27 September 2012

VA & USAF Ignore Leading Agent Orange Expert on C-123 Exposure!

Hard to believe! Both the VA and the USAF opted to completely ignore the expert testimony of Dr. Jeanne Stellman, Professor Emerita at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Why...because it was her firm, expert opinion that our C-123 aircrews definitely were exposed to the deadly TCDD contaminants in Agent Orange when we flew those airplanes 1972-1982. She had to be ignored for the USAF and VA to reach contrary decisions...unless she was ignored her opinion would be emphatic
Professor Stellman

Why is it of concern? Because Dr. Stellman is the "go-to" expert who was relied on by the National Academies in their previous investigations...if her world-renowned expertise was so respected and authoritative in the IOM 2003 and other official reports, what is the excuse used by the VA and the USAF in ignoring her detailed explanation of our exposure aboard the C-123?

Answer: It is the only way to prevent our veterans gaining service-connection and recognition for our exposure. If the authorities were to fairly evaluate Professor Stellman's findings their barrier against allowing us to receive VA medical care disappears!

Background: Because of continuing uncertainty about the long-term health effects of the sprayed herbicides on Vietnam veterans, Congress passed the Agent Orange Act of 1991. The legislation directed the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to request the IOM to perform a comprehensive evaluation of scientific and medical information regarding the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam. Congress had grown tired of the VA's posturing and delaying tactics, so legislation was passed to get them moving.

The IOM formed their Committee on Agent Orange. That committee of medical and scientific experts searched for the most outstanding scientific advice and quickly identified Professor Jeanne Stellman as their trusted  researcher to make appropriate findings and recommendations. In the Committee's 2003 report, Professor Stellman detailed the problems with dioxin, the means of exposure and the best ways to perform epidemiological studies to advance understanding of that toxin's impact on veterans.

Conclusion: So you cannot avoid seeing the conundrum. Stellman...expert enough for Congress. Stellman...expert enough for the Institute on Medicine. Stellman...expert enough for the Committee on Agent Orange. Stellman...one of the top two or three published scientists in this field. But magically...only in Stellman's finding that our aircrews were exposed does her expertise seem to fall short of the threshold necessary for the VA to accept our exposure to have been"as likely to as not". Further, it is impossible to ignore the VA's broken promise, made in our face-to-face meeting with their representatives (VA Public Health) hosted by Senator Burr (NC) in which the issue of our exposure was to be put to the IOM as a special project.

Ever-eager to prevent even a single veteran's access to essential medical care for Agent Orange illnesses, the VA leaped on the Air Force's faulty C-123 literature review, in which the AF said they were unable to reach a definite conclusion about exposure, so the VA took that piece of confused and twisted double-talk to use against us and canceled their promised IOM study. That move was to keep IOM from turning to their trusted expert, Dr. Stellman, who had already voiced her opinion about our exposure in her pivotal 2011 letter.

So let's look at a balance sheet of evidence regarding C-123 aircrew dioxin exposure: On the left, those who weigh in on our having been exposed, and on the right. those who weigh in on an opinion that we haven't been exposed. Judge for yourself! And consider why the opponents of our claim for AO exposure are so dedicated to saving money by preventing access to medical care, and not to fairly considering our situation!

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