31 December 2013

Yale Law Study: C-123 Exposure Claims Proved Valid!

Dedicated students and faculty at Yale Law, as part of their Veterans Law Clinic, have completed a scholarly and highly detailed review of our C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims. Conclusion: the C-123 veterans were indeed exposed to military herbicides, and fully meet the law's requirement for service connection for Agent Orange presumptive illnesses.
Their report:

We conclude that existing evidence indicates that C-123 veterans satisfy the legal standard for “actual exposure” to tactical herbicides.  These veterans are thus entitled to presumptive service connection for listed diseases.  Because those veterans who served on C-123 aircraft formerly used to spray Agent Orange and other tactical herbicides can prove actual exposure, by law and regulation they need not demonstrate that they served in the Republic of Vietnam, nor are they required to present evidence bearing on “bioavailability” of herbicides, the duration or magnitude of their exposure, or any other criteria.   
Under existing medical and scientific evidence, service on C-123 aircraft used to spray Agent Orange satisfies the VA’s standard for actual exposure to herbicides. Thus, veterans who served on such aircraft and who have a disease listed as service-connected for exposure to tactical herbicides are entitled to disability benefits on that basis.  In addition, like all veterans, C-123 veterans are eligible to seek benefits even for non-listed diseases, if the veteran can establish a medical nexus between the disease and the herbicide exposure. 
The Yale brief, 15 pages plus four exhibits, details the full scope of C-123 veterans' eligibility for veterans benefits due to exposure to military herbicides. Dismissed with expert legal foundation are VA excuses about "bioavailability," "dried dioxin," "regulations prohibit recognition" and other flimsy excuses the VA has thrown at us for two years.

The brief will be posted for veterans, service officers and veterans' attorneys to use in about a week. It will also be excellent material for supporting "clear and unmistakable errors" named above.

Naturally, the VA will continue to deny claims, even citing as they have done, that TCDD (the toxin in Agent Orange) is harmless. VA will continue to cite anything and everything that comes to mind for their denials, however completely false, illegal or misleading, because with a denial at least they savor the victory of delaying a valid claim for years until BVA action. All that ever happens, regardless of deception at VBA and Post Deployment Health, is a correction many years down the road at the BVA. The VA twisted science, truth and justice to improperly deny C-123 claims will be long-since retired by then.

As Post Deployment Health already informed us when we met in Washington, hosted by Senator Burr's staff, no amount of proof from whatever source will be permitted to qualify a C-123 veteran's claim for Agent Orange exposure, because Post Deployment Health has already decided against us. And as VHA told Major Terry Redd US Army Chemical Corps (then a military legislative fellow) VA will never permit a C-123 claim to succeed.

I guess "veteran-friendly" is defined differently at VHA. Because they are responsible for administering the laws, they believe they are free to disregard those very laws until directly ordered by a court to do otherwise. If the law reads "exposure," as it indeed does, VA feels empowered to disregard that by adding qualifiers selected by them to prevent our protection under the very laws VA is charged to enforce.

Still, the Yale brief will empower independent-minded rating officials to do what's right. The Yale brief will better explain VBA's deceptions at BVA hearings, and gives us (eventually) a tremendous advantage in this otherwise unfair contest.

Not being held to the same standards of honor and honesty as are veterans in our claims, VBA will quickly invent whatever flimsy challenges they wish to dismiss the Yale brief, just as VBA sneers at expert input from the Center for Disease Control, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the EPA, the National Institutes of Environmental Safety and Health, the US Public Health Service, VA physicians, scientists, and dozens of medical schools and schools of public health.

Anything, regardless of legal or scientific merit, not in line with VBA's pretense that C-123 vets weren't exposed is considered useless testimony at the VA.

Again, their view is that live veterans are simply a waste of space.

30 December 2013

Good News On Claims Backlog

(we congratulate the VA on this noteworthy achievement –but note that much of the "improvement" in backlog has been through the too-rapid, too-little-considered claims being denied to get them from one pile (backlog) into another (appeals.)
Stars and Stripes: For the first time since Barack Obama was elected president, the veterans claims backlog will end this year lower than it began.
Department of Veterans Affairs officials say they’re on track to end the backlog entirely sometime in 2015.
At the start of December, the claims backlog — the number of cases unfinished for more than 125 days — sat just under 393,000 cases. Critics call that an embarrassingly large number, especially considering that the White House pledged to fix the problem almost four years ago.
But VA officials say eliminating the backlog was always expected to be a multiyear process, with the bulk of the progress coming this year. In March, the backlog total peaked at more than 608,000 cases. More than one-third of that caseload was gone by the end of the fall.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has credited new computer processing systems, mandatory overtime for claims processors and new filing options for this year’s decrease.
The department also benefited from a slowdown in the number of new claims filed this year, allowing more resources to clear older ones. Fiscal 2013 was the first time in five years that the department processed more cases than it received.
In November, Shinseki told reporters that “this trend line is in the right direction” but “I’m not dusting my hands off and saying this is a done deal.”
More than half of the department’s claims inventory is still in backlog, underscoring the work still to be done.
Based on the nine-month trend, the department could clear out the backlog in early 2015. Last spring, many veterans groups and lawmakers were questioning whether the end of 2015 was a realistic goal.
The department’s current backlog efforts don’t include the growing number of claim decision appeals, which has topped 266,000 cases. Shinseki has promised that will be the next focus for department officials.

VA Website Offers Open Data - increases access to claims resources

Public now has access to APIs, tools, and resources to build apps that benefit veterans.
Meet NOAA's Unique 3D Weather Tool
Meet NOAA's Unique 3D Weather Tool
(click image for larger view)
The Department of Veterans Affairs has rolled out a new addition to its website as part of the federal government's over-arching Open Data Initiatives effort. Visitors to the VA site now have access to APIs, tools, and resources to develop applications using the VA's open data.
Among other data, the new section features a description of all county, state, and federal VA facilities nationwide that include medical centers and mobile clinics; services for homeless vets, including health care, mental health, housing, and job assistance; and a list of benefits, services, and resources for family caregivers of veterans. The 171 VA datasets currently available to the public reside on Data.gov, a central hub for open government data. Anyone can use the datasets to create Web or mobile apps, visualizations, and other services that benefit veterans.
Driving the open-data effort at the VA is Marina Martin, a former senior advisor to federal chief technology officer Todd Park. Martin was appointed as the agency's CTO earlier this year and has extensive background in open data as a Web developer and business efficiency expert. She had worked on Project Open Data, a collection of code, tools, and case studies to help federal agencies adopt the Open Data Policy, which the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy released in May.
The Open Data Policy, together with President Obama's executive order, also issued in May, urged government agencies to make previously unavailable data accessible to entrepreneurs, researchers, and the public in open, machine-readable formats. Agencies now are required to create an internal index of their data, make a public list of their public data, and list all data that can be made public. They also have access to an open online repository of tools and best practices to assist them in integrating the policy into their operations.
"Data is a valuable national asset that should be open and available to the public, to entrepreneurs, to scientists, and others -- instead of being trapped in closed government systems," Nick Sinai, federal deputy CTO in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in a blog post on Data.gov in late October. Open data is helping the federal government to be more efficient, effective, data driven, and transparent. We've seen the power of open government data in action—and it pays off.

Martin expressed similar sentiment about the benefits of open data in a webcast with Federal News Radio earlier this week. "People want to build apps and services for veterans. What they have to do each time is they end up reinventing the wheel. They end up trying to track down lists of VA hospitals or lists of homeless resources and they start those databases from scratch each time. I'm really hoping through this open data effort we can provide this information in one authoritative source that they can reuse again and again, to make sure that we get these resources and information out to the maximum number of people," Martin said.
The agency is also interested in building out a national database of veteran services that aren't just provided by VA, but provided by everyone, said Martin. While the open data effort is in the early stages, VA is collecting feedback from the public and developers via GitHub.com. According to Martin, the feedback will "encourage a conversation" and help VA make improvements.

27 December 2013

C-123 Exposure Claims - The Effort Makes No Sense Any Longer

One thousand three hundred days.

That's the VA's wait between their blanket policy-driven illegal and automatic denial of every C-123 Agent Orange exposure claim and the hoped-for resolution finally offered by the Board of Veterans Appeals.

That means we're looking at over two years (720 days) for our claims' automatic denial, just for the privilege of then waiting nearly three years for a BVA to set things right at last...over five years wasted (2,080 days, or more.) After seven or so years there'll be a catch-up check, but that doesn't make up for seven years of denied VA medical care, no pharmacy, no rehab, no prosthetics, no dental or eye, nothing. Nothing. A catch-up check won't make up for seven years of denied life-saving medical care for a veteran, or for the financial ruin brought on a family waiting so long. So terribly long.

I don't know about the rest of you but this is crushing...so profoundly depressing I would need to look for the right, dark, hopeless words but they don't exist anyway.

We're in our mid-to-late '60s, so submitting an Agent Orange exposure claim now means in five to six years, thus we're past the average man's life expectancy, and perhaps eventually there may be a big brown envelope announcing a VA disability decision for the widow to open.

Six years is an impossibly long time for a sick vet to wait to get in front of a VA doctor. Thats a long time to wait for help with prescription expenses. That's terribly long time to suffer the financial impact of severe illness, denied all state and federal benefits due disabled veterans. Frankly, those years are years better spent focused on health and family issues. It is a very long time, and that's a skillfully managed part of the VA claims process. The Vietnam War vets call it "waiting for an army to die." Good point. Right on.

Should we give it up? I wish I had, two years ago. I had other stuff to do with my family.

Let's face it. The USAFSAM and HQ/AFMC people at Wright-Pat knew what they were doing in restricting all C-123K herbicide contamination information in their "official use only"(per the USAF Office of Environmental Law) secret file cabinet back in 1996. We never knew what we'd gone through flying the C-123Ks for a decade.

Then, in 2011, the VA beat us to the punch with their staff in VBA and VHA sneaking in that Society of Toxicology poster on "exposure," showing them ready to redefine law, medicine, science and ethics in their determination, ready to get rid of us.

As VBA Compensation and Pension Service told us, "Go somewhere else." As VHA (Dr Michael Peterson, Chief Consultant, Post-Deployment Health) told us, "We all die." VBA even ordered claims denied writing "TCDD has not been shown to cause harm." Amazing...Agent Orange is "harmless", so claims are denied. And besides, claims denied "because (non-existent) VA regulations do not permit" C-123 claims, so VA's Deputy Director Post Deployment Health orders C-123 vets barred even from Agent Orange Registry exams! (telecon w/Major W. Carter)

We innocently thought we'd show them truth in facts and figures, offer scientific and medical support from other federal agencies and our physicians, fill out their forms and sit back for good VA government staffers to do the right thing. Wrong.

We didn't understand the wall of prejudice we were to face...of VA executives willing to write deceptive answers to congressional leaders, of Air Force executives willing to deceive senators asking about aircraft contamination by answering that the aircraft were "safe in their present configuration," – which was smelted aluminum ingots, the fleet of C-123Ks having been destroyed as toxic waste two years earlier.

Little did we know the automatic reaction at 810 Vermont was not only "NO" but "HELL NO. No Way. Never. Not on my watch! Go elsewhere. Cannot permit!" Whatever their motivation is with denying Freedom of Information of requests and otherwise  obstructing our rights under the law isn't an issue.

The issue is that their instructions to the regional offices to deny all claims dooms us just as completely as if we'd never applied in the first place. Believe me, they wish we'd gone away years ago - their C-123 "final solution." Through our United States Senators, Secretary Shinseki promises us careful, individual evaluations, but then VA provides their rating officials boilerplate language to deny each and every claim, stating "Regulations do not permit us to concede exposure." And there are no such regulations, of course...just words VA enjoys typing to deny claims.

Deny, deny until they die. And die we do. Paul, Bob, General Mike, Doc Warner, Gabby, Jim, Mayleen, Lou, and all the others.

A veteran couldn't meet a better nurse or doctor than at the VA medical center. Praise God for each and every one of them, and tell the President the nation should be proud of these dedicated health professionals.

The rest of the VA bunch, those whose job it is to prevent veterans' claims, are not worth writing about. The hell with it. Let's just drop the misery of it.

Preventing claims is VBA's profession, Job One! They do it so very, very expertly, for all but the claims forced on them by law. Any wiggle room, any judgement call, any interpretation required means a denied claim and another VA victory. If laws and Title 38 can be ignored to deny claims...victory. If requirements spelled out in the Federal Register can be ignored to deny claims...victory, sweet victory for VA. And even worse for veterans, VA will ignore their own staff physicians, even if internationally recognized as Agent Orange researchers and professors of medicine as well as VA senior staff.

"Mission accomplished" to VBA means claim denied or a vet passing on while waiting for word. We can't win...they'll just keep obstructing and delaying until the last of us is dead. This is why VA employees draw their paychecks, and how their accomplishments are measured for performance bonuses.

VBA knows the longer they keep us from medical care the faster our demise due to lack of medical care. From their perspective, the sooner the better.

To VBA, a live veteran is a waste of space.

I'll say it again. The 1991 Agent Orange Act and Title 38 spell out that military herbicide exposed veterans will be granted service connection for Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. The Federal Register of 8 May 2001 page 23166 details it further...exposed veterans will be treated the same as Vietnam War veterans. Exposure to military herbicides...the only proof a veteran need provide besides his medical diagnosis.

That's why VA pretends there is no exposure, and in doing so defies official conclusions that C-123 veterans have indeed been exposed...proofs from the NIH, CDC, EPA, US Public Health Service, USAF and others. VA does this by their own, in-house redefinition of "exposure," a definition adding the word "bioavailability" and an act challenged by the National Institutes of Health/National Toxicology Program's Dr. Linda Birnbaum and also by the CDC/Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

These proofs from other agencies will spell success for C-123 claims once at the Board of Veterans Appeals...for the veterans who survive their cancers and heart conditions those extra three to five years!

26 December 2013

VA Claims Agent Orange “Harmless" – Challenged by Other Federal Agencies

– Claim Denied! "No conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects."
(Director VA Compensation Services, personally ordering C-123 vet's claim denial)
– "TCDD is the most toxic of the dioxins, and is classified as a human carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency."
(VA Public Health Bulletin )
C-123 "Provider" flown by us 1972-1982

The VA statements are in obvious contrast with each other, yet the VA permits veterans’ claims to be denied by pretending Agent Orange is harmless as per the first statement...a statement which is unscientific, and which flies in the face of VA’s own Agent Orange research.

In September 2012 VA’s Compensation and Pension Service denied C-123 veterans’ Agent Orange exposure claims. Reaching for whatever could be typed on the denial, no matter whether it be legal or scientific, VA leadership opted to deny the claims by pretending TCDD (dioxin, the toxin in Agent Orange) is harmless.

It seems ridiculous...and it is! However, it satisfies the VA’s desire to prevent C-123 veterans’ claims. They might as well have typed that TCDD is beneficial, good for hair restoration, good for food preservation, and  controls earthquakes or whatever else might come to mind. The claims had to be rejected...so VA pretended that TCDD is harmless. 

Science and Medicine, of course, have found otherwise. In particular, the US Government has found otherwise, and even the VA in various Internet pages agrees that TCDD is a human carcinogen, and dangerous to health. But somehow not in the case of C-123 exposures, reads C&P’s tome.

In this, a policy-driven claim denial, VA’s excuse stands challenged by the rest of the United States Government. The agencies with both the statutory responsibility to determine the toxicity of environmental hazards and the scientific expertise to do so, all challenge the VA.

The two agencies in the van of the challenge are the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the National Institute of Health/National Toxicology Program.

The director of the ATSDR is Rear Admiral (MD) R. Ikeda, who confirmed earlier findings by ATSDR’s director and deputy director which determined C-123 aircraft were contaminated with TCDD and the veterans were exposed. In fact, ATSDR determined these veterans had a 180-times increase in cancer risk because of their service aboard the transports.

The director of the NIH/National Toxicology Program (NIP) is Dr. Linda Birnbaum. On behalf of the NIP, Dr. Birnbaum concluded C-123 veterans were exposed. She stated, “Exposure is assumed based on wipe-tests demonstrating high dioxin concentrations in the C-123K’s. While contact with the aircraft results in exposure to dioxins, the magnitude of these exposures is uncertain.”

Thus, challenging the VA are the ATSDR and the NTP. As regards the NTP, it is important to note that it is a consortium of many government agencies speaking with one voice on toxicological issues. Represented are virtually every concerned US government agency, including DOD, NIH, CDC,  FDA, EPA,  OSHA, National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In her determination that C-123 veterans were exposed, Dr. Birnbaum of the National Toxicology Program represented the many agencies forming the NTP, and her conclusion that C-123 veterans were exposed to TCDD stands in stark contrast to the policy-driven VA refusal to treat C-123 veterans’ Agent Orange illnesses, with VA hiding behind a pretense that TCDD is somehow harmless.

Only VA has stated TCDD is harmless, and VA has made that unfounded statement only in the case of C-123 veterans. VA’s own researchers, including Dr. Mark Garzotto at the Portland VA Medical Center, an oncology urologist treating a C-123 veteran, concluded that Agent Orange-exposed vets suffer twice the rate of highly aggressive prostate cancers. His research was published in May 2013 by the American Cancer Society, and the VA ignored him...without notice at all, his official written opinion that the C-123 veteran was exposed to Agent Orange and that it likely caused the vet’s prostate cancer was simply ignored as the VA denied the vet’s claim. Dr. Garzotto had to be ignored in order to better deny the claim.

TCDD is not harmless as C&P claims. Rather, TCDD is a potent human carcinogen, recognized as such worldwide, and recognized as such by every federal government agency, including the VA. Except...the VA pretends otherwise for the purpose of frustrating C-123 veterans’ claims.
(note: December 2015 – the Department of Justice released VA's admission that their "TCDD is harmless" statement was in error.)

25 December 2013

VA Under Secretary Urges Claim Approval – Except for C-123 Veterans!

VA Under Secretary for Benefits Allison Hickey stirred her troops in the Veterans Benefits Administration forward with her rousing message, "Let's show the world how much we care about them all! Lean in -- grant if you can. Deny only if you must!!!"

Sounds terrific. Great leadership from a woman who knows leadership inside and out. Yet it seems, based on years of our struggle, that the VA feels it "must" deny even in the case of medically and scientifically proven C-123 exposure claims. 

VA policy trumps, law, regulation, the Senate and the House, and General Hickey's message.

VA rejects input from the EPA, NIH, CDC, ATSDR, and US Public Health Service, all of whom support the C-123 exposure claims. VA rejects world-renown Agent Orange scientists who confirm the C-123 exposures. VA rejects any outside government agency, medical school, university school of public health, independent scientist...VA rejects every opinion if it supports the C-123 exposure claims, and VA accepts any opinion which denies it.

It don't seem fair. It seems far, far off from General Hickey's orders to the field..."deny only if you must" being twisted to "deny whenever possible."

VA Mental Health Facilities to Receive Institute of Medicine Review


An IOM committee will comprehensively assess the quality, capacity, and access to mental health care services for veterans who served in the Armed Forces in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND). The IOM committee will assess the spectrum of mental health services available across the entire US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The scope of this assessment will include analysis not only of the quality and capacity of mental health care services within the VA, but also barriers faced by patients in utilizing those services. 

Types of evidence to be considered by the IOM committee in its assessment include relevant scientific literature and other documents, interviews with VA mental health professionals, survey data to be provided by the VA, and results from surveys of veterans to be conducted independently by the committee. Site visits will be conducted to at least one VA medical center in each of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks across the country. 

In addition, the committee will hold an open meeting of experts to discuss the Secretary's plan for the development and implementation of performance metrics and staffing guidance. The committee will provide a final report with recommendations to the Secretary of the VA regarding overcoming barriers and improving access to mental health care in the VA, as well as increasing effectiveness and efficiency.

The committee's first meeting was November 22, 2013. If you have concerns, the IOM welcomes public input. Contact the committee staff.

24 December 2013

Rickenbacker C-123 Widow Seeks Assistance – looking for other veterans

Mrs. Barbara Carson, widow of Major Bruce Carson who flew with the Rickerbacker folks, is looking for veterans who make have known her husband and who might help with her VA claim, recently denied by the VA.

Here is what she has of his service:

Bruce Carson flew with the           355 TASq at Rickenbacker from 1973 to 1978. 
                                                           758 AFRES at Pittsburgh from 1978-79 

At that time he was declared unfit for flying due to a kidney transplant (secondary to lupus, which while not recognized as a result of exposure to agent orange, is statistically, related. 

He retired from the reserves in 1980, and passed from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, an Agent Orange-recognized illness.

Mrs. Carson is looking specifically for news about:
         Robert A Holloway, Lt. Col, USAFR    Info from 1977 (deceased)
          355 TAS (MAC)
          Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio
              Flight Navigatior

          Arthur B. Lewis, Jr, Lt Col, USAFR
          355 TAS (MAC)
          Rickenbacker, AFB, Ohio
              Flight Commander

          Donald M. Jenkins, Col, USAFR
          355 TAS (MAC)
          Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio

          J. L. Townsley, Brig Gen, USAFR    Info from 1975
          302 TAWg (MAC)
          Rickenbacker AFB, Ohio

23 December 2013

VA Official Rejects Institute of Medicine Agent Orange Report!

The VA's Compensation and Pension Service, part of that agency's Veterans Benefits Administration, rejects input from the Society of Medicine's Institute of Medicine Agent Orange Committee!

In his action of September 25 2012 by which he ordered a C-123 veteran's claim for Agent Orange exposure to be refused, The Director of Compensation and Pension Service, determined that no input from scientists was to be accepted by his department. A reasonable conclusion: VA rejects the IOM report because nearly all its members were scientists! VA does, of course, accept input from its own staff scientists, such as its Director, Post-Deployment Health, Dr. Victoria Davey...a scientist, not a physician.

That C-123 veteran's claim had included numerous findings from toxicologists, epidemiologists and other scientists attesting to the contamination of the C-123 and the veteran's own exposure.

Among the official findings confirming the veteran's exposure were those from Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of the National Institute of Health National Toxicology Center and also Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Included was an official finding from Dr. Christopher Portier and Dr. Tom Sinks, Director and Associate Director, respectively, of the CDC Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Included were similar detailed conclusions from leading Agent Orange experts such as Dr. Jeanne Stellman, Professor Emereta at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Seemed impressive, but all were ordered ignored by C&P. Throughout its order forbidding the veteran's claim, C&P rejected scientist after scientist, stating each was "not a medical doctor competent to provide that medical nexus."

Actually, none of the scientists even sought to provide medical nexus, but rather only their qualified professional finding that the veteran had actually been exposed, because exposure itself is the only criteria under the law.

Get it? The scientists were addressing exposure, not medical nexus, so C&P junked all their input because in his view, scientists shouldn't address medical nexus...which they weren't addressing anyway.

Amusing, isn't it? And how very transparent the dedication of Compensation and Pension Service in obstructing valid exposure claims. Amusing also that VA even rejects input from other federal agencies with both the expertise and the statutory authority to decide issues like exposure. It is clear...the only evidence accepted in veterans' claims is that evidence which conforms to the VA's policy objectives of denying Agent Orange exposure.

Ignored throughout the Director, Compensation and Pension's personal rejection of the veteran's claim were the numerous physicians' opinions, perhaps not dealt with because they couldn't be challenged...thus all  were ignored to insure the success of the director's action. In particular, the VA ignored the opinion of its own Portland OR director of urology oncology, Dr. Mark Garzotto, a recognized Agent Orange researcher, who agreed with the veteran's exposure claims.

So how is the conclusion reached that the IOM has been rejected? Because nearly all of the committee members were scientists, and not physicians. In fact, only two of the fifteen Agent Orange experts on the committee were physicians...the others, all scientists whose opinions C&P and the VA have emphatically rejected...at least for purposes of veterans' claims.The IOM fails C&P's physician test!

So..it seems when scientists agree with C&P and the VA, their opinions are somehow acceptable. But when scientists disagree with the Director's personal views, and policy objectives (which are outside the law) of the VA leadership, the scientists' opinions are unacceptable altogether! We note the C-123 Agent Orange research contract the VA has with an agricultural specialist...again, that specialist is not a physician but because he constructs views acceptable to the VA, his opinions are worth purchasing to help obstruct veterans' claims.
So much for the manditory "veteran-friendly" appproach of the Department of Veterans Affairs! Doesn't anyone else see through the VA's "cherry-picking" of input to prevent veterans' claims? The VA is policy-driven to prevent, in particular, C-123 veterans' claims and nothing in two years of our struggle says otherwise!

By the way, VA's Post-Deployment Health Section, which sets VA policy against C-123 claims, is headed by a Dr Victoria Davey, a scientist, not a physician! Her Chief Consultant Post Deployment Health is another scientist, Dr. Michael Peterson. Another example of VA carefully selecting which opinions are acceptable for the purpose of preventing veterans' claims. That gentleman, Dr. Peterson, is the one who responded "We all die" when asked by a veteran if a veteran's claim could be processed before the man died.

Note that we are not saying these VA personnel are not dedicated public servants and well-qualified for their positions–just that VA pretends others, extremely well-qualified and dedicated are not. VA maintains this pretense because the others...Stellman, Berman, Birnbaum, Dwernychuk, Ikeda, Sinks, Portier, Garzatta, Schecter, Miller, etc...are physicians and scientists who disagree with VA policy-driven decisions, and all have concluded the C-123 veterans were indeed exposed!

Perhaps VA should read the CVs of those with whom it disagrees!