10 April 2015

Negative Attitude at VA's Agent Orange Desk

Today we received a "final" set of documents from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Released under the federal court action we filed to force compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, several highly-redacted documents show the anti-veteran attitude of some VA executives.

Determined to prevent C-123 Agent Orange claims, VA's memorandum below rips into our efforts to detail eligibility for VA care, and ignores challenges to the errors which he included in the draft provided to Secretary Shinseki's response to Senator Burr. Much of his memo and the Secretary's response to Senator Burr have been shown in time to be in error...errors paid for by veterans denied VA medical care.

Why is this memo important? Because VA's manual VAM21-1MR requires regional VA offices to forward for his attention any non-Vietnam Agent Orange exposure claims. The Agent Orange desk has insisted since the first of our claims came across that desk that they were to be fought.

VA's memo is also revealing in that it recommends ignoring my privacy complaint which dealt with a VA contractor being provided my medical information. And ignore it VA has done for two years, despite requests to the VA National Center for Ethics in Health Care.

Although VA touts its "case by case" evaluation of our claims, in fact they are prevented by informing the regional offices that VA "cannot concede" the exposure as claimed. So, on a case by case basis each case is ordered denied, although VA objected to this being termed a "blanket policy of denials." No C-123 claims have ever been permitted under his watch, although two veterans' claims were successful under appeal.

Actions by the Agent Orange desk are in contrast to VA's required pro-veteran, non-adversarial, benefit of the doubt approach. His actions show VA's determined efforts to, as one executive put it, "draw the line somewhere."

Here is how veterans' efforts are blocked at VA Compensation Service's Agent Orange desk. That part of the VBA is still a key player advising the Secretary on obstruction of the Institute of Medicine C-123 report's conclusions.
To: Flohr, Brad (SES EQV), VBAVACO Cc: Murphy, Thomas (SES), VBAVACO; Flynn, Mary A. (SES), VBAVACO; Black, Paul, VBAVACO; Imboden, Jacqueline, VBAVACO; Strickland, Allison, VBAVACO 
Subject: FW: 12 Nov 2012 C-123 Report to Compensation Services Date: Friday, August 23, 2013 10:31:00 AM Attachments: Young Article Response Aug 22.pdf image001.jpg 
This is one more attempt (among numerous others) by Wes Carter to attack the VA and claim he and the other 1500 post-Vietnam C-123 crew members were “exposed” to AO. This latest is a grandstand attempt to imply that there is a conspiracy between VA and Dr. Alvin Young to deny Wes Carter his “deserved” benefits. His attached statement is long on rhetoric and short on substance. He is again stating that he was “exposed” to AO by virtue of the dried/solidified TCDD found in one C-123 (“Patches” in the USAF Museum), and that VA “law” requires service connection as a result. He is likely pressing the issue anew because of the recent DRO C-123 grant publicized in the media.The question I have is: where did he get Dr. Young’s C-123 Report to Comp Svc? (note: one of this contractor's $600,000 no-bid sole-source contract for post-Vietnam monographs opposing veterans' claims.)
He definitely did not get it from me or Dr. Young. My only release of this report was to the Boston/Manchester RO when they requested Comp Svc input from the AO Mailbox on the claim of the C-123 Veteran who was ultimately service connected by the DRO. The RO may have shared it with congressional sources, since there was much congressional pressure on this case. And, Wes Carter has direct and extensive contact with all members of Congress interested in this issue. As usual, he distorts the issues for dramatic effect with his question: “How was the Advisory Opinion on my own disability claim provided to the consultant (Dr. Young)?” 
Comp Svc did not provide any advisory opinion to Dr. Young. Wes Carter’s own website contains multiple references to the Comp Svc advisory opinion, (note: correct, but such references were not published before Dr. Young was provided a copy by VBA, only after.) which he criticizes at great length, stating that the RO wanted to grant but Comp Svc overruled them. Anyone in the Internet universe could read about Wes Carter’s case. He has a long standing dislike of Dr. Young and many other scientists who do not agree that he was “exposed” to AO. He refers to them with abusive language on his website. This includes VHA toxicologist Terra Irons, who he singles out for website name-calling based on her statements at a SVAC and Senator Burr staff meeting we attended on the Hill, where Wes Carter showed up in person. I suggest that Wes Carter should receive no reply based on this e-mail. As I have learned, any reply to him will generate additional attacks.

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