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VA Researching scandal

USA Today posted an article on March 13, 2013 regarding the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The article discusses a researcher’s opinion that officials at the VA have been purposely manipulating or hiding data that would support the claims of Veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He reported his findings last week to a House subcommittee on Wednesday. “If the studies produce results that do not support the office of public health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them,” said Steven Coughlin, a former epidemiologist in the VA’s public health department. His research focused on adverse health exposures while in the Gulf War, traumatic brain injuries during the latest war in Iraq and Afghanistan and post traumatic stress disorder. Coughlin testified before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that VA routinely minimizes research that would bolster the claims of veterans suffering from the series of symptoms associated with Gulf War illness, as well as health issues linked to exposure to large burn pits and dust in Iraq.

Coughlin’s allegations echo previous cases in which the VA was slow to respond to health problems in veterans, ranging from exposure to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange in Vietnam, to Gulf War illness, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published,” Coughlin said. Anthony Hardie, a Gulf War veteran and appointed member of the Congressionally Directed Gulf War Illness Research Medical Program, said Coughlin’s testimony confirms what veterans have been saying for years. “There are staff within VA who are working against Gulf War veterans,” Hardie said. “It puts focus on the specifics and details on the generalities that were already clear.”1

Couple Coughlin’s claims of the VA hiding or altering VA research results with recent scandals in the VA regarding water contamination at Camp Lejeune2 and the VA hospital in Pittsburg3, the massive backlog on processing claims4 and it’s no wonder the public has lost its trust in the VA’s ability to take care of the Veterans of this nation. After the 1991 Gulf War, a series of research reports raised concerns that the Veterans’ children were more likely to be born with defects, and that Veterans’ spouses were also becoming sick. Congress mandated that the VA maintain a registry of Gulf War veterans’ family members. The data has never been released, and Coughlin said he has since “been advised that these results have been permanently lost.”





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