01 September 2014

Bill Gifford Passed, September 1, 2014

William Gifford, fellow veteran of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover AFB, Massachusetts, passed away today at Baystate Medical following heart surgeries. He'd not done well this last week, losing kidney function and he "signed the final Form 40" this morning.

Giff was a flight instructor on the C-123, and took years to forgive me for a Qual 2 I gave him for not using his checklist (during a check ride in his basic crew position!) on an emergency landing at Dyess many years ago. That took a bit of time to heal over, but it did. What a character and what a squadron legend!

Steve Caraker will send details when available. God bless and keep Bill and his family.

Our Blog – Disrespectful? Let's Hope Not!

 Carter Blog: "Truth cannot be found, only exaggeration, misinformation and propaganda?"   
Having been challenged to do so, I'm thinking through my blog perspective and re-reading the entries. A suggestion was made that I'd not had respectful comments regarding one individual, perhaps even more.

Obviously we have a pro-veteran perspective here, trying to argue the eligibility of post-Vietnam C-123 veterans' VA Agent Orange exposure benefits. The VA, its consultant, both Dow and Monsanto, and perhaps other veterans with different views argue otherwise...and that's the perfect system for civil discourse. We believe we're right, as do many scientists, physicians, legal scholars and other federal agencies who've spoken up for us.

Our opponents have the advantage of experience, unrestricted access to VA and AF documentation, greater scientific understanding, federal funding, the opportunity to carefully word the charge to the IOM, and the final decision-making authority.

We do not argue any science, not having the wherewithal to that, but we do try to put forward the various ways in which we believe ourselves eligible through the opinions of others such as the CDC/ATSDR and NIH. At time, this means that we say our opponents are wrong on an issue, or fail to interpret issues in a pro-veteran, pro-claimant manner as required by law,  or seek to implement unofficial policy rather than help us.

Each side has stated its objectives. VA: "We cannot permit any C-123 claims." (Dr. Terry Walters.) And, "C-123 veterans have been subjected to long-term/low intensity AO exposure and are due care for Agent Orange-recognized illnesses." (Wes Carter.)

So once again, I'll ask for comments, corrections, anything. If I have erred in facts, I'd like to correct those facts because otherwise the value of our entire effort is diminished. If I have erred in a more subtle way, perhaps over-emphasis or sarcasm, I welcome suggestions for improvement there as well.

The fact does remain, however, that VA and its consultant actively oppose every argument we put forward. We have never had a helping hand offered us, other than three quite polite conferences at which we were told none of our claims would be approved. Great sums have been spent by VA to insure our claims remain denied and to influence the IOM report. Our requests for VA assistance in research are all denied, and VA even recently reserved the right to redefine "exposure" to prevent exposure claims such as ours.

Of course, VA personnel and their contractor have always been very courteous, but courtesy does not make up for locking VA hospital doors against us.

We've been asked by VA's contractor, what's our agenda? Simple...we'd like our illnesses associated with Agent Orange exposure to be treated. Until such time as the law changes, we're eligible for this care and the decision to withhold it is wrong.

I trust this entry, at least, is not "exaggeration, misinformation or propaganda."

Congressional Report Attacks Growth in Veterans' Disability Claims

The following article by military affairs expert Tom Philpott has been misunderstood by veterans.
Philpott's reporting of the Congressional Budget Office report is accurate and the recommendations of the CBO are properly summarized by the  reporter. He doesn't create the CBO's misguided conclusions, Philpott, correctly, only tells us what they were. 
"There are liars. There are damned liars. And then there are statisticians." (Disraeli quoted by Mark Twain. 
It is the CBO and its statisticians, not Philpott, which should be condemned for this attack on America's veterans, and Philpott thanked for alerting the public about the obvious sea-change. The whole tone of the CBO report is anti-veteran, buck-saving, budget retrenching and it is also wrong!
The first error which caught my attention was at the end, where Gulf War vets are accused of swelling the VA's roles in disproportionate numbers...and the CBO tone is that the vets are jumping on some sort of VA disability gravy train, our numbers swelling five-fold between 2000 and 2013. CBO's intentional deception is in that a huge number of these Gulf War vet claims are at zero-percentage disability...injuries which are minor and do not warrant compensation but earn the vet medical care for that issue. And so many claims are at the 10% or 20% level, I don't imaging the economic health of the Nation affected by payments of $130 or $238, respectively. The vast majority of disabled vets are rated 30% or less.
Another large percentage of Gulf claims were submitted which the VA's infamous Compensation and Pension Service took years to adjudicate and only approved after 2000. Mine is one of them, submitted in 1994 and still being adjusted in 2014 as my injuries worsen.
The objective of CBO was to show Congress some shifty tricks recommended to stop the growth of "undeserved" veterans benefits, particularly compensation. CBOs laying the growth to inappropriate VA largesse for "common medical conditions of aging and lifestyle" disgusts every veteran, particularly those it singles out who served in Vietnam. 
I look forward to Philpott's deeper investigation into this CBO trashing of American veterans and CBO's attempts to denigrate our sick and injured comrades.
CBO: Why VA claims exploded and ways to slow the trend

By Tom Philpott 
Special to Stars and Stripes
Published: August 28, 2014

America’s population of living veterans fell by almost five million, or 17 percent, from 2000 to 2013.
So why did the number of veterans drawing disability compensation climb by 55 percent over that period?  And why has yearly VA disability payments tripled since 2000 to reach $60 billion in 2014?

The Congressional Budget Office explains why in a new report, and the primary reason is not found among veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That source of claims is significant but not yet near its peak.

A greater factor has been liberalized laws and policies on “service connected” ailments, particularly decisions to compensate Vietnam War veterans for common medical conditions of aging and lifestyle because of an “association” with possible exposure to herbicides used in that war.

For example, in 2000 only 38,000 veterans from all war eras were receiving disability compensation for diabetes.  By last year, 320,000 veterans from the Vietnam War alone drew diabetes-related compensation.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expanded its list of diseases presumed caused by Agent Orange to ischemic heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and certain types of leukemia in 2010.  By June of last year, that decision had led to VA processing 280,000 claims for the newly presumptive ailments and to making $4.5 billion in retroactive disability payments.

Another factor of growth in VA claims has been a weak labor market, CBO says, which encourages out-of-work or underemployed veterans to apply for disability compensation.  Current law allows them to do so at any age and as often as they like.  Indeed, laws enacted in 2000 and 2008 required VA to strengthen the help given to veterans to apply for disability benefits and substantiate claims.  VA also increased outreach to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and eased PTSD diagnostic requirements.

All such efforts, CBO says, are aided by the Internet and its capability to relay information quickly, and by websites that offer information on benefits and programs and encourages veterans to submit claims online.

CBO prepared its report, Veterans’ Disability Compensation: Trends and Policy Options, at the request of the ranking Democrat on the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine.

As with most CBO reports, it offers only “objective, impartial analysis” and options, not recommendations.  But the options for easing the river of VA compensation claims are, as expected, controversial.  Many will be unpopular with veterans and condemned by powerful veteran service organizations, which would seem to make adoption by the Congress or VA unlikely outside of a larger bipartisan package of federal entitlement reforms.

 For example, CBO floats three options to alter policies on identifying service-connected conditions and to conduct long-term monitoring of disability ratings.  One would impose a time limit on filing initial claims.  CBO notes that in 2012, roughly 43 percent of first-time recipients of disability pay had filed claims while 55 or older, even though most had left service by age 30.  Seven percent of new claimants that year were 75 or older.

“Many Vietnam veterans, all of whom are now over the age of 55, began to receive compensation recently for such common medical conditions as hearing loss (35,000 new cases in 2012) and tinnitus (40,000 new cases in 2012),” CBO points out.

It suggests that veterans could be required to file initial claims within a fixed period of time, for instance within five or 10 or 20 years of leaving active duty, depending on medical condition claimed, because some conditions would take longer than others to become apparent.

31 August 2014

The Giff Ill Following Open Heart Surgery

William Gifford, better known for decades to fellow members of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron as "The Giff," had open heart surgery last week in Massachusetts. A subsequent emergency procedure was necessary and his kidney function is impaired.

All of us who remember (with a little embarrassment and but great admiration) Giff's tendency to grab a microphone and start singing when we'd RON'd somewhere (why did it always seem to be New Orleans or Oceana?)  and after a couple (?) drinks at a dinner bar, pray that strength of character and humor sustains him and his family now.

Its too early to sign out on the Form 40, Giff!

30 August 2014

Monsanto Safety Warning About Agent Orange (2,3,5-T)

This is the extent of what Monsanto provided as a safety warning for the use of 2,4,5-T, famously better known as Agent Orange. Notice...not a word about personal safety, just how to protect other plants...Monsanto wouldn't want to be blamed for any wilted roses, but they don't mind poisoning generations of veterans!

VA Board of Veterans Appeals: Another Log Jam in Claims Processing

We all know of the lengthy delays built into the VA disability claims process, although we also must acknowledge the improvement in processing time. VA's inventory of overage claims is much better now than a year ago, and we hope for continued improvement. Lots of hard work has gone into that brighter statistic.

One less encouraging statistic is the entire Board of Veterans Appeals.

The problem begins with denied claims. If a veteran's claim is too complicated, it seems best to most adjudicators to deny it and force the vet to either drop the issue or file an appeal with the BVA. If the claim requires a bit of push-back by the adjudicator against C&P leadership, as in the case of C&P ordering C-123 claims to be denied, the adjudicator takes the easy path and denies, again forcing the vet to give up hope or appeal.

If the adjudicator's desk is crowded and production statistics are down, a denied claim counts just as much as an approved claim, especially when any "benefit of the doubt" or "non-adversarial" leeway is needed...a denied claim saves the Department money right off the bat.

But of course the vet can appeal. While that is a solution, it is also the core of the problem.

Three to four years until a BVA decision. For a veteran who already has a diagnosed illness and has submitted a claim, then waited a year or two for a decision, he/she now has to wait another three to four years for a BVA decision. BVA statistics worsened during 2013 and are worse yet for 2014...they just don't have the administrative staff and ALJs necessary to handle the work.

But the problem caused veterans has a cause more incidious than just the BVA staffing.

First, it begins with the number of claims denied by regional offices, forcing the vet to an appeal. Too often, a complicated case is "resolved' by the VARO dumping the vet into the BVA line. Too often, the adjudicator's statistics are weak and easily improved by denying more claims, faster, as opposed to approving them. An approved claim, if made in error, is hard for VA to correct, but a denied one leaves VA with the good feeling that the vet still can find justice through an appeal.

But that's not the case. We call a one or two year wait for the claim to be processed at the regional office unacceptable, because during that period the vet is denied all medical care for the illness or injury, although, to be fair, sometimes VA provides limited treatment on a presumptive eligibility basis. Once the claim is denied, the huge portion of injustice is delivered...again, by the regional office.

The VA sits on the claim at the regional office for years. The claim has to be prepared, with a Statement of the Case provided the vet and other administrative steps taken, before the claim is packaged and sent to the BVA. And this is where VA has built-in an additional time-killer (part of their "Delay, Delay Until They Die" policy towards us.) According to the most recent BVA report to Congress, BVA takes "only" 245 days after receiving an appeal to make a decision.

The rest of the three to four year delay is accomplished at the regional office. 962 days, to be exact. 962 days to explain why the claim was denied (which they've already told you) and forward to the BVA. 962 days wasted on something that shouldn't take 62!

So if you're the veteran with soft tissue sarcoma, seeking life-saving treatment for your cancer,  your claim has you waiting one or two years before a possible approval at the local VA regional office, or waiting a total of between four to six years if your claim is denied and you have to wait for BVA to decide on an appeal...hoping the decision is in your favor.

But VA hides another nasty trick up their sleeves regarding the BVA: either deliberately or through error, regional offices deny claims they know leave the veterans with some issue the BVA will remand back to the regional office for further development. Anything large or small, anything overlooked, can force BVA to remand the veteran's claim back to the regional office for more work. Forget to address one of the claimed illnesses, fail to order compensation physicals, forget to get something signed or dots dotted or some small detail, and the claim doesn't get resolved by BVA but remanded.

After remand, the claim might get approved at the VARO as a result of that additional work, or more often returned to the BVA...and that cycle takes "only" another 445 days. And sometimes another remand! Only a 28% chance of a BVA award but 45% change or a remand!

Back to your soft tissue sarcoma: you've now waited five to seven years hoping VA will save your life.

Good luck. Oh, and thank you for your service.



Why Does VA Oppose C-123 Veterans' Agent Orange Valid Exposure Claims?

They've fought us since the first inquiry..."NO" was their answer in a knee-jerk response, after which
they cast about to create reasons for that position.

Faced with veterans whose claims could reasonably fit into VA's 21-1MR requirements, instead of seizing on existing rules, laws,  scientific proofs and Federal Register commitments to include, Post-Deployment Health automatically sought ways to exclude, not to include.

Clear? The C-123 vets met each requirement of the VA's to be granted presumptive service connection. Perhaps rules could be interpreted different ways, but VA's only thought was to create interpretations against the C-123 vets. They stretched their rules, not to help us, but to exclude us.

So why the big NO when the law and science were behind the C-123 vets? VA found (created?) several of reasons:

1. VA already said no, and they remain defensive of that decision, unable to modify their position – they want the victory and they disregard the cost to us veterans over the last three years in terms of illnesses, deaths, medical & burial expenses, denial of care, etc. That would mean acknowledging their moral failures. Even if claims are eventually approved, VA saves money by delaying as long as possible (currently three to four years at BVA) to avoid providing medical care. Presently there are over a quarter million veterans' claims in appeal, meaning a quarter of a million vets denied medical care for the illnesses and injuries already established (unless otherwise qualified for VA care.) While VA managers decry the claims and appeals delays, the savings in medical care thereby could exceed a billion dollars each year*
2. Recognizing the C-123 veterans' service connection will cost VA money for health care and disability compensation. Presently C-123 veterans are denied VA medical care and have to make arrangements elsewhere, and are denied the VA peripheral care provided totally disabled vets (dental, rehab, pharmacy, counseling, prosthetics, vision, etc.)
3. VA has the attitude of having to "draw the line somewhere" regarding exposure benefits and will fight any post-Vietnam claims, as Post Deployment Health told the Associated Press
4. Recognizing C-123 post-Vietnam exposures potentially affects other toxic situations well beyond our small group. The White House has been deeply concerned with this since the beginning of Agent Orange concerns, as Peter Sill's box Toxic War perfectly illustrates
5. VA Office of General Counsel has become defensive to the point of insisting on the Department's power to redefine "exposure" to its own purposes; success in that redefinition could help VA oppose other exposure situations such as burn pits, dirty water, biohazards, etc.
C&P Claims Motto
6. Perhaps in some way, their folks in C&P and Post Deployment Health actually believe they are
correct
7. Attitude. They don't like veterans arguing with them
7. Successful opposition to claims such as ours may result in extra praise in their annual performance reviews and perhaps, win them bonuses. They look more productive by denying claims then by approving them
8. Along with their consultants, VA recognizes the threat that would be caused by recognizing our unique long-term exposure. The differences between high intensity/short term exposures and our long term/low intensity exposures was recognized in the first Air Force study and continues to worry experts
9. VARO raters worry about opposing C&P which has ordered C-123 claims denied; raters take easy route of using the boilerplate claim denial language
10. Denying the claim gets it off the rater's desk and lets the veteran lose hope or at least, stick the claimant with a three-four year BVA wait
11. Encouraged by their "Agent Orange Never Hurt Anybody" consultants, Post Deployment Health eagerly accepted the bioavailability concept as a scheme as VA's end-run around the 1991 Agent Orange Act and Congress' elimination of the medical nexus requirement for exposure claims. Brilliant! VA redefines exposure to prevent exposure claims.
12. C&P has already directed C-123 claims denied on the basis of TCDD being harmless, and by citing non-existent VA "scientific studies" and non-existent "VA directives" and any change would necessitate revisiting the injustice of those denied claims
13. The longer VA delays, the more C-123 veterans die and claims die with them

* Harvard's Kennedy School of Government calculations using IEF statistics


27 August 2014

Philadelphia VA: Distorted Image of Veterans

An insult to all Veterans from the Philadelphia VA:

On behalf of The C-123 Veterans Association, and as an individual member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, the Retired Officer Association, the Air Force Sergeants Association, the Disabled American Veterans, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion, I say to the VA...we're not grouchy, we're not cranky, unrealistic or demanding of anything beyond what's right. We're not pissed off. And our widows don't need "being managed" or "dealt with," as the Washington Times and other sources today reported the VA having said.

Like many of you, we're Veterans. With a capital "V" as per the VA stylebook. We're sick. Some of us you'll treat because we have LOD injuries, but many of our crewmates you won't. That's what we work towards.

The Philadelphia VA last week conducted training for their staff and portrayed wounded, injured and sick Veterans with the following disgusting graphic in their slide show, "What to Say to Oscar the Grouch,' in preparation for the upcoming series of national VA town hall meetings.

How dare they attack us with such an insult!
VA labeled this graphic about vets, "100% GROUCHY. DEAL WITH IT."

We're not knocking VA health care.  We're just trying to get it! And we have to fight anti-Veteran attitudes like those in Philadelphia.

A side note: We respect the Ranch Hand vets who flew before us and are doing nothing to interfere with them, their association, our respect for their historical accomplishments, or their relationship and friendship with Colonel Young. Many of us are Vietnam vets as well as veterans of subsequent conflicts.

The only objections we have are with the VA's Veterans Health Administration for constructing improper barriers to our claims, and the Veterans Benefits Administration for welcoming those barriers from VHA. We're not too pleased with VA's Office of General Counsel, but their job is to defend the institution against the Veterans so we can't gripe much there. Also, we're not too pleased with the VA National Center for Ethics in Healthcare which seems inert.

Ranch Hand, your health studies have nothing to do with us, other than we both reflect a flight physical-healthy population and we flew the C-123s at different times. That's all, so give us a break, fellow Veterans. Trying to help our crewmates and maintainers does nothing to impact Ranch Hand. You should be helping.

Current Status - Institute of Medicine C-123 Agent Orange Exposure Committee

Actually, the full name just doesn't quite flow off the tongue, nor is it easily typed...I always have to look it up: Committee to Evaluate the Potential Exposure to Agent Orange/TCDD Residue and Level of Risk Adverse Health Effects for Aircrew of Post-Vietnam C-123 Aircraft."

They've been meeting since the spring and apparently are about finished with their draft copy, according to the cryptic summation of the recent committee teleconferences. Once the draft is complete, it begins another process before reaching the Secretary of Veterans Affairs:
• Prior to release, report is reviewed by individuals who are not involved in authoring the report and whose names are not revealed to the committee or the study director during review.
Reviewers are selected by the major unit responsible for the project, in consultation with the National Academy of Sciences’ Report Review Committee.
• The review is overseen by a review monitor and/or coordinator.
• Each committee must respond to, but need not agree with, reviewer comments in a detailed “response to review” that is examined by the monitor and/or coordinator, who ensure that the report review criteria have been satisfied.
• The report may not be released to sponsor or the public until the chair of the Report Review Committee (or designee) signifies that the review process has been satisfactorily completed.
• The Department of Veterans Affairs will not be given an opportunity to suggest changes in the report.
• The names and affiliations of the report reviewers will be made public when the report is released.
The second bullet could be fatal: VA, as the "major unit responsible" will select reviewers already determined to prevent C-123 exposure claims, so whatever pro-C-123 exposure conclusions will be severely challenged, and whatever anti-C-123 exposure conclusions will be amplified. So whatever the committee itself recommends will be amended in some way at this point to a position more acceptable to the VA's Post Deployment Health Section. And you can be they've already got their reviewers picked out! Only when its released and too late to be challenged, are the reviewers identified and in any case, nobody sees the committee's draft, or original version.

Remember: VA did not refer this to the IOM because there is any scientific question that we've been exposed. They referred it, and worded the charge to the committee, to create a basis for continuing to deny all C-123 exposure claims even though each C-123 veteran with an Agent Orange-recognized illness is presently legally entitled to presumptive service connection.

A strong point still in our favor is a fundamental IOM rule: In reaching consensus about an association between exposure and health effects, the Committee considers only peer-reviewed, published scientific literature.

The material gathered by the VA, including from its $300,000/year Agent Orange consultant and the Dow/Monsanto sponsored letters, was never peer reviewed.

And the only peer-reviewed scientific literature available which directly addressed the situation was Lurker, et. al. "Post-Vietnam Military Herbicide Exposures in UC-123K Agent Orange Spray Aircraft."

The committee is doing what it has to. We asked them also to exercise their independence and address the yes/no question of exposure.

We'll wait and hope for the best.

AF Studies Agree – C-123 Crews Potentially Exposed to Agent Orange

2009: HAZMAT Quarantine for Toxic C-123 Fleet
In a recently located 1979 Air Force report in the USDA A.L. Young Library of Agent Orange documents, the Air Force was tasked to report to DOD (for inclusion in the VA perspective on Agent Orange) on "Criteria for Determining Herbicide Exposure." The paper was created by Air Force System Command's Command Surgeon.

Page Four makes a vital point for us. It reads:
"2. Personnel assigned to selected support functions that may have resulted in exposure to Herbicide Orange. This group included. for example, personnel that sprayed herbicides using helicopters or ground application equipment; personnel that may have delivered the herbicides to the units performing the defoliation missions; aircraft mechanics who were specialized and occasionally provided support to Ranch Hand aircraft; or personnel who may have flown contaminated C-123 aircraft but were not assigned to Ranch Hand (e.g. during the Tet Offensive, all Ranch Hand aircraft were reconfigured to transport supplies and equipment, and were assigned to non-Ranch Hand squadrons."

To this, we can add a gem accidently released by the Air Force in last weeks very incomplete Freedom of Information Act release. Among hundreds of blank pages of redacted materials (about this 40-year old problem threatening our health...something still is held secret??) there was a couple of great interest.

Of very special note is the fact Air Force scientists were faced with tests taken over decades and needing to determine from them, dioxin levels on surfaces decades before the first tests were taken. There were no tests taken in 1971-72 as the aircraft were delivered to our squadrons, but the first comprehensive test was in 1994 and then on other aircraft in 2009.

Air Force staff wrote that the amount of dioxin present wouldn't correlate to actual exposures, but still the more dioxin, the greater the exposures.They had three ways to look at the numbers, and chose the most conservative, an approach which minimized the threat to veterans rather than considered the maximum danger.  Acknowledged was the fact that this could only be considered speculative...not the thought process, but the "guess" as to whether the actual 1971 exposures posed a greater threat or not. They guessed not. And they were wrong and it hurt us.

Their guess selected a model which assumed no or minimal degradation. That led to a minimal threat assessment to the veterans for their exposures aboard the aircraft between 1972-1982, and thus VA refusal of disability claims for Agent Orange exposures.

The importance: the estimates vary from extremely alarming (46,666 ng/m2) in 1971 to just 3493 ng/m2.

The AF guess as to which model to use went with the lower number because it implied a much lower threat of actual exposure. The difference in these two approaches is huge...the Air Force selected a model which minimized the threat by 1300% and led to inappropriately conservative and thus misleading conclusions in the final report. Previously, a threat assessment always errored on the safe side, not a guess which pretended no harm done.

And there were two other significant errors:
1. AF misstated the half-life of dioxin as only 2.75 years which it is much more on most surfaces
2. AF failed to calculate the effect of the 1972-1982 base-level attempts to physically scrape residues from the aircraft which reduced the contamination greatly before the first 1994 tests, themselves taken twelve years after the aircraft retired. This is an unknown but significant factor, but skilled mechanics spent hundreds of hours scraping every possible surface to reduce the contamination.

Final observation about the Air Force C-123 FOIA results. They withheld everything, releasing only hundreds of pages of blank paper, so there is no real way to assess how the study was done, why General Green was communicating with the Veterans Administration, etc.

As for the actual report, vs. the released conclusion, only the tantalizing table of contents was released.


26 August 2014

President's Executive Orders Address Veterans' Issues

Speaking today at the American Legion's 2014 National Convention, President Obama announced nineteen steps he is taking through executive orders to address the ongoing scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, nothing was mentioned about the claims or appeals process. (CLICK for complete speech)

Yesterday, the VA itself released an Inspector General report which indicates no deaths can be positively attributed to the delays in patient care in Phoenix, despite whistle-blower allegations.

Among the key points in the President's orders are:

• A new recruiting campaign to fill shortages of doctors and nurses at VA hospitals.

• Automatically enrolling military personnel receiving mental health care into mental health treatment programs by the VA.

• A partnership with five national banks to help veterans get lower rate mortgages easier.

• New efforts to better understand traumatic brain injuries, including a $34.4 million VA suicide prevention study involving 1800 veterans at 29 VA hospitals, and more suicide prevention training for military and VA personnel.

• Automatic enrollment of separating service personnel in transition programs.

In recent weeks the VA has also trumpeted grants for homeless veterans throughout the country, dedicating millions towards this serious need.

The VA scandal erupted in April when a retired doctor at the VA hospital in Phoenix disclosed that long wait times may have contributed to the deaths of as many as 40 veterans. A preliminary investigation found that delays and falsified records were widespread through the VA system.

The President assured the Legionnaires, "We are going to fix what is wrong. We are going to do right by you and your families, and that is a solid pledge and commitment I’m making to you here.”

The American Legion has long been a supporter of C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims, for which we continue to express our gratitude.

Dave Zamorski Retires!

We note with respect and affection the upcoming retirement of Lieutenant Colonel David Zamorski, ART Administrator of the 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Westover AFB, MA.

When I was Technical Sergeant, I watched David first come to the squadron, get oriented by Vinny McCrave, and advance to Senior Airman while earning his aircrew wings as an Aeromedical Evacuation Technician. In 1980 he was selected for a commission as a Medical Service Corps officer.

David's service includes OIF, and he is the longest-serviing member of the squadron (originally the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.)

It will be hard to replace him!

Happy trails,

      Wes

25 August 2014

VA Attorneys Create New & False C-123 Claims Barrier

(note: we asked VA's Mr. Ridgeway for corrections on the content but there has been no response)
Under the leadership of James Ridgeway, Chief Counsel for Policy and Procedure with the VA Board of Veterans Appeals, new and creative anti-veteran strategies have been introduced by his attorneys specifically to prevent C-123 exposure claims.

BVA attorneys are responsible for prevention of appealed claims, and represent their client, the VA Veterans Benefits Administration with gusto, creativity and zeal.

But not with accuracy. Or ethics. Or honesty. In 2007 LtCol Aaron Olmsted's exposure claim was denied when VA's Steve Reiss ignored, withheld, or pointedly did not seek or provide to Olmsted's representative) proof that the C-123s he piloted for thousands of hours had sprayed Agent Orange in Vietnam. Even when that Air Force evidence (it took three minutes on the Internet) was provided after the fact, BVA attorneys  and the ALJ and the VA regional administrator and the Secretary (even the BVA attorney's association's ethics chairman) insured his widow Diane's claim remained denied. After all, to BVA counsel, success is found only in a denied claim, or at least one delayed past the veteran's death.

More recently, to prevent C-123 veterans' claims from approval, BVA attorneys have begun citing completely non-existent "scientific studies" by Veterans Health Administration. Please note: these proofs don't exist – VA made them up! 

The only scientific studies ever done concluded the opposite – that C-123 veterans were exposed and have a greatly increased cancer risk (CDC/ATSDR.) The only peer reviewed study reached the same conclusion...veterans were exposed.

In fact, VA's references to "scientific studies" amount to nothing more than several web pages which mention carefully selected (and most pointedly, carefully avoided everything pro-claimant) references, and a one-page policy statement VA Issue paper authored by Dr. Terry Walters in 2011.  There have been no scientific studies completed which found the veterans were not exposed – even the 2012 USAF C-123 Consultative Letter and follow-on explanations to the Senate said VA should not use for rejecting C-123 veterans' claims and that individual exposures could not be calculated. This report has since been repudiated by some of its contributors.

Clearly, it is important, indeed Job One, for BVA attorneys opposing veterans to appease VBA and prevent helpful documentation falling into the hands of opposing representatives. So much for the legal requirement, but phony pro-veteran, non-adversarial and veteran-friendly VA treatment of veterans' claims. Faced with the possibility of a defeat by veterans having the full facts and by reference to actual scientific studies, Mr. Ridgeway's victories against the veteran trumps the profession's expectations of his staff.

Dr. Walters' (Deputy Chief Consultant at VHA's Post Deployment Health Public Health section) single page was in preparation to oppose veterans' concerns in an upcoming teleconference with non-VA scientists and C-123 veterans. Together with her colleagues (Dr. Wendi Dick, Dr. Theresa Irons, Dr. Michael Peterson, and VBA's Mr. James Sampsel) they explained in the October 2011 teleconference that none of the C-123 veterans' claims would likely be approved.

Then on February 28, 2013, Mr. Tom Murphy (Director VBA Compensation & Pension, who denies claims on the basis that "TCDD hasn't been shown to be harmful") explained to me and Major Marlene Wilson USAF NC that none of the C-123 claims would ever be approved because Dr. Walters and her associates had already determined that none of the veterans were ever exposed. Thus VHA Post-Deployment Health overruled the Secretary's and General Hickey's assurances to veterans that all C-123 claims would be handled on a "case-by-case" basis.

This opposition to C-123 veterans claims was based on a theory VHA and VBA accepted in 2011 and formed upon the writings of Dr. Al Young. Apparently, he was the scientist who apparently first insisted that none of the Vietnam ground troops were exposed in his 2004 article for Dow and Monsanto  (manufacturers of Agent Orange,) and his July 2011 article in Military Medicine. Young expounded on his theories which were music to the ears of VBA and VHA executives who, as reported in the Associated Press, were determined "to draw the line somewhere" regarding claims of exposed veterans. Young did so by disputing the more current research presented to the IOM and instead citing work decades old. Young argues that the !991 Agent Orange Act was an inappropriate response to veterans' needs, even dismissing statistical evidence of Vietnam veterans' illnesses.

Perhaps Mr. Ridgeway isn't aware of the fact that VA's entire foundation for opposing C-123 veterans relies on its Agent Orange consultant, Al Young. Dr. Young in 2011 described us, the veterans Ridgeway seeks to keep out of VA hospitals, as "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar. I have no respect." Apparently BVA is okay with such distain from its experts but not with experts whose opinions are respectful and in favor of our exposure claims.  Dr. Young's $300,000/year no-bid, sole-source Agent Orange consulting contract has created such useful information for Ridgeway's case work.

Ridgeway's team seems to have begun deceiving judges at the Board of Veterans Appeals with citations of VHA's non-existent "scientific studies" approach in 2013. A search of BVA decisions shows the frequent reference, and reliance by BVA judges upon these non-existent references. This is despite numerous truly scientific studies which conclude the C-123 veterans were indeed exposed.

Ridgeway's staff clearly ignores, and of course prevents informing the veterans' representatives, similar findings by other federal agencies which have reached the same conclusion that C-123 vets were exposed...National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the US Public Health Service. Proofs of veterans' exposure claims are ignored or dismissed by Ridgeway's skilled attorneys.

BVA also ignores the Yale Law C-123 conclusion that the veterans are presumptively service connected for recognized Agent Orange illnesses. BVA's motivated staff of attorneys finds it best to dismiss any such legal or scientific proofs arguing for the veteran.

The first BVA citation below is for a Navy, not C-123 veteran, but the inclusion of such language is terrifically wrong! VBA did not "review all available scientific evidence" but instead VHA Post Deployment Health selected references it felt best blocked exposure claims to fulfil VHA policy. This can be seen from their cited references, paid-for opinions, Dow/Monsanto opinions but avoidance of unpaid and independent expert input from ATSDR, NIH, USPHS, Columbia, OHSU, etc., all of which argue in the C-123 veterans' favor.

Further, this policy by BVA defies statements from VA leaders, including Secretary Shinseki and Under Secretary Hickey, that each claim will be considered on a case-by-case basis, as instead VA automates the denials not only at BVA but directs RO denials as well. We see some BVA decisions against veterans with this language about non-existent "guidance:"
"The VA and DOD have specifically provided guidance that such secondary exposure cannot be granted service connection, to include working on planes that carried or sprayed, or being stationed on vessels which transported the herbicide."
More troubling examples:
"Citation Nr: 1426689: 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."
And from an April 2014 BVA decision, also reflecting VBA's damage. (Actually, these studies and findings have repeatedly been brought to VA's attention.)
"Citation Nr: 1413377: there are no studies that VA is aware of showing harmful health effects for any such secondary or remote herbicide contact that may have occurred."
From others:
 "An undated Compensation Service Memorandum indicates  that there was no presumption of secondary exposure based upon being near or working on aircraft that had flown over Vietnam or handling equipment once used in Vietnam, noting that the aerial spraying of tactical herbicides in Vietnam did not occur everywhere and that it was inaccurate to think that herbicides covered every aircraft and piece of equipment with Vietnam.  Additionally, the undated Memorandum notes that the high altitude jet aircraft stationed in Thailand generally flew far above the low and slow flying UC-123 aircraft that sprayed tactical herbicides over Vietnam during Operation Ranch Hand.  The Memorandum also reflects a comment that there were no studies showing harmful health effects for any such secondary or remote herbicide contact that may have occurred. "
"Citation Nr: 1337387: note, 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 thoroughly 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 www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange.)  Otherwise, other than his unsubstantiated allegations, there simply is no evidence that the Veteran was exposed to Agent Orange or other herbicides based on his contact with any military vehicle that may have once been used in Vietnam."
Mr. Ridgeway, together with VBA/VHA, has institutionalized the C-123 non-exposure position, citing totally  non-existent "scientific" studies on VBA web pages which were policy statements and not scientific studies, and which are contradicted by VA's Federal Register publications and statements by VA leadership. These unscientific positions then become cited by BVA in refusing care to exposed veterans.

Nothing supporting the veterans' claims, although proofs are present in the files of VA's Office of General Counsel, VBA Under Secretary Allison Hickey, and VHA's Dr. Victoria Daveys, is made available to veterans by the VA during claims, appeals or cases before the US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. According to FOIA responses from VA, nothing about C-123s even exists, other than its web pages.

It seems to BVA and Mr. Ridgeway's staff that VHA web pages citing non-existent "scientific studies" by Post Deployment Health trump repeated VA Federal Register publications addressing non-Vietnam herbicide exposures.

As the President told the American Legion On August 26, " That's how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who've served in our name." 

BVA sees upholding the "sacred trust" much differently than do the veterans before the board.

Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Sees Trouble Ahead With Caseload

In its current condition, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims can handle its caseload. But a judge on that court with close ties to The American Legion told Legionnaires at the 96th Annual National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., that things are changing.
Past National Commander Alan Lance, Sr., a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, told the Legion’s Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Commission on Aug. 24 that staffing issues facing the court – along with an increase in appeals coming before it – could put the court in a precarious spot.
“Right now, we have nine judges, and we’re adequately staffed and prepared to deal (with the current caseload),” said Lance, the Legion’s national commander from 1999-2000 and a former Idaho attorney general. “Very soon, we’re going to start losing judges. Unless Congress reauthorizes the maximum strength of nine judges, that strength will be reduced to seven judges at about the time (the court’s caseload will increase).
“In addition to that, we have judges whose terms of service will expire, and it takes a while to get a judge nominated, confirmed and through the process. So … we’re going to be pretty busy, we think. I’m sure we’ll have some suggestions at the appropriate time, but right now we’re just watching it come down the mountain, trying to figure out when it’s going to hit and how much it’s going to be.”
In 2002, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims handled more than 17,000 cases. That caseload could approach more than 50,000 this year. “We’re prepared to deal with it right now, but as circumstances change, we may be coming back and explaining our problems to you,” Lance said.
An understaffed Department of Veterans Affairs’ Group 7 – attorneys tasked with more or less prepping cases to go before the Court of Veterans Appeals and then argue cases on behalf of VA – will impact the court, Lance explained. “They’re going to be requesting more time … and they’re going to slow up the appellate process if they’re not properly staffed,” Lance said. “Our court has no control over this. It’s the (VA) secretary’s bailiwick. But if (Group 7’s) processes slow down, then our processes will slow down. That’s my concern.”

Deceptive VBA Freedom of Information Act Response!

On July 29, 2014, in partial response to my suit in the US District Court of Washington DC for information due me under the Freedom of Information Act, VBA sent a letter. It seems inaccurate and incomplete....in the extreme!

VBA stated, in effect, they had no records relating to the C-123 issue except the three or four Internet pages on the VA web sites.  They denied knowing anything about the current IOM study, other than that it is underway.

Their denial is so broad, they even denied their VBA staff preparing the letter Secretary Shinseki sent to Senator Burr regarding the C-123 veterans. Good thing, because the letter was riddled with errors. A perfect example of how Secretary Shinseki was torpedoed by his staff as they went about their personal agendas.

As for the information which surely exists, VBA insists there were no notes taken before, during or after any of our meetings. No knowledge of the hundreds of pages of letters and forms and source documents the C-123 veterans provided. No knowledge, no records, no recordings, no emails, no correspondence, Nada.

But how can VBA deny the existence of the September 27, 2012 $600,000 contract they let to A.L. Young Consultants? How can they deny existence of documents approving the contract, arranging the funding, receiving the reports, correspondence, distribution within VBA and VHA...how can they honestly evade answering the FOIA in a formal response? How can they deny correspondence between VBA and Joint Services Records Research Center? How can they deny ordering VAROs, such as Portland, to deny C-123 veterans' claims and then deny existence of the emails which were already provided the claimants?

Because this is the VA. What can you do? Appeal?

They do as they wish, as there are no individual penalties for deception or evasion. And they take their sweet time about their inaccurate and incomplete response – the FOIA was given them in October. Instead of responding in the 20 days FOIA requires, VBA opted to ignore it and take until the end of July to respond. So much for VBA adherence to the President's own directives, and statements from the President about FOIA being a fundamental element of American democracy.

This fits in perfectly with the overall VA policy of delay, delay until we die. That's not just a phrase...they mean it.

What VA Doesn't Want the Institute of Medicine C-123 Post-Vietnam Agent Orange Exposure Committee to Know:

VA gathered the Institute of Medicine this spring and summer to study the post-Vietnam C-123 transports and the aircrews' Agent Orange exposures. Their report on what the VA should do will be submitted to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs by the end of September 2014. C-123 veterans notified IOM staff and the VA we consider this an an unethical step by VA to prevent currently qualified exposure veterans from receiving care the law now provides, with VA seeking to use IOM to construct a specific barrier in our situation.

But the committee doesn't have all the facts before it. The C-123 veterans wish to make known the various reports, studies, and other relevant documents, because the end of June was the committee's cut-off date for formal submission and many new items have been uncovered in the last two months.

Here are new developments or materials not previously submitted to the committee:

1. USAF has withheld hundreds of pages of its post-Vietnam C-123 Agent Orange study from release to veterans and the public, but provided everything to the VA. 
The USAF, through suits filed in the US District Court of Washington DC, has released some of the too late for the IOM, USAF released only heavily redacted materials, with nearly every page of the 380 completely blank. The only useful item was a single paragraph in which the USAF research team on post-Vietnam C-123 exposures grouped our exposures with those of Operation Ranch Hand. They then concluded because Ranch Hand veterans are reasonably healthy, the C-123 veterans were somehow not exposed to harmful amounts of Agent Orange. Actually, the AF should have likened our degree of bioavailability to the Vietnam ground troops or even more, according to Dr. Jeanne Stellman of Columbia.
materials sought under the Freedom of Information Act request we first filed in 2012. Last week, years late and

2. VA withheld most pages of its post-Vietnam C-123 Agent Orange activities from release to the veterans and the public.
VA promised through the US District Court requested documents by the end of May, but continues to request postponements and releases nothing except the request for the next postponement. VA references "scientific studies" on its web pages which even the VA Board of Veterans Appeals cites as authority for denying C-123 exposure claims, yet apparently no such studies exist...only the VHA collection of references and selection of those best aimed at preventing veterans' claims. Subsequently in July 2014, VBA officials even denied knowledge of the A.L. Young Consultants $600,000 contract let in 2012, and of all reports, correspondence and other information.

3. Other Federal agencies have concluded the C-123 veterans were exposed and suffered harmful results.
At one point the Secretary of Veterans Affairs told the Senate that "many independent scientists voluntarily came forward" to argue against C-123 veterans' exposure claims, but it turns out there were only three, and each was paid to offer their opinions, one by VA and the other two by Dow and Monsanto. The Secretary dismissed the dozens of "Concerned Scientists and Physicians" who'd written him through Dr. Stellman as their corresponding scientist, and all of whom were unpaid. The Secretary, writing Senator Burr, dismissed these experts with a minimizing adjective as "some."
Please note that three voices against the veterans are termed "many" but dozens confirming the veterans' exposures are termed, "some."

He ignored input from the National Institutes of Health/NEISH and the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry in explaining to the Senate why VA refuses C-123 claims. The Secretary's misleading letter to the Senate, perhaps an example of what the Secretary meant when he resigned because of poor staff work, was prepared by Mr. James Sampsel in VBA who has opposed C-123 veterans' claims since we first began submitting them in 2011.

4.  VA's spokesperson to the IOM C-123 committee was paid $600,000 for his services, but did not reveal this to the committee.
VA was represented at the June 16 IOM C-123 committee meeting by Dr. Al Young of A.L. Young Consultants LLC. He did not inform the committee that he enjoys a $600,000 two year no-bid sole-source consulting contract to help VA prevent post-Vietnam exposure claims. The Dow and Monsanto-sponsored reports properly noted their chemical industry sponsorship. Young works out of his home office.  All six major veterans service organizations have demanded the VA cease contractual relationships with this firm.

5. As I told told the committee, the legal issue for the benefits claimed by C-123 veterans is exposure itself, and not bioavailability.
The law, regulations, US Code and Federal Register simply specify exposure to be eligible for what VA terms "presumptive service connection" for recognized Agent Orange illnesses. We've established our exposure to the satisfaction of legislators and Yale Law School as well as other federal agencies. Agencies with the actual statutory authority and expertise in exposure issues such as CDC, NIH and the US Public Health Service have informed VA that we've been both exposed and harmed by it. VA currently orders all C-123 exposure claims denied but the Board of Veterans Appeals almost always overturns and awards benefits to the veteran. To address this, VA's office of General Counsel has opined that VA can redefine exposure in any unique manner it wishes to prevent exposed veterans from being able to meet the law's requirement which only states "exposure."

6. VA did not reveal that its spokesperson at the June 16 IOM was personally involved in ordering destruction of the toxic C-123s in 2010 (and as he stressed, to prevent potential veterans' claims), and had a background making him an inappropriate decision-maker regarding these veterans' health.
In a 2009 series of "Decision Memoranda" to Air Force leaders, the consultant, in his capacity as Senior Consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense, recommended cessation of all further testing and the immediate destruction of the toxic C-123s, then in quarantine storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. Citing the consultant's unique authority from the Office of Secretary of Defense, Mr. Wm. Boor requested and received from the Air Staff approval for destruction.

This has provided the consultant a unique historical role over four decades:
A. In the '60's he helped develop Agent Orange as a military herbicide and tactical weapon employed from the modified C-123K (which became the UC-123K.)
B. After the war, he provided scientific background to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Secretary of Defense, as well as the Executive Office of the President, in which roles he formulated the Administration's firm resistance to veterans' Agent Orange claims. He received the Legion of Merit in 1985 for this (the citation can be read if enlarged)
Source: USDA AL Young Library
C. The 1991 Agent Orange Act resolved most struggles and greatly deflated the consultant's role at VA significantly as exposure questions were resolved by legislation and VA's continued obstruction was tempered. The consultant's continued opposition of claims by his assertion of the innocence of Agent Orange, simply became irrelevant. Anybody in Vietnam was considered presumptively exposed, and any other veteran able to prove exposure, was also considered to have presumptive service connection. The battle against Vietnam veterans' claims lost, the consultant moved on. His Legion of Merit citation even stressed how valuable he was to the VA in working their Agent Orange program, and was presented by VA leadership in a special ceremony.
D. To continue having a voice in opposing exposure claims, in 2004 the consultant began publishing articles continuing to assert the innocence of Agent Orange and his proposition that none of the Vietnam War veterans were ever exposed...this argument being the development of his idea of bioavailability. Bioavailability was proven for the Operation Ranch Hand veterans who continued in relative fair health, but never tested for the ground troops whose exposures would have been less intense...therefore they weren't exposed or harmed, was his theme. This is contrary to IOM and VA findings as well as the generally accepted scientific conclusion. But it was welcomed by VA VHA Post-Deployment Health as the foundation for their obstruction of post-Vietnam claims.
E. In 2006 he apparently worked a subcontract through Battelle in which he specified to the Department of Defense which non-Vietnam Agent Orange sites were to be recognized. That list is used by VA to deny all claims for not specified by the consultant.
F. In 2008 he was recommended to the Air Force by the Office of Under Secretary of the Army when questions arose about the C-123 fleet then retired to special HAZMAT quarantine storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.
G. In 2009, using three separate "Decision Memoranda" he recommended immediate destruction of the toxic airplanes and all associated equipment because of the need to prevent future exposure concerns, agreeing that the airplanes, even if decontaminated, exposed the Air Force to liability. Because of the cost of testing, he recommended all tests be terminated. He advised the Air Force that post-Vietnam C-123 veterans might learn of the contamination (at that time, all information was withheld from the public under "Official Use Only" per the USAF Office of Environmental Law attorneys') and apply for VA treatment of Agent Orange illnesses, because the laws provided that exposed veterans were to be granted "presumptive service connection." Citing his authority the destruction was approved by USAF.
H. In July 2011 he denigrated the post-Vietnam C-123 veterans, many of whom are veterans of Vietnam, the Gulf War, Somalia, Panama and other combat situations, as "trash-haulers, freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect." This should have disqualified him from any further official or unofficial role in C-123 veterans' benefits.
I. In 2012 he approached the VA with an unsolicited proposal for post-Vietnam Agent Orange studies and catalogue operations. He immediately provided a report on how to prevent C-123 veterans' exposure claims with several that followed.
J. In 2014 he provided additional barriers for VA to employ blocking C-123 veterans' claims, and appeared before the June 2014 IOM C-123 Agent Orange committee hearing to "explain" the VA perspective which he formed with them for $600,000.  This gave him a complete historical role regarding C-123 veterans.

7. VA Expenditures Regarding C-123 veterans' exposure claims:
    -Support Veterans' Claims: $0.00
    -Prevent Veterans' Claims: $600,000 plus contractor expenses, VA staff salaries, travel & benefits
    -Contract extension with Institute of Medicine: unknown but language of the charge is considered to direct a negative response regarding the legal question of exposure and to force an inconclusive response regarding degree of harm, as this has been the result of previous IOM, unless the committee opts to exceed its charge and act with independence. Dow & Monsanto also sponsored opposition to C-123 veterans at the June 16 2014 Institute of Medicine hearing.

8. In 2013 the USAF Assistant Surgeon General informed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee that the USAFSAM C-123 Consultative Letter should not be used by VA in denying C-123 veterans' claims.

Still, VA cites it as the foundational document in preventing all C-123 veterans claims. VA further cites its own "scientific study" which is actually only a single page point paper typed in 2011 in preparation for the initial teleconference between VHA, VBA,C-123 veterans, and several scientists. The VA "scientific study" pointedly ignored every finding and opinion supporting C-123 veterans' claims...only publications which could be interpreted to argue against exposure were cited. This "scientific study" was thus only a policy statement.

In its response to the Senate, the AF illogically also reported that its conclusion aircrews were not exposed was "consistent" with the ATSDR finding that aircrews were exposed, and AF simply disregarded the ATSDR finding that the aircrew cancer risks were greatly increased.

9. The Air Force Ranch Hand Study considered non-Ranch Hand C-123 aircrews as potentially exposed from flying converted spray airplanes.
From the early study:
"Another possible control group, the non-Ranch Hand C-123 population, is known to be too small (approximately 3000) to provide flexibility and replacement under the proposed best match variable concept (see below and Section VI,A). Many of the Ranch Hand aircraft were reconfigured for transport and insecticide missions and thus, non-Ranch Hand crews responsible for these other missions, may have been exposed to Herbicide Orange residues in these aircraft. This group may not be considered truly unexposed to herbicides..."