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.

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