06 June 2015

VBA's Inter-VA Deceptions?

There is a years-long paperwork trail of apparent VBA deceptions trashing C-123 veterans and our Agent Orange claims.  Here's just one example, written in April 2013 to other members of the VBA staff. (Note: six weeks after the gentleman received the JSRRC email confirmation of our exposures.)

The writer, manager of the Compensation & Pension Service Agent Orange Desk (VAVBAWAS/CO/211/AGENTORANGE [Agent Orange Mailbox]) provides some details about VA's policy of denying  C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims. He defends VA's position with generally accurate statements, but the deception arises from what he fails to report and how he characterizes points he makes. He wrote about Senator Burr's (R-NC) letter to SECVA:
 "Burr is supporting Wes Carter, who has obtained statements from several scientist stating that the post-Vietnam C-123 crews were “exposed” to AO TCDD. Carter also has an equivocating letter from ATSDR indicating “exposure” may have occurred but long term health effects are unknown. On the other hand, CS has scientific statements from Dr. Alvin Young and unsolicited statements from two other toxicologists refuting “exposure” and Carter’s supporters. 
Burr is arguing that VBA should consider the evidence to be pro and con and provide the benefit of doubt to these Veterans. Burr has adopted our language of “case-by-case’ determinations and does not want CS to have a definite stance against Carter and the other post-Vietnam crew members. His letter asks how we will implement this case-by-case plan."
The single largest deception above is referencing scientists supporting the veterans' exposure and those who opposed it. After mentioning that several scientists stated C-123 veterans were exposed, he then details arguments from Dr. Alvin Young and unsolicited statements from two other toxicologists refuting "exposure and Carter's (my) supporters. It is disappointing that none of the recipients of this email did anything to correct it or inquire further about us.

To make his point more effective although not more accurate, the writer opted to leave off the fact that Carter's supporters included the CDC, NIH, USPHS, EPA, dozens of scientists and physicians and university researchers. He pointedly did not reference the March 12 2013 confirmation of C-123 exposures issued by the DOD/JSRRC to the writer six weeks earlier.  That DOD evidence was so substantial, and so pivotal to VA's published requirements in VAM21-1MR to confirm Agent Orange exposures, that the writer and VA withheld it from veterans altogether.

At the least, the writer should have stated that VA was faced with significant opposition to its position opposing C-123 veterans' claims. This is especially clear with the January 9n2015 Institute of Medicine report to Secretary McDonald which disputed the VA's position and stated, "with confidence," the C-123 veterans were indeed exposed despite the VA policy of disputing any such claims.

Understandably, the writer wished to persuade and inform his colleagues. There was a complete failure because his colleagues learned not a whit about overwhelming evidence in conflict with VA's position.It is not easy to understand is why he felt it best done by withholding significant facts if in disagreement with VA policy.

Not at all easy to understand is how any action by this writer or his section at Compensation and Pension can be described as non-adversarial, when this memo and others from his desk clearly clearly are policy-driven overrides of any facts supporting veterans' exposure claims.

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