05 December 2013

VA: "No information exists about C-123 Agent Orange"

(Note: By December 2015 we'd spent nearly $100,000 to successfully force our Freedom of Information Act requests at the US District Court. VA was judged wrong and abusive in resisting the FOIA, so legal fees were recovered against VA.)

 We've been struggling with this effort to get information from the VA for years now, with Senate and Congressional inquiries, reports by the Secretary, reports by Under Secretary Hickey, reports by others, reports referred to on the Internet, etc.

And now, in response to our latest Freedom of Information Act Request and appeal, we are assured by VA's Assistant General Counsel that no such information exists, other than the Internet postings themselves. How misled must that office be!

No reports. No correspondence. No studies. Nada. Not even the reports and "studies" the Internet pages describe. Not even the materials gathered by VA's participants in conferences and teleconferences with representatives of the C-123 Veterans Association. Nada.

Not even the report submitted under contract with the VA titled "Investigations into the Allegations of Agent Orange/Dioxin Exposure from Former Ranch Hand Aircraft," Agent Orange Investigative Report Series, No. 2, Contract VA-101-12-C-0006, November 2012. This report was provided to the Veterans Benefits Administration...but its existence denied even after it was mentioned in Steve Vogel's Washington Post article in August.

Nada. But remember, folks, the VA is "veteran friendly," law-abiding and even supports the President's policy of complete and open release of documents under the Freedom of Information Act. " It is VA's policy to release information to the fullest extent under the law," reads their web site.

Actually, they don't! The VA treats this information about us as private unto themselves, and they sneer at the FOIA. Cleverly, one branch of the VA claims they have no releasable information while another sits on what they have. Here, VA's Veterans Benefits Administration claims to have no information at all. Even though its Director, Compensation and Pension Services himself hosted a conference between VA and C-123 Veterans Association representatives in February 2012, and himself authored a multi-page denial opinion explaining in detail the VA's campaign against C-123 veterans' claims.

VA seems to pretend that material developed by Veterans Health Administration (the "scientific study" referred to in denying C-123 claims) was never shared with Veterans Benefits Administration. VA seems to pretend that Mr. James Sampsel and Mr. Michael Pharr never received materials dealing with C-123s. 

VA seems to pretend that they are above the law. So far, as regards C-123 veterans' claims, they have been a law unto themselves.

Below, the assurance that no C-123 materials exist within the VA's Veterans Benefits Administration. Remember, too, that our access to information is our right, and here, a right denied us by the VA.


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