The Society of Toxicology on Friday announced that they'd take no action in our request to challenge the VA's redefinition of the fundamental term "exposure." VA had used an SOT meeting for a poster display, on on that poster stated "Exposure=contamination field+bioavailability."
Bioavailability is not a prerequisite for the fact of exposure, but rather flows from it. The VA's redefinition was policy-driven because the law simply states Agent Orange exposed veterans will be cared for...thus VA had to claim we were never exposed. They did so by adding an impossible proof...that of bioavailability...to their in-house redefinition. Our request for SOT to challenge this deception was formally denied Friday.
Our response to SOT leadership:
Please thank Dr. Lehman-McKeeman for her response to my requests. Although disappointing, her letter makes clear the role of SOT, and the Society's views.
In my layman's world, however, good people seek to make right the wrongs which befall one another. Flying aeromedical evacuation missions in peace and war, I spent 26 years of my life, and became disabled for the rest of my life, doing so on behalf of my fellow citizens.
Our concern now is for my fellow veterans of the C-123 warplanes, upon which we were exposed to Agent Orange residue. Here, using their poster display as their vehicle, the VA has hijacked a fundamental term ("exposure") vital to SOT, and, for purposes of the VA itself, has redefined that term within their agency without even a comment from their peers. This is a wrong, not yet challenged, which has been dealt veterans of the C-123.
This is a wrong dealt us by the VA through the facilities of the SOT. While President Lehman-McKeeman understandably and quite properly defends the neutrality of SOT, I cannot imagine her accepting without comment any such unscientific redefinition of basic toxicological terms to achieve policy objectives had the actions been FDA, NIH, CDC or other agencies, or especially, commercial firms.
However such a redefinition were to be attempted...poster display, articles, speeches, product literature...it calls for a challenge if it is unscientific and incorrect. The VA shouldn't be entitled to hide behind the scientific skirts of the SOT to hurl out policy decisions via redefinition of scientific terms.
Too often, if veterans are involved, researchers, universities, federal agencies and professional societies such as SOT abandon us. Here again, veterans are abandoned by professionals from whom we simply sought comment.
Right or wrong? It still seems a modest and appropriate request.
Does SOT define exposure as does the ATSDR, or does SOT yield to VA's definition?
Should I also understand from her letter that my parallel requests for submitting a poster display from The C-123 Veterans Association, and the submission of a letter from us in Toxicological Sciences are both denied?
Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Chair, The C-123 Veterans Association