27 February 2014

VA Uses IOM For New Delays in C-123 Claims

Thanks to the VFW, some clarification has come from VA's Compensation and Pension regarding their position blocking all C-123 exposure claims. VFW reports that C&P stated:

"We consider claims as received and will consider any and all medical and/or scientific evidence provided.  If evidence provided and/or obtained results in a determination that there is reasonable doubt as to the cause of an exposure, the claim will be granted. 

We have asked the Institute of Medicine to look at the potential for harmful exposure to Agent Orange in C-123s that were used to spray the chemical in Vietnam.  We expect their report to be released in the first quarter of FY 15.  VA will review it and brief the Secretary on any findings and recommendations." 

In the meantime, we will consider claims on a case by case basis.”

I wonder why this was a month ago, with no involvement of the affected veterans?

Problem: VA Compensation and Pension, and VA Post Deployment Health (which issues the project to the IOM), have already ruled that no "reasonable doubt" will be permitted to exist. They already told us they'd decided no C-123 veterans were exposed, and therefore no claims will be honored. Putting a fine point on it, Dr. Peterson actually said "probably not" when asked if any C-123 claims could ever be approved.

And Compensation and Pension already told us that no amount of evidence from whatever source would be permitted to move a claim to reasonable doubt or "as likely to as not" because absolutely no doubt exists (per policy) in their minds.

There is no doubt in our minds, either. We were exposed. So says the CDC/ATSDR, the NIH/National Toxicology Program, the US Public Health Service and many others. The law clearly states exposed veterans will be treated for Agent Orange-type illnesses, as reaffirmed by the VA itself in the Federal Register of 31 August 2010. Exposure is the key, and exposure is what VA has fought. And lost.

Now, thanks to an excellent juried article published in the Journal of Environmental Research, exposure to military herbicides is in no doubt. VA's highly selective choice of references in their "thorough" review of scientific literature won't hold up to a juried article by distinguished experts, especially with the weight of the other findings and opinions.

So...VA, seeing the ground disappear from beneath their platform of exposure denial, now proposes to change tactics. They'll call for a two to three year time out by NOW turning to the Institute of Medicine.

Readers will recall our enthusiasm back in early 2012 when we met with VA's Post Deployment Health in a conference hosted by Senator Burr's staff. The VA explained that they would not yield on considering our claims for Agent Orange exposure. But at the end of our discussion VA promised us as a compromise a special review through the Institute of Medicine. That promise was broken, then finally ordered in March 2014.

In May 2012, the Air Force released its now-tainted UC-123 Consultative Report which didn't agree with veterans' claims, nor with other government agencies which had opined that the C-123 crews were exposed. The VA, without discussion with the veterans to whom they'd made their promise, promptly broke their promise and cancelled the IOM study.

Ever since, VA raters have continued denying claims by citing non-existent regulations prohibiting recognizing our exposure, or saying a thorough search through military records fails to show evidence of exposure, or TCDD is harmless...a variety of Compensation & Pension-provided boiler plate denials.

VA slams us with one of two, or perhaps both, harmful results. One is that the IOM project will float back to VA in 2015, and perhaps a reaction from the Secretary a year or so later.  Great, says VA, because at least they avoid covering expensive medical care for Agent Orange-exposed veterans for another two or three years...on top of the years we've already waited. On top of the two years since their last broken promise...now they suggest we wait a few more years. Back in 2012, Dr. Dick said it would only take six months...but now VA certainly hopes to stretch that out as far as possible...the longer the wait, the greater the savings for VA.

The second possible result is that IOM disagrees with the medical impact of the C-123 exposures. VA would then deny all claims and insist that BVA also deny appeals. VA hopes for both results.

But (we pray) an IOM decision is unlikely to go against the C-123 veterans. Exposure and medical impact are already evidenced. No medical tests could prove bioavailability today, given the half-life of dioxin in the human body is seven years and it has been 32 years since the veterans' last exposure, and 42 since the veterans' earliest exposures.

But lets say the IOM fails to support the veterans' assertions. VA is still faced with the obligation to treat all veterans exposed to military herbicides. Does Compensation & Pension expect VA to turn to Congress and ask for new legislation to prohibit Agent Orange claims from C-123 claimants?

This won't wash! Two years ago, we fell for it and accepted with good graces VA's promise to seek an opinion from IOM. They broke that promise. Now that we have even more proof, even clearer legal foundations, even stronger support, VA is telling us they've discovered a new way to delay.

Delay, delay, delay until we die. The more of us who die off, the greater the VA savings.

We have to ask our legislative representatives and veterans' organizations not to let this happen. Our claims are fully justified today, and it is immoral and illegal to block our access to VA medical care for more years.

If the USAF had made known our exposures when they were first identified in 1994, those of us with Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses could have sought care then and since. Instead, all contamination information was "kept in official channels only" per order of the USAF Office of Environmental Law.

We began uncovering the C-123 contamination story in early 2011 and faced the immediate, automatic, mindless VA denial. Post Deployment Health had the responsibility to look into this in a pro-veteran manner, but instead stooped to redefinition of exposure to prevent acknowledgement of our proven exposures.

They denied perfectly valid claims stating TCDD is harmless. They ignored official confirmations of our exposure submitted by the ATSDR, ignored and tried to hide findings that crews were exposed and that our cancer risks were 200-fold greater, and completely mischaracterized the ATSDR conclusion by 180 degrees. They ignored the finding submitted in our support by the CDC/NIESH. They manipulated responses from the JSRRC. And I believe the Secretary isn't fully informed about any of this.

Compensation and Pension knows exactly what they are doing. They are skillful and dedicated. Dedicated to preventing our claims because of their personal preferences to block us.

Compensation and Pension knows exactly what they are doing. At our average age of 65, with even a regular life expectancy of seven years remaining, VA now suggests their scheme to consume 40 to 60% of our remaining life expectancy waiting to see what the Secretary will do.

Compensation and Pension knows exactly what they are doing. At our ages, with (from the webmaster's situation) heart disease, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, avascular necrosis, spinal cord injury and prostate cancer...they propose that a guy like me wait more years to see if the VA will try to save my life?

Immoral, Unethical. Illegal. Unscientific. How dare they scheme to lock VA hospital doors for another two or three years?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Got something to share? Nothing commercial or off-topic, please.