10 June 2015

VA Consultant: "Hold the line. No C-123 claims!"

VA Agent Orange Consultant Email to Mr. James Sampsel, August 12, 2013
That's pretty stern advice, coming from the VA's principal Agent Orange consultant. Very stern, when one understands his advice on August 12, 2013 is that VA must, despite any evidence offered by the veterans and other federal agencies to the contrary, take the dramatic and saddening step of refusing life-saving medical care for Agent Orange illnesses suffered by Air Force veterans.

Especially stern, when one also realizes his advice was against numerous expert opinions supporting the veterans from the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the NIH, the US Public Health Service, dozens of independent physicians and scientists, university researchers, and...as we learned last week, even the Department of Defense confirmed the C-123 veterans' exposures but their input was considered unacceptable to certain VA staffers. There was no evident concern for the Veterans Claims Assistance Act, for the requirements of VAM21-1MR, or for Due Process.

"Hold the line" indeed, because there is such a plethora of evidence for the veterans' exposures, and a paucity supporting the VA's decision to oppose them. (besides the consultant, Dow and Monsanto sponsored input against the C-123 veterans.) Somehow, facing the storm of experts disagreeing with it, VA's Agent Orange desk was still insisting to veterans, the media, and especially VA claims workers that the department possessed "an overwhelming preponderance of evidence" against the veterans.

That means VA was saying it had more than enough medical and scientific evidence, so much as to compel its "unfortunate decision" to deny the disability claims of Air Force veterans, ordering them to go elsewhere for their cancers, heart disease, ALS and other Agent Orange ailments. And also, according to the Director, Compensation and Pension per the conference in his office on 28 Feb 2013, tell the veterans nothing they could ever do would bring the level of their argument to the "benefit of the doubt" VA is required by law to extend in disability claims.

Per VA, there was no possibility of doubt, which seems now to have been more an unofficial policy position of certain VA staffers, than a scientific and legal basis to let C-123 veterans suffer and die. Per the Institute of Medicine, the VA was wrong. Per Secretary McDonald, he agrees.

VA's Agent Orange consultant, one of the few voices supporting VA (and generously paid $300,000 a year for the effort in his two year, no-bid sole source unsolicited consulting contract) writes to his contact at the Agent Orange desk "to hold the line against emotion and political pressures." Emotional, certainly, because the consultant was discussing the Washington Post's 8 August 2013 article about the victory of Paul Bailey of Bath, NH who appealed VA's denial of his claim and won. Bailey's death followed shortly thereafter, ending his struggle with VA's Agent Orange desk and its Agent Orange consultant.

$600,000 to tell VA "hold the line against emotional and political pressure?" $600,000 for "scientific advice" from a consultant so firmly against the subjects involved, whom two years earlier he slandered as "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar," he insists the line be held against them? $600,000 to be the voice of VA before the Institute of Medicine C-123 Committee?

VA Consultant to VA on C-123 Claims
Today, looking back with the Institute of Medicine C-123 Committee's confirmation of exposures and Secretary McDonald's own acknowledgement of it, perhaps we see that $600,000 paid to the consultant to encourage VA to refuse life-saving medical care for veterans eventually determined fully eligible for care...was C-123 a bad decision based on bad input leading to a terrifically miserable outcome for 2100 men and women who flew and maintained these former Agent Orange spray transports.

"Hold the line against C-123 veterans" just doesn't work with VA's standard phrase, "each claim is considered on a case-by-case basis." It is the policy of a few VA employees, not law or medicine. It certainly isn't the objective science claimed by the consultant in his reports.

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