Today VA released a redacted version of its contract let to A.L. Young Consultants of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Its principal, Dr. Al Young, is a retired USAF colonel and has over four decades of experience developing Agent Orange as a military herbicide, and his reports are used by VA and DOD to prevent veterans' claims for Agent Orange exposures.
Dr. Young's views are well-known, consistent over the decades, and likely the reason he was sought out by VA...the results of the work are quite predictable...no Agent Orange exposures to anybody. His perspective on Agent Orange exposure is well-summarized in his 2011 article carried in AMSUS, the journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States.
Although I over-simplify, it seems the point is because the most exposed population of veterans in Vietnam was the Operation Ranch Hand aircrews, since they show no greatly significant differences in illnesses from the general population, and since ground troops were sprayed less than the aircrews, therefore no exposures occurred to the ground troops. VA caring for Agent Orange illnesses is a waste of money and a political response to veterans' demands.
The failure in this logic is the decision to ignore recent decades of conclusions by the Institute of Medicine, as well as other direct researchers. Exposure to Agent Orange results in statistically higher risk of a long list of illnesses recognised by the Institute of Medicine, and exposure to Agent Orange is supposed to provide a veteran presumptive service connection for those illnesses.
But VA wants to use Young's reports to backtrack on Congress. Young's definition of Agent Orange exposure requires bioavailability...the veteran must prove the presence and harm caused by the Agent Orange exposure. VA also wants to actually redefine "exposure" to its own version, being "exposure = contamination field + bioavailability." This is unique to VA, because other federal agencies accept the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's definition, "exposure = skin (or eye) contact with a chemical (of any type) or its ingestion or inhalation."
Dr. Young is well-known to the C-123 veterans, and apparently, he feels well-informed about us. He wrote a correspondent that C-123 veterans are "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect." As one can expect, C-123 veterans are uncomfortable having VA led to its anti-C-123 veteran decisions by a person who denigrates us so soundly. Perhaps, VA should have sought a consultant who hadn't already announced his conclusions and who hadn't expressed distain for the patient population involved.
If VA gets away with this, veterans of all types of exposure are threatened, because VA can redefine away their proven exposures. Burn pits, radiation, dirty water, biohazards, immunizations, bugs...any exposure not provided for by law, as with the 1991 Agent Orange Act, leaves VA free to create impossible barriers for any veteran seeking medical care.