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.)

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