21 September 2014

Secretary of VA Deceives Congressman Todd Young on C-123 Veteran's Claim

The Secretary's letter to Congressman Todd Young of Indiana began honestly enough:
"Dear Congressman Young:

I am responding to the letter you submitted on behalf of your constituent who expressed concern that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) regulations do not provide a presumption of herbicide exposure for Veterans who served aboard C-123 aircraft... "
But the errors which followed the polite introduction by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs were a deliberate deception of this member of Congress and a disservice to his constituent and all veterans.

Worried about a veteran from his district, Congressman Young had inquired about VA policies toward C-123 veterans. Rather than any correction of the VA's errors, Congressman Young was fed two pages of VA misstatements and deceptions, twisted around a handful of facts.

This undated copy of the letter from Secretary Shinseki to Congressman Young was released by the VA Office of General Counsel on Friday, September 19, forced by lawsuits in the US District Court of Washington compelling VA to respond to inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act.

Obviously, in a huge organization like VA, it is unlikely that Secretary Shinseki authored this letter himself and more probable that the Congressman's inquiry was assigned to the responsible staffer. Others correspondence tainted with similar deceptions, such as the VA response to Senator Bur, were drafted by Veterans Benefits Administration for the Secretary's signature. Trusting in subordinates to share his sense of honor and integrity, as the Secretary said just before his resignation, was something he never should have done at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

This letter, and others such as his response to Senator Burr, are telling examples of staff failure and sabotage of their leader. These staffers pursued their own agenda, thus interfering with the Secretary's Constitutional duties and relationship with the Congress.
"A number of scientific reports were reviewed, including: Environmental Fate of Agent Orange and Its Associated Dioxin in the Vietnam War (Alvin L. Young, et al., 2004) and Environmental Fate of TCDD and Agent Orange and Bioavailabilty to Troops in Vietnam (Nathan J. Karsh, et al. 2004)."
Great! Secretary Shinseki relied on eleven year old articles by its paid consultant ($300,000 per year from VA) who wrote the 2004 articles on behalf of Dow and Monsanto. VA relied on its consultant, whose views on the "innocence" of Agent Orange have remained unchanged for over 30 years. The Secretary even cited the consultant's eleven year old publications, pointedly ignoring all more recent proofs offered by the ATSDR, NIH and dozens of scientists and physicians whose views support the veterans. Little wonder, then, that all six major veterans organizations demanded the VA reconsider any relationship with this consultant!

This is the consultant who in 2009 personally recommended all toxic C-123s be destroyed because veterans might learn of their exposures and seek VA care for Agent Orange illnesses. This is the consultant who denigrated C-123 veterans, calling them "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect." "If not that, what is their motive?"

VA Secretary...his staff's loyal support!
Simple answer, Sir. We need VA medical treatment for our cancers and other Agent Orange-related illnesses. But we can't get that life-saving care because VA relies on your input and shares your attitude. We can't get that care with the Secretary relying on his staff whose disloyalty fed him false and incomplete information, like the letter to Congressman Young and the  2013 letter to Senator Burr, in this careful deception of both the Senate and the House.

We can't get that care with the VA ignoring the issue of exposure as the sole qualification for Agent Orange illnesses treatment, and instead inventing bioavailability as an extra-legal barrier. Why has VA abandoned its obligations the Department itself stated repeatedly in the Federal Register?  Why does the Secretary not act when he is told Veterans Benefits Administration is denying Agent Orange claims on the ridiculous basis of Agent Orange being harmless?

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