore exposure claims, so it decided to redefine "exposure" all by itself, for its own purposes of preventing veterans' exposure disability claims. All other medical and scientific definitions in Dorlands were fine for VA's use all the way up to the Supreme Court, but VA needed a special definition for that single word of exposure.

Why? VA finds itself stuck with the word exposure already used in the 1991 Agent Orange Act, and used by the VA itself in at least three separate Federal Register announcements it published regarding how they would treat non-Vietnam Agent Orange exposures. No other qualifiers were used...only the word exposure.

But once veterans began pointing out to the VA that VA's own regulation, VA M21-1MR, and the Federal Register and the 1991 Agent Orange Act simply and clearly specified exposure as the principal qualification for veterans to be eligible for exposure care and other benefits, VA needed to find a way to escape constraints it had created for itself so that it could better deny exposure claims from exposed veterans.

What to do? What might work to help VA avoid providing exposure care and benefits to exposed veterans, having found itself stuck with the word?

VA found their perfect solution in Lewis Carroll's  Through the Looking Glass. Specifically, the wise, and slippery, words of Humpty Dumpty who tells Alice:
“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is
,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
 VA's approach: redefine the word exposure within the VA to prevent the exposure claims. VA's Post Deployment Health Section simply created its own definition: "Exposure = contamination field + bioavailability." Adding the separate term of bioavailability was the master stroke, because most exposure situations leave the exposed vet without such proof, especially when medical problems are manifested only decades later, as in the case of Agent Orange exposures.

Confounding exposure with bioavailability, which is actually an element in risk assessment, let VA redefine away any threat that it might have to honor its commitments to veterans suffering from Agent Orange illnesses. VA simply disqualified the veterans by changing the meaning of the word.

VA's determination to have exposure mean only what VA chooses to make it mean was first noted in Post Deployment Health's 2011 VHA Issue Brief, and soon thereafter in the Agent Orange poster presentation several staffers made at the 2012 Society of Toxicology conference. It was years before veterans even noticed the slight-of-hand, years before anyone noted how VA had played the vets.

In 2010 President Obama termed the overall Agent Orange problem "the 40-year wait." Decades of misery which, as described in the White House press release, the President offered his "unwavering support" for "justice long overdue." Promising words indeed, eagerly accepted five years ago by veterans whose cancers, heart disease and other maladies were among the presumptive illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposures. A 40-year wait seems still too short, from the VA's perspective.

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that's all."

By its unique redefinition of exposure, VA indeed resolved the question of who is the master (hint; its not the veteran!) and resolve its concerns about how to prevent treatment for exposures suffered by veterans. VA had the clear obligation to honor exposure claims from post-Vietnam veterans who had proof of their exposures, but VA created an escape clause for itself. And thereby, dishonored the Department.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has reasonable discretion in addressing veterans' claims. Congress and the public expected VA to use that discretion in a more inclusive manner, to evaluate various situations and honor legitimate claims under the law in a responsible manner.

Neither Congress nor the public expected VA to instead be resolved to prevent veterans claims.

Rather than keep Lincoln's promise, VA is more determined to show veterans "which is to be master!" After all, as Post Deployment Health told the Associated Press, "We have to draw the line somewhere." And Post Deployment Health is firmly dedicated to drawing its lines however necessary, just so long as claims can be denied. Somehow, policy trumps law in Veterans Health Administration.

25 November 2014

VA Violates 2010 Order from US Circuit Court of Appeals

Veterans Benefits Administration has violated a 2010 order from the US Circuit Court of Appeals. VA had been ordered to publish, and to implement, various rules involving Agent Orange exposure and veterans' benefits. The order flowed from a petition for a writ of mandamus from several veterans organizations and the National Veterans Legal Services Program.

And involved was the eligibility – the right – of C-123 veterans to exposure benefits.

The court approved the request for the writ and ordered the Secretary to publish in the Federal Register the changes in benefits recommended shortly before by the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine. The 1991 Agent Orange Act states that the Secretary has 60 days to implement such changes and the writ enforced that timely response upon the VA, which VA had been stalling on for too long.

The VA complied with the order, and on August 30 2010 published in the Federal Register the required rule changes bringing into effect the recommendations from NAS. C-123 veterans are directly affected in two ways:
1. The announcements in the Federal Register are binding upon VA 
2. The announcement on August 30 2010 included the VA's statement that no revision on VA regulations (VA 21-1MR) was necessary to address non-Vietnam exposure claims because VA would presume all such situations with recognized Agent Orange illnesses resulting would be treated the same as Vietnam veterans' "presumptive service connection"

So now VA has dodged its obligations to C-123 veterans by redefining "exposure" to prevent acknowledging C-123 veterans' fact-proven exposure claims. Setting up a definition of exposure unique to federal government medical and scientific agencies, VA defies opinions submitted by DOD, USPHS, CDC, EPA, NIH and other authorities to pretend this group of vets were never exposed at all.

And in this deception, not only do they defy their own rules, which courts have said have the rule of law, but they defy the US Circuit Court of Appeals. This is because, having published as ordered the changes recommended by the NAS, VA opts to avoid enforcing them and has for years refused to permit C-123 veterans to receive VA medical care.
VA Announcement in Federal Register
30 August 2010

19 November 2014

C-123 Vets Make Presentation to Institute of Medicine Agent Orange Committee

For our third time since January 2013, on November 17 2014 the C-123 Veterans Association presented an update on our Agent Orange experience to the Institute of Medicine. This time, the IOM was beginning a special, final 24-month examination of virtually all Agent Orange issues with a special focus on newly published scientific and medical literature.

Unlike the first of these meetings back in 1994, only three veterans were present to address the committee during its Monday public forum. In 1994, hundreds of concerned veterans and their advocates made clear to the VA and the IOM the depth of our anger and disappointment.

This time, on Monday November 17, it was immediately clear that so many of those passionate advocates are no longer with us, or no longer able to advance the cause of exposed veterans. The three folks on Monday did their best, and we'll know more in 24 months when the committee's report is finally published.

Who knows...it might be the last one in history!

C-123 Agent Orange IOM Report Delayed – Again!

Word was received yesterday from the Institute of Medicine that the anticipated C-123 Agent Orange study, under way since February and promised out of the IOM by the end of September, has been delayed until mid-January.

It isn't the IOM! The VA has informed the IOM that the department doesn't have the time to review the IOM report, and therefore it can't be released for another six weeks or even longer.

This is reprehensible! Especially so, because VA ordered its regional claims offices to "postpone" all C-123 claims decisions until the IOM report comes out. This flies against VA's own rules spelled out in VA 21-1MR, which hold that claims must be processed promptly once records are complete and a JSRRC response is on file.

VA's stall has meant nine months (so far) of VA refusing to admit C-123 veterans to their hospitals. Nine months of suffering and deaths.