25 July 2014

Earliest VHA Reference to Bioavailability in Exposure Definition Found

Yesterday, the Air Force released some of the documents requested by the C-123 Veterans Association...back in 2012! So much for the 20-day response provided for in the Freedom of Information Act laws. While most of the requested materials were simply not included at all. one of interest was VHA's 1 August 2011 "VHA Issue Brief."

As readers know, VA has redefined exposure to prevent exposure claims. We thought the earliest reference to this was the VHA Post Deployment Health poster display presented at the 2012 Society of Toxicology. Yesterday's USAF set of papers included VHA Issue Brief on the C-123. We don't know the genesis of the brief but it, and its insertion of bioavailability, showed up in the Air Force document set. We find that very disappointing.

The reason? The USAF Surgeon General's office was emphatic from the start...the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine was to conduct its research on the C-123 independently, without cross-pollination of opinions or perspectives between USAF and the VA. This high-minded approach failed immediately, with VA providing carefully selected materials to provide (shall we say, guide?) the Air Force researchers.

Both agencies had relevant materials directly supporting C-123 veterans' exposure...so both agencies made sure those were suppressed. VA's set of materials mailed to the Air Force included the Blue Water Navy IOM Report (why?) and the usual copies of the OSD consultant's Agent Orange articles.
How to block Agent Orange exposure claims

After losing the "Agent Orange is harmless" battle, VA's campaign against veterans shifted to claiming that none were ever exposed, not even the Vietnam War ground troops. In case that argument fails to convince, the VA also insists that even if Agent Orange was present, it couldn't expose via dermal, inhalation or ingestion.

Second reason for VA's opposition is its novel bioavailability dodge. VA tells us that Ranch Hand veterans have tested highest in dioxin levels yet seem to have reasonable health. VA suggests that "logically" other veterans' body levels of dioxin (bioavailability) are necessarily lower and thus proof that they weren't exposed. And certainly, VA insists that no C-123 exposures occurred because we have never been tested for bioavailability. And VA blends bioavailability into exposure so as to deny exposure.

Get it? No matter what, no problems with Agent Orange. Ever. The VHA and VBA realize that the law simply demands non-Vietnam vets establish exposure, so together they blend the two words into one – 'exposure'– in a scheme to block any and all exposure claims.

This is illogical, and even labeled "unscientific" by toxicologists. "Ludicrous" is Dr. Wayne Dwernychuck's appraisal of the VA definition. And because of the impact of VA refusing C-123 veterans vital medical care, ethics are also a consideration.

Exposure is defined as "skin (or eye) contact with a chemical (of any type) or its ingestion or inhalation." Simple definition from the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and one generally accepted in science and medicine. VA's weird definition, now is "exposure = contamination field + bioavailability."

Remember that our only problem with the VA is their gate keepers, not the clinicians. Their objective since Day One of our C-123 problems, as shown by VHA's brief, was to insure all C-123 claims are denied. They had to redefine "exposure" to do this, and at some point in our struggle they'll get caught in the deception.

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