22 April 2015

How Board of Veterans Appeals Sinks C-123 Exposure Claims

The impact of VHA's Post-Deployment Health Section is felt throughout VA and the veterans' community. Especially, it is felt by veterans whose appeals to the Board of Veterans Appeals are torpedoed by the unscientific policy statements fielded by Post-Deployment Health.

Below is a BVA finding which touched on a veteran's exposure claim. Look at the wording used by the BVA judges, especially "reviewed all available scientific information..."

But Post-Deployment Health didn't review all available information. Instead, they were charged with creating policy statements to block C-123 veterans' exposure claims. That meant they selected materials which opposed the basis for C-123 claims, and ignored materials which supported the claims.

If a scientific reference doesn't support the policy of preventing C-123 claims, VA doesn't mention it. Anything supporting a veteran's claim is disregarded in favor of materials selected by VA to deny claims.

So "all available scientific information" is VA-speak for carefully selected materials to prevent claims, not actually all available information. If VA had opted to provide a more scientific basis for considering C-123 claims, they wouldn't have ignored input from the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, Oregon Health Sciences University, Columbia University and others. VA wouldn't have ignored VA researchers and physicians who affirmed C-123 exposures, or ignored juried publications including the February 2014 Environmental Research article.

The paragraph below is from a recent veteran's claim denied by the Board of Veterans Appeals, citing boilerplate language about how Public Health reviewed "all scientific information" when, in fact, Public Health disregarding all information supporting C-123 veterans' claims and cited only those materials agreeing with VA policy. Further, the quote proves the BVA itself disregards any evidence favorable to C-123 veterans.
Furthermore, the Department of Veterans Affairs did address residual Agent Orange exposure concerns by post-Vietnam crews that later flew C-123 aircraft that had previously sprayed Agent Orange.  VA's Office of Public Health is noted to have reviewed all available scientific information regarding the exposure potential to residual amounts of herbicides on the C-123 aircraft surfaces.  It was concluded that the potential exposure for the post-Vietnam crews that flew or maintained the aircraft was extremely low and therefore it was concluded that the risk of long-term health effects was minimal.  See http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.

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