30 May 2014

C-123 Veterans Association Statement on VA Resignations

We regret the turmoil recent events have brought the Department of Veterans Affairs and the broader veterans community. Changes like this leave nobody satisfied and everyone on edge, hoping that whatever changes evolve are for the better.

Few of us have dedicated themselves to America's service as well and as long as has General Shinseki. God bless him and his family.

Few of us can imagine the strife ahead for his successor, but all veterans must demand improvement, and support those in leadership positions who show themselves able to being it about.

While the VA's Inspector General has yet more reports to release, there are still issues awaiting their examination. We urge the IG to carefully study exposure issues and the manner in which other federal agencies have tried to bring to the VA challenges to the Department's missteps...and both intrinsic and extrinsic ethical failures resulting in veterans's deaths and continued ill health.

24 May 2014

Springfield Republican Editorial: Justice for C-123 Veterans!

"Why the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to deny the truth of these veterans – an unintended but
life-threatening cost of the Vietnam War — is unconscionable.

The veterans are now paying for their service with their health and their lives. The least the U.S. Department of Veterans Services can do is provide them with medical and disability benefits."

21 May 2014

Current List of Senior VA/DOD Health Officials

  • Surgeon General of the Army – LTG Patricia D. Horoho, NC, USA
  • Navy Surgeon General – VADM Matthew L. Nathan, MC, USN
  • Air Force Surgeon General – Lt Gen Thomas W. Travis, USAF, MC
  • Surgeon General of the United States – RADM Boris D. Lushniak, USPHS
  • Under Secretary of Health for Department of Veterans Affairs – Acting Under Secretary R. Jessie, MD
  • Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs – Jonathan Woodson, MD
  • President of Uniformed Services University – Charles Rice, MD
  • Joint Staff Surgeon – MG Nadia West, MC, USA
  • Director, Defense Health Agency – Lt Gen Douglas J. Robb, USAF, MC
  • Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs (Acting) and Chief Medical Officer Department of Homeland Security – Kathryn Brinsfield, MD, MPH, FACEP
  • 20 May 2014

    Superb VA Care Today in Cheyenne

    Today, as with nearly every other day I've entered VA hospitals since 1992, I have had excellent
    care from physicians, dentists and allied health professionals. I met with a variety of administrative functions on different issues, and was treated respectfully and with sincere concern for my issues.

    There's plenty to say about the VA. Not all of it is bad, and neither is it all good.

    Today, in Cheyenne, this veteran found it excellent and I'm grateful to be their patient. Just as I have been since my first visit. 100% satisfied and grateful.


    19 May 2014

    VA Withholds Vital Documents During C-123 Agent Orange Institute of Medicine Investigation - Refuses FOIA Requests

    Last week C-123 Veterans Association received notice that the VA will not release documents
    requested by the veterans, needed for the Institute of Medicine study now underway in a special C-123 Agent Orange committee.

    The IOM's first public meeting, at which both VA and C-123 veterans presented, was last Thursday, May 15. The next meeting, at which the C-123 veterans are the principal speaker, is June 16.

    Little wonder why VA denies access to materials of such interest to the veterans and the IOM, or at least seeks to withhold it until the committee's report to Secretary Shinseki is submitted...incomplete.

    As separate FOIA request submitted long ago by the C-123 veterans was ignored and forced legal action through the US District Court of Washington, D.C. VA applied several stalls but now has agreed to try...not to actually do...releasing some...not all...of the ordered documents with the final release set by VA as two weeks after the IOM concludes.

    Clever, clever timing to prevent anything disturbing to VHA. These people know how to game their own system. While they'd never wish us ill, or fail to help us on the street or shake hands in church, they show us that veterans are not in their value set. Last week, I was shocked at the vitriol spewed by leaders of other veterans organizations when we met...so many veterans in leadership positions see VA executives in a profoundly negative light (and used very, very nasty words to convey that thought.) For most, they've lost all hope of cooperation.

    Veterans find it amazing that requests for public information...even information about veterans' own health records... are denied by VA's Veterans Health Administration Chief FOIA officer on the artificial basis of "no significant public interest" in the subject, nor any ability of veterans to share the requested information with the public.

    Perhaps, a moment spent with Google would illustrate the intense interest our fellow citizens have in why VA prohibits access to vital medical care, and does this by gaming their own system, reinventing fundamental scientific terms, refusing input from other federal agencies, cherry-picking among its consultants for views already agreeable to the Department in denying Agent Orange's harm, and other VA missteps.

    "We have to draw the line somewhere, " AP quoted VHA. Veterans access to documents in secret VA file cabinets (or what the heck they store stuff in) will help the nation understand why the heck such a line has been drawn over our bodies, and why VA has shown heroic determination in preventing C-123 veterans' claims.

    If there is going to be one lesson this spring and summer, it will be that the people in the Department of Veterans Affairs, with exceptions, are not like us. And do not like us.

    18 May 2014

    C-123 Veterans Seek VA Whistleblower to "Drop A Dime" And Inform New VA HOTLINE

    The VA's new whistleblower hotline is vital to urging VA corrections from within its own ranks.
    We hope it succeeds.

    We also hope that a VA staffer, familiar with the weird three years we've gone through of VA redefining exposure, introducing extra-legal requirements for our claims, and denying Agent Orange exposure claims on the basis that the toxin is harmless, will come forward.

    Many know of the conversations and withheld emails. Do what's right. Now.

    Drop a dime on the VA and tell the hotline what's been done to us!

    Here's the Fox News story about the VA Whistleblower Hotline.

    17 May 2014

    U.S. Government's Unconscionable Treatment of Westover's Agent Orange Exposed Veterans – Springfield REPUBLICAN Editorial

    The Republican Editorials
    By The Republican Editorials 
    on May 16, 2014 at 3:00 PM, updated May 16, 2014 at 4:18 PM

    When retired Major Wesley T. Carter began to experience major illnesses, he wondered why. He started to investigate.

    Carter served as an air medical technician and flight instructor and examiner with Westover’s 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron during and after the Vietnam War.
    Through his research, Carter learned that he was not the only one experiencing serious illness. There were 48 others.

    Freedom of Information requests helped Carter discover the cause: Dioxin, the toxic ingredient in Agent Orange, was to blame. The C-123 Provider planes had been used in Vietnam where the lethal chemical weapon was sprayed.

    Carter's request yielded 15 years of memos, safety reports and complaints from private companies and military workers. In 2000, the government canceled sales of the planes because they were contaminated, and in 2010, the remaining 18 were shredded and smelted to satisfy Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

    "Some of the most compelling documents," writes Jeanette DeForge for The Republican and MassLive.com, "revealed 11 of the 16 planes from Westover tested positive for dioxin when they were examined from 1994 and 1996 – more than a decade after they were retired. One Westover C-123 was labeled 'highly-contaminated.'”

    Now, Carter and other veterans experiencing similar illnesses, have filed an official complaint with the Department of Defense saying they have been improperly denied medical and disability benefits related to their exposure to the carcinogen.

    While veterans who served in Vietnam are automatically granted full medical coverage, these veterans have been continually denied benefits.

    “Our military and civilian scientific documentation establishes the dioxin contamination of at least 34 C-123s, all destroyed by the USAF (United States Air Force) as toxic waste, should retrospectively be designated Agent Orange Exposure sites,” Carter wrote in his complaint.

    If not for Carter's request, the hidden pieces of this sickening puzzle might never have been put together.

    Why the Department of Veterans Services continues to deny the truth of these veterans -- an unintended but life-threatening cost of the Vietnam War -- is unconscionable.

    The veterans are now paying for their service with their health and their lives. The least the U.S. Department of Veterans Services can do is provide them with medical and disability benefits.

    15 May 2014

    DOD Inspector General Immediately Refuses Any Action on C-123 IG Complaint

    Acting with unusual speed, but with their usual refusal to get involved, the Department of Defense (DOD) Inspector General Hotline denied the C-123 Veterans Association request for an investigation into the DOD-maintained Agent Orange exposure site list. Typically, investigations of this type can take a month or more but two days was all DOD needed to throw the issue back at the C-123 veterans, unresolved.

    By simply stating that there was no reason to proceed, DOD closed out the complaint, despite reams of documents already submitted to the official responsible for the list, Air Force Lieutenant General Judith Fedder. General Fedder earlier denied the veterans' request when put directly to her, insisting there was not enough medical evidence to justify such a decision on her part. The veterans pointed out that the issue is not one of medical impact of the lingering Agent Orange, but the simple historical fact of their contamination.

    Both DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs have resisted acting on veterans' requests for action on the issue of C-123 contamination, despite confirmation of exposure provided by the CDC, National Institutes of Health and the US Public Health Service, and numerous universities and medical schools.

    VA has arranged a review of the medical issues involved in the C-123 contamination, a study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, presently meeting in committee in Washington DC. Today's speaker before the committee's public session is Mr. Rick Weidman, Legislative Director for the Vietnam Veterans of America, which has threatened court action if resolution of the veterans' concerns is not forthcoming.

    12 May 2014

    NY Times Publishes Outstanding Agent Orange Update

    Agent Orange’s Long Legacy, for Vietnam and Veterans  
    reporter: Clyde Haberman

    From 1962 to 1971, American C-123 transport planes sprayed roughly 20 million gallons of herbicides on an area of South Vietnam about the size of Massachusetts. Code-named Ranch Hand, this operation reached its peak from 1967 to 1969. (Some members of the Ranch Hand team adopted Smokey Bear of forest-fire awareness fame as a mascot. “Only you can prevent a forest” was their twist on Smokey’s slogan.) To the political and military strategists in Washington, using vegetation-killing chemicals was a legally sound and necessary way to save American and South Vietnamese lives. They cited the British precedent.
    This week’s video documentary from Retro Report, a series that re-examines major stories from the past, returns us to Vietnam and to the chemical most commonly and most notoriously used there: Agent Orange. Named for the color of a stripe girdling the barrels in which it was shipped, it combined two herbicides, one of which turned out to be contaminated with a highly toxic strain of dioxin. No need for alarm, Washington officialdom and chemical company executives insisted at the time. Agent Orange did not harm humans, they said. As the 1960s wore on, those assurances increasingly rang hollow. Researchers found evidence of birth defects in lab animals. American scientists and others began to speak out against the spraying. Opposition to the herbicide campaign mounted, arm in arm with spreading protests against the war itself. In 1970, the Agent Orange spraying stopped. Other chemicals continued to be used until Jan. 7, 1971, when the entire herbicide program was scrapped after a final Ranch Hand run.
    But Agent Orange’s legacy was only beginning. More than 40 years later, it still casts a long shadow.
    Vietnamese accept almost as an article of faith that America’s aerial and ground spraying poisoned their environment, perhaps for decades to come, and is to blame for severe birth defects that afflict hundreds of thousands of their children. Whether that is indeed a reality has not been definitively established. Nonetheless, the United States in recent years belatedly accepted responsibility for helping to clean up dioxin “hot spots,” like former American military bases where herbicides were stored. Last month, a United States-built plant went into operation at the old Da Nang air base. There, soil contaminated with dioxin will be heated to temperatures above 600 degrees Fahrenheit, a level said to render the toxin harmless. This process is supposed to be extended over time to other hot spots.
    Here at home, the war has not ended for many of the 2.8 million servicemen and women who went to Vietnam. These ailing veterans are convinced that their cancers and nervous disorders and skin diseases — not to mention congenital maladies afflicting some of their children — are a result of their contact with Agent Orange. Often enough, that linkage has not been established incontrovertibly. Studies on Agent Orange’s effects tend to use language that is less than absolute. Certain illnesses, for instance, are said to be “associated” with dioxin exposure. Or there is a “presumptive” connection.
    That said, the American government’s resistance to connecting the dots in any manner has melted away over the years. The Agent Orange Act of 1991 accepted a presumed link to illnesses like non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcoma and chloracne. Veterans with those ailments were declared eligible for medical treatment and financial compensation without having to prove they had been exposed to herbicides. Over time, more than a dozen other maladies, including Hodgkin’s disease and prostate cancer, were steadily added to this list.
    And the story is far from over. Some veterans who never set boots on the ground in Vietnam are seeking compensation for their medical woes, among them sailors who served on ships off the Vietnamese coast and airmen who worked on possibly contaminated C-123s that were put to other uses after the war.
    Perhaps no two people embodied the moral complexities and the agony of Agent Orange more graphically than Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. and his son Elmo R. Zumwalt III. Admiral Zumwalt led American naval forces in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970, before he became chief of naval operations. He ordered the spraying of Agent Orange. The son was in Vietnam at about the same time as the father, commanding a Navy patrol boat. Years later, doctors found that he had lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease. He died in 1988 at 42. His son, Elmo IV, was born with congenital disorders.
    The older Zumwalts wrote about their experiences in a book, “My Father, My Son,” published in 1986 and later made into a television movie. Also in 1986, they collaborated on an article for The New York Times Magazine. The son could not scientifically prove that Agent Orange was responsible for his suffering and that of other veterans, he wrote in The Times. “But,” Elmo III added, “I am convinced that it is.” In no way did he blame his father. “I do not doubt for a minute that the saving of American lives was always his first priority,” he said. “Certainly thousands, perhaps even myself, are alive today because of his decision to use Agent Orange.”
    For his part, Admiral Zumwalt, who died in 2000 at 79, wrote that even knowing what he had come to learn about the chemical’s effects, he “still would have ordered the defoliation to achieve the objectives it did, of reducing casualties.” All the same, he became a strong advocate for ailing veterans and the national obligation to compensate them. In 1990, he wrote a report on Agent Orange for the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also testified before a House subcommittee, strongly denouncing previous studies that described the chemical spray as harmless. “That was, of course, the conventional propaganda of the time,” he said.
    There is no shortage of programs initially deemed essential, and safe, only to produce unwelcome consequences. To cite but one, American-hired pilots sprayed herbicides over coca-growing zones in Colombia, part of the so-called war on drugs. People in those regions later reported significant medical problems.
    Who knows what will be discovered someday about the health of Americans who served multiple tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. But first, there is older business to tend to. The ‘60s, it seems, aren’t over yet.

    DOD Inspector General Complaint filed by C-123 Veterans Association

    Today the C-123 Veterans Association filed an official complaint via the Department of Defense Inspector General Hotline, asserting failure of DOD officials to designate Agent Orange-contaminated C-123 aircraft as "Agent Orange Exposure Sites," on a list maintained by the Department of Defense.

    Because the presence (or absence) of sites on the Agent Orange Exposure Site List guides VA in approving or denying veterans' exposure claims, failure by DOD to place these toxic Agent Orange spray aircraft has endangered the health of veterans. VA cites the absence of these Vietnam War Agent Orange-spray aircraft as proof against veterans' claims.

    This is unscientific and illogical. The contamination of the aircraft was established
    by the Air Force itself over decades of testing. More current analysis of those tests led the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the US Public Health Service to inform the VA that the aircraft were contaminated with deadly dioxin, and the veterans exposed.

    Most telling was the analysis by Dr. Tom Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry who concluded that the veterans were indeed exposed, and have a 200-fold greater cancer risk.

    C-123 veterans have sought VA care for their Agent Orange illnesses for years, without success. VA even has denied C-123 veterans' exposure benefits, insisting that the toxin in Agent Orange is harmless. This is a wrong which veterans call on DOD to remedy.

    10 May 2014

    Whistleblower Mental Health Allegations CONFIRMED by VA Officials

    Investigation Proves Whistleblower Claims – VA Neglected some Suicidal Veterans
    note: This Blogmaster is aware of one veteran who previously attempted suicide and sought help from VA mental health facilities and was instead invited to an afternoon veterans' picnic, with no professional follow-up. Claims of depression brought prescriptions for Prozac from a primary care provider.
    The Department of Veterans Affairs has substantiated some of the allegations made last year by a former epidemiologist who claimed that the agency neglected assisting suicidal veterans and was slow to release important research data.
    The former employee, Dr. Steven S. Coughlin, was a principal investigator at the VA’s Office of Public Health until resigning in December 2012. Coughlin testified in March 2013 before an investigative and oversight panel of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. (See “Whistleblower Accuses Government Of Neglecting Suicidal Veterans And Suppressing Science”.)

    The VA’s Office of Research and Oversight investigated Coughlin’s claims and completed a report on its findings last summer. It did not brief Congressional staff of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on its report until January, according to Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.).
    After interviewing several VA staff and reviewing 3,000 pages of relevant documentation, the investigators substantiated three of 10 allegations made by Coughlin:
    ·       VA lost medical data obtained from the children and spouses of Gulf War veterans that might have demonstrated an association between illnesses, including those related to wartime exposure, in service members and their offspring;
    ·       Coughlin’s superiors responded to his concerns in a way that could have been perceived as threatening or retaliatory;
    ·       VA neglected to contact participants in a study of Gulf War veterans who shared suicidal thoughts or feelings.
    Regarding Coughlin’s other claims, the investigators often said the disagreements between Coughlin and his superiors resulted from conflicting priorities.
    While Coughlin, for example, said his supervisors were deliberately withholding important data regarding exposure of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to toxins and inhalation hazards, those interviewed about the claim said the data needed to be cleaned and that analysis should focus on the main subjects of the study, which are traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. The report urges VA to complete the analyses “as expeditiously as possible.”
    Coughlin, who is now a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, claimed that the decision to report his concerns took a toll on him professionally and personally. “I quit my job and left because it wasn’t just one ethical problem, it was a whole constellation,” he said. “I finally had enough.”
    He remains concerned that veterans participating in different VA studies who expressed suicidal feelings have not or may still not get a follow-up call from a mental health provider. Before he left VA, he was eventually permitted to involve clinicians in a 20-year study of 30,000 Gulf War veterans. A team of social workers and psychologists placed follow-up phone calls to nearly 100 veterans who had reported suicidal behavior. The report found that a smaller group of veterans participating in a separate study required follow-up; six veterans were subsequently contacted.
    Coughlin’s supervisors told investigators that they had not rushed to develop a plan for contacting suicidal veterans because they felt doing so “represented a desirable innovation, rather than an immediate need.” They also worried that calling veterans would violate privacy and confidentiality guarantees and “thereby undermine Veterans’ trust in future [Office of Public Health] surveys.”
    Since the investigation concluded, VA has taken several steps to address Coughlin’s substantiated claims.
    Dr. Tom Puglisi, executive director of the Office of Research Oversight at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), said in a statement that the “evolving standard is that participants demonstrating suicidal ideation in research studies should be contacted promptly for clinical follow-up, and VHA expects that future [Office of Public Health] surveys will adhere to this standard.”
    The report recommends increased Institutional Review Board oversight for research conducted by the agency. Office of Public Health supervisors have participated in human resources training in conflict resolution. That office has also established timelines for analyzing and publishing data from major studies on Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, including results that might indicate a neurological explanation for Gulf War Illness.
    In a statement, the agency acknowledged the results of the investigation and said the its “highest priority” is the mental health of veterans.
    “The Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes and respects the service, dedication and many challenges of Veterans of the 1990-1991 Gulf War, and is committed to improving the health and well-being of these Veterans,” Puglisi said. “Research is a vital component in improving that treatment.”

    President Obama Issues Statement on Veterans' Health and Benefits:

    The White House, Washington D.C. –
    For their service and sacrifice, warm words of thanks from a grateful nation are more than warranted, but they aren't nearly enough. We also owe our veterans the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned. We have a sacred trust with those who wear the uniform of the United States of America. It's a commitment that begins at enlistment, and it must never end. But we know that for too long, we've fallen short of meeting that commitment. Too many wounded warriors go without the care that they need. Too many veterans don't receive the support that they've earned. Too many who once wore our nation's uniform now sleep in our nation's streets.                                                                                                                                        PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, MARCH 19, 2009
    Dear Mr. President,

    Why does the Department of Veterans Affairs obstruct Agent Orange exposure claims by inventing a VA-unique definition of exposure, by which no veteran of any war, of any service, in any circumstance could ever qualify?  Clearly, the redefinition by Veterans Health Administration was to prevent claims from succeeding.

    Why does VA redefine exposure in an unscientific manner, challenged by other federal agencies and health experts, when that definition isn't used even elsewhere in the VA itself? Why permit VA to use a unscientific definition of such a fundamental term, when no juried publication would ever touch such work? Why did VA's own National Center for Ethics in Healthcare avoid dealing with the criminal and ethical questions such redefinition raises?

    Why does the Veterans Health Administration game patient wait times by keeping veterans out of their hospitals? Are you and Secretary Shinseki aware that VA games their own system by blocking qualified veterans' disability claims for years, and constructing a three to five year additional delay through the VA Board of Veterans Appeals? What happened to your promises of 2009, and the VA's obligation to be "veteran-friendly" and non-adversarial? Would you ask America to wait five years for us to put on our uniforms to report for duty? 

    Clearly, your Administration has waited five years to consider our situation, and the wait continues. Perhaps a solution will arrive, but it will likely interest our survivors more than us. Do you expect us to draw comfort from the words of VA's Chief Consultant of Post Deployment Health who, when asked if claims could be considered before veterans died, answered, "We all die."

    How can you permit the Veterans Benefits Administration to order Agent Orange exposure claims denied with the excuse that that Agent Orange is harmless? Has your Office of General Counsel read the Yale Law C-123 finding? Has VA any intention of obeying the law without a court order to do so?

    Why does VA refer complex medical and scientific issues to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine and pay only for arguments and testimony against the veterans' claims, but spend or offer nothing in support of the veterans' perspective? The VA obviously develops a scheme to prevent disability claims and is dedicated to funding that view in IOM meetings, and leaves it to the veterans' resources to argue their case. VA outspending the veterans works for the VA, but not the veterans. This isn't science. And it dishonors all involved.

    God bless the United States. 



    Wes Carter, Chair
    Fort Collins, Colorado

    VA Veterans Health Administration: Gaming The Wait Lists Via Claims Process

    VA Health Benefits Administration
    The VA has two key agencies gaming the system against veterans' health.

    These are the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) which decides disability claims, and Veterans Health Administration (VHA) providing the veterans health care and research. They're working together to keep their waiting lists, and costs, within management's goals.

    We report on the prevention of claims by linguistic slight-of-hand: VA prevents exposure claims by redefining exposure to keep veterans from being considered exposed. A simple solution. VA invented for its own use a special definition of exposure, unique in medicine and science:
    "Exposure = contamination field + bioavailability."

    That redefinition works great. Using it, VA denies every exposure claim crossing their desk for Agent Orange, burn pits, radiation, dirty water, biohazards, toxins, immunizations...everything except situations where VA is compelled by law to provide care. No law=no exposure, regardless of proofs of exposure.

    Legislation such as the 1991 Agent Orange Act protects veterans of the Vietnam War with "boots on the ground." That law, and various court decisions and announcements in the Federal Register also require VA to provide care to veterans exposed to Agent Orange outside Vietnam.

    So, VA pretends it has the scientific and legal authority, and boldly redefines exposure to pretend no exposures take place. In the case of C-123 veterans, who flew the Agent Orange spray airplanes for a decade after Vietnam, the aircraft tested positive for Agent Orange residue many, many times up until their destruction as toxic waste in 2010. Too toxic for landfill, and the Air Force concerned about a threatened EPA HAZMAT fine of $3.4 billion for illegal storage, all C-123s were shredded and smelted as toxic waste, upon recommendation of the consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense.

    That same consultant then was retained by VA to construct arguments against the veterans' claims, and developed arguments that the veterans' dermal contact, inhalation and ingestion of the military herbicide residue did not constitute exposure, utilizing the VA's unique redefinition. His VA work continues decades of defending Agent Orange and its harmful effects.

    This redefinition, and the decision against awarding C-123 veterans exposure benefits, is challenged by many universities as well as other federal agencies. The CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the US Public Health Service, and the NIH/National Toxicology Program have all informed VA that tests prove the aircraft contamination and the veterans' exposure.

    All input contrary to the VA's objective of preventing C-123 veterans' service connection is disregarded, explained away or simply ignored as with the input to VA from the Director, NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences who wrote, "Based on contact with the aircraft, exposure is assumed...the magnitude of these exposures is uncertain."

    The VHA informs the Veterans Benefits Administration that none of the C-123 veterans were ever exposed, and therefore have no basis for exposure claims. In fact, VHA officials also insist that under their new exposure definition none of the ground soldiers during the Vietnam War were ever exposed, and perhaps only a few of the Air Force crews which sprayed from their C-123s. This directive flies in the face of Secretary Shinseki's repeated assurance to the Senate that all C-123 veterans' claims are considered on a "case by case basis," an obvious misstatement when VA has predetermined all the vets to be disqualified...thanks to that nifty redefinition of exposure from VA's Post Deployment Health Section.

    "Unscientific" and "reflects a lack of understanding" are the judgements of leaders in the science of toxicology. But the claims remain denied, with vets told to get in line for appeals taking three to five years.

    There, justice may await, but often only for the veterans' survivors. Complaints to the VA's National Center for Ethics in Healthcare resulted in recommendation that veterans turn to the VA IG because of the criminal and ethical implications of preventing medical care to eligible veterans. There, the issue has been ignored for years with inaction.