08 August 2014

AF May 2012 C-123 Exposures Report Differs from 1978 Draft of AFHS re: Aircrew Exposure: Command Interference?

Found in a 1982 report (covering Oct 78-Dec 82) of  USAF School of Aerospace Medicine report on Epidemiological Investigation of Health Effects in Air Force Personnel Following Exposure to Herbicides." The report is available in full at the USDA A.L. Young Collection, Item # 01570. Ranch Hand issues, to include comments on C-123 Ranch Hand veterans and non-Ranch Hand veterans, "
No. 01570, pages 21-22

The important observations to make are:
1. The C-123 non-Ranch Hand aircrews are acknowledged as "may have been exposed to significant Herbicide Orange residue in these aircraft. Therefore, this group may not have been truly unexposed to herbicides..."
2. No distinction is made as to routes of exposure
3. The May 2012 USAFSAM C-123 exposure report concluded the AF was unable to determine the amount of exposure post-Vietnam veterans had, and illogically then concluded there was too little exposure to consider them exposed. In VA-speak, this is equipoise, or "as likely to as not."
4. The Ranch Hand study addressed only Ranch Hand personnel. Only RH veterans had serum levels tested, at $1000 per test. As a small population, studies such as have but little epidemiological, especially for want of a proper control group.  The only real cohort to study is the larger body of Vietnam veterans of all services.
5. The Air Force Chief Medical Research Officer, Dr. Richard Albanese*, testified under oath that about 10% of his reports were modified by his supervisors and that about 10% of all reports he was aware of, such as the Ranch Hand Study of which he was principal investigator, also had command interference for policy objectives.
6. Ranch Hand and post-Vietnam C-123 crews are similar only in flying the same toxic airplanes and being exposed to the same military herbicide. They differ in amounts of exposure, duration of exposure, short vs. long term exposure, ages, years flying the toxic airplanes, gender (post-Vietnam crews began including many more female medical technicians and flight nurses, and some maintenance workers.) But again...both cohorts were exposed to the same military herbicide, Agent Orange, although VA policy prohibits testing the post-Vietnam veterans. 

Conclusion: USAFSAM is shown in their 1982 report to have opined that C-123 crews may have been exposed but changes it mind even in the face of additional exposure evidence in their 2012 report, and contradicts itself for reasons of command interference.
* Dr. Albanese later detailed the multitude of failures in the USAF Ranch Hand study.  He went into specifics regarding the interference by a  White House science committee (White House Working Group "WSWG") made up of military and VA representatives...and they don't seem to have changed anything in the last 22 years!
Additional Conclusion: USAFSAM again proved susceptible to command interference with their 2012 C-123 report. "Look
again" was the order from above when preliminary conclusions favored the possibility of aircrew exposures. "Drop it" was the order when one analysis supported the veterans' assertions. This called for an IG complaint to the 75th Air Wing Inspector General. I filed it in person in early 2013, but without any action or response...they dropped it.

No wonder the Air Force has refused to release the 2012 USAFSAM C-123 report materials, despite two years of FOIA requests and our suit in the US District Court of Washington. At least, AF has promised to allow "some" documents to flow by the end of September. 

Like VA, the AF is keeping source documents locked up until after the Institute of Medicine completes its study and report to the Secretary. Neither agency wants any materials likely to help support the veterans' claims to be made available.

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