Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Federal Government’s Treatment of Veterans Is Shameful: Veterans Affairs Official Downplays Agent Orange Risks, Questions Critics

leave a comment »

Charles Ornstein reports in ProPublica:

A key federal official who helps adjudicate claims by veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange has downplayed the risks of the chemical herbicide and questioned the findings of scientists, journalists and even a federal administrative tribunal that conflict with his views.

Jim Sampsel, a lead analyst within the Department of Veterans Affairs’ compensation service, told a VA advisory committee in March that he believes much of the renewed attention to Agent Orange — used during the Vietnam War to kill brush and deny cover to enemy troops — is the result of media “hype” and “hysteria,” according to a transcript of the meeting released to ProPublica.

“When it comes to Agent Orange, the facts don’t always matter,” said Sampsel, himself a Vietnam veteran who also handles Gulf War-related illness questions. “So we have to deal with the law as written.”

Part of Sampsel’s job entails reviewing evidence to determine whether a veteran or group of veterans came in contact with Agent Orange outside of Vietnam. By law, veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served or stepped foot in Vietnam; they have to prove exposure if they served at sea or in another country during the war. They also must have a disease that the VA ties to exposure to the herbicide.

“From my point of view, I will do anything to help veterans, any legitimate veteran, and I’ve done it plenty of times,” he told the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, a group that advises the VA. “Unfortunately when it comes to this Agent Orange, we have to have a lot of denials.”

Sampsel also offered a window, for the first time, into ongoing internal deliberations at the VA about adding new diseases to the list of those connected to Agent Orange exposure. He suggested that despite increasing evidence tying the herbicide to hypertension, or high blood pressure, the VA is not going to extend benefits to veterans with that condition.

Reached by phone, Sampsel said, “You’re going to try to frame me, too,” before referring a reporter to the VA’s media relations office. ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot examined the effects of Agent Orange on veterans and their offspring in a series of articles in 2015 and 2016, raising questions about the VA’s handling of the matter.

The VA provided two written statements in response to questions for this article. Initially, a spokesman said that Sampsel was speaking as an individual at the meeting, and not for the VA.

“The objective of a federal advisory committee is to have open and public discussion of the issues for which it is chartered from the experts who understand and bring their own unique perspectives,” the statement said. “The March 2017 meetings were no exception and Mr. Sampsel’s comments did not fully or accurately reflect VA’s position concerning these issues.”

The VA said no decisions have been made about which new diseases to add to its list of those linked to Agent Orange exposure.

Asked whether it continued to support Sampsel, the VA said in a subsequent statement that he “is highly dedicated and respected within and outside of VA for the work he has done to establish many of the present policies that provide veterans, their families and survivors the benefits they are entitled to under the law.” The department also questioned the quotes a reporter asked about from the advisory committee meeting. “Taking quotes out of context without fully understanding the law, science, reasons or intent behind those words is a disservice to the advisory committee and the veteran community at large as well as Mr. Sampsel.” (Read the full transcript.)

Veteran advocates said they were furious to learn a VA official charged with objectively weighing evidence related to Agent Orange had shared controversial personal views. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s