Yesterday, C-123 Vets joined in ProPublica's Freedom of Information suit against VA.
ProPublica, winner of three Pulitzer prizes for its solid public interest investigative journalism, and the Virginian Pilot newspaper have conducted almost two years of an intensive Agent Orange investigation, with several articles focused on C-123 veterans' experiences. They sought information from the government but in response, the Department of Veterans Affairs has failed to honor the public's right to access information through our media for nearly two years.
The reporters have already uncovered a great deal of information about veterans' health and our children's health. Their rights under the Freedom of Information Act have been ignored for almost two years. The publisher and ProPublica's reporters have been forced to file suit in the US District Court of Washington for VA's failure to respect the law.
Yesterday, our C-123 Veterans Association joined in this suit. We believe the information sought about Agent Orange, about the VA contractors who opposed our own claims, and about VA personnel who obstructed our claims all needs to be made public. Our contribution to the suit specifically included justification for an immediate temporary injunction ordering the VA to comply or justify their refusal.
It's disappointing to have to waste money and time just to access information that the government stores that is otherwise publicly available and not classified or confidential. Too often, but particularly with the VA, federal agencies simply opt not to cooperate because FOIA requesters have a little recourse other than an initial request and an expensive lawsuit if that request is dishonored.
Two years ago, that was our experience. Paul Bailey and I had waited years for our Freedom of Information Act to be honored. But after some limited release, the VA simply didn't bother with anything else requested. Paul had even passed away while the VA stalled.
We had to go to court. Over $50,000 in legal fees later, the Department of Justice in representing the VA agreed to provide the materials requested.