30 September 2012

VA C-123 Agent Orange Denial - Physicians' Opinions Only?

The VA's Public Health folks, and especially the Director of Compensation, have aggressively countered every argument we've put forward about our Agent Orange exposure aboard our C-123 aircraft. With their most recent action, denying my own Agent Orange application, the VA dismissed the opinions of noted scientists because these experts weren't physicians.

Interesting. Particularly so, because the VA's position where they've twisted the acknowledged contamination of the C-123 into a hypothesis that exposure to aircrew was unlikely, they turned to a scientist, and not a physician, to develop their position. A recent University of North Carolina grad (where our daughter graduated also!) While very hard to locate in Google Scholar, the VA's toxicologist's specialty seems to be mollusk toxicology and apparently hasn't published much since receiving the doctorate in 2011. 

So the VA assigned their expert to, not as the public would would hope, examine with an open mind the issue of C-123 dioxin contamination and aircrew exposure, but instead construct whatever negative argument that would suffice to deny veterans' their benefits. Science, justice and law notwithstanding! And the VA "expert", with only limited experience, concluded (as directed) aircrew exposure was an "unlikely" situation, a view used immediately by the VA, even in the face of numerous expert toxicologists (both university-based and from other federal agencies including NIH and CDC) with over three decades experience who have all concluded veterans were indeed exposed. Thus, the VA has denied medical care to Agent Orange-exposed veterans based solely on the selective list of publications reviewed - and no publications were permitted to be reviewed except for very old ones or ones which in some way had a negative perspective. This kind of science would never be accepted in a peer-reviewed journal!

I sure hope we can trust the VA's staffer to have gained a comprehensive grasp of dioxin-related health issues in this first year with the VA. 

But amazing that the VA denies the expertise of ten other PdDs whose research confirms aircrew exposure...denies the exposure because these PhDs aren't physicians. 

But neither was the VA toxicologist! Clearly, then, the VA accepts VA PhD judgements only if the PdD works for the VA and opposes veterans issues!

Please try Google Scholar for a search on (sorry, name deleted to be polite) who is barely a blip on the toxicology radar. Then,  compare it to a search for Dr. Jeanne Stellman, for whom Scholar reports hundreds upon hundreds of publications, references, authorities. Dr. Stellman, who has for decades been the go-to expert scholar sought out by the National Academy of Sciences, the US Congress, the Federal courts, government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Sciences, the Canadian government and even the USAF.

Dr. Jeanne Stellman, Professor Emerita Columbia
University Mailman School of Public Health
It is interesting to note that VA's toxicologist, in preparing the poster presentation at the 2011 Society of Toxicology conference, improperly cited authors who had asked that their studies not be used regarding aircrew exposure. Interesting that VA ignored the already published findings by Dr. Stellman, Dr. Fred Berman at Oregon Health Sciences University, and Dr. Tom Sinks, deputy director of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry...ignored them because only materials supporting the VA's position were to be used! One wonders why the SOT accepted such a poster presentation!

We are also left wondering why the VA develops a toxicology-based argument against aircrew exposure, and then twists it to rule invalid the opinions of the best scientists in the field of toxicology and accepts instead a literature by a recent graduate just settling into the responsibilities of the new VA job...as a toxicologist!  

Ya gotta laugh or start crying!

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