05 June 2014

US Attorney Caught Flat-Footed: Denies VA has documents VA already released to IOM

On June 3 Assistant US Attorney Kidwell for the District of Columbia was a little off her
game when presenting to the US District Court in Civil Action 14-519 her assurances that the Department of Veterans Affairs had posted all of its C-123 documents on their web pages, and informing the Court that no other documents exist. Not her fault, however.

For years, veterans and their advocates had sought via Freedom of Information all the VA's records dealing with C-123 exposures and veterans's claims, to include preparation of their position against the veterans, contracts with outside firms to generate materials against the veterans, solicitation of input from Dow and Monsanto, correspondence, and the rest of their pile of information.

There's just a ton of it, especially dealing with the scheme to redefine exposure, preparation of their 2012 SOT poster and more.

But the VA has repeatedly refused the FOIA, claiming nothing exists. Then they said they'd have to charge $4,800. Then they again said nothing exists. After years of patient waiting, the C-123 Veterans Association, represented by the firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, filed suit and forced both the AF and VA to respond. Both agencies told the court they'd "try" to have significant amounts of available documents released by the end of May in time for the Institute of Medicine meetings. Never happened...big surprise.

On June 3, Ms. Kidwell filed her response to the Court insisting the VA documents we'd been asked to wait for actually do not exist. Nada.

But perhaps Ms. Kidwell was unaware of the list of 87 documents VA months earlier submitted to the IOM (but continued to withhold from the veterans.) Perhaps VA forgot to tell her. Perhaps VA preferred not to tell her...or us.

Perhaps VA feels somehow special, regarding its obligation to follow the FOIA just as it feels special or exempt in opting not to follow the 1991 Agent Orange Act & Title 38.

VA certainly has special people, but most of them are in scrubs and delivering the health care we're so grateful for. VA's other ranks don't seem to reflect the same standards of honor, honesty, service, compassion, and other values we would prefer to associate with everyone in government service. Sadly, there is little in recent months and years to show the quality in the staff at 810 Vermont reflects the high standards set by the Departments' front-line practitioners.

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