Speech at Public Comment period
VA Disability Commission
September 15 – 16, 2005
Written by Charles Kelley, Snellville, GA
Ladies and Gentleman, Members of the commission, my name is Charles Kelley; I am a disabled Vietnam Veteran.
I come before you representing Veterans, their families, their widows, and myself.
To allow others to present today I will only hit the highlights of my prepared statements and 500 pages of evidence I am submitting. It would take a couple of days for me to present all of this evidence.
I have some extra copies of my information on CD’s if anyone wants one to review later.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is abusing its power under Title 38 U. S. C. § 511(a) to deny anything associated to our Vietnam toxic chemicals (plural) legacy, as well as any Veteran issues regarding government mistakes to include the “lab rat” usage of our nation’s Veterans in many testing issues such as “Project 112 and Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD) testing.” This abusive power over the past 40-years seems to emanate directly from the White House and some members of congress.
After 40 years of government denials the “Veterans of this Nation” can no longer trust this federal agency, operating at the behest of president after president and some “arbitrary mandated budget”, to admit diseases or disorders of “government inclusion.”
A “conflict of interest” exists between this governing body called “Department of Veterans Affairs” (DVA), with its omnipotent; executive, legislative, and judicial power, and the Veterans of this Nation.
A direct quote from Dr. Ronald Trewyn, dean of graduate school, vice provost of research, Kansas State University, and a member of the Ranch Hand Advisory Committee, during the 2000 government oversight review of this study stated the following:(1)
“And this is more than a veterans affairs issue. It is, in fact, a national security issue. Because if the country continues to treat their veterans poorly and, in some cases, abominably as has been the case with the veterans suffering from adverse health outcomes from Vietnam, from the Persian Gulf, we're not going to meet the recruitment and retention needs in this new era of needing highly educated, highly technically proficient people. They aren't going to stay in because why should they, when they know what's going to happen going out the other end?”
When the medical and statistical evidence is strong enough to show “increased risk of incidence” or a “statistical increase” in medical issues either directly related to dioxin and/or Wartime Service in Vietnam our diseases and disorders are denied. A found linear dose response to dioxin is not reported as a medical issue for our nations Vietnam Veterans and their doctors to assist in a diagnoses or a “first strike” thus allowing these men to die unnecessarily.
At what point do these “DVA actions” or “lack of DVA actions” become criminal?
Veterans’ are disabled and dying of illnesses caused by our own government and denied by the Secretary of the VA using Title 38.U.S.C 511(a). I beg this Commission to do justice by helping to resolve this “conflict of interest.” These valiant Veterans made their commitment to our nation years ago. To deny them justice is shameful. This dire situation with our Vietnam Veterans and “all Veterans” must be rectified now.
Being a disabled Veteran myself; and strongly believing that my non-presumptive disabilities are from the effects of dioxin and other toxic chemicals used in Vietnam, I have spent the last four years studying these issues and have gathered scientific data and overwhelming evidence that demonstrates our Veterans are suffering and dying from dioxin and other toxic chemicals used in Vietnam, as well as “other military geographical locations” around the globe.
On March 15th of 2000, the most important government meeting for Vietnam Veterans and their families since the end of our war was held. Out of 62 congressional leaders who should have attended only 3 showed up. This was a “government oversight meeting” to discuss the status of the Air Force’s ongoing “dioxin research only” called the Ranch Hand Study.(1)
Yes, I did say “dioxin research only.” All government studies have been “reduced” or “constrained” to only study the one component of Agent Orange, Dioxin, disregarding the other two militarized herbicides of Agents White and Blue, or the 15 commercial named herbicides used.
When Ranch Hand scientists brought up this lack of comprehensive evaluations in the transcripts, the answer was, “That just leaves opportunities for future studies.”
Veterans are seeking government help and medical answers to avoid becoming disabled or dying and these scientists are seeking “future employment opportunities.”
This study, disregarded evidence from other studies, and prevents compensation for illnesses, which should be recognized, and thereby “service connected.” Veterans are often not given adequate medical treatment for these illnesses in the VA health system.
This “government oversight review” of this Air Force study determines not only our Vietnam Veterans fate but also the fate of many other Veterans by using these controlled and manipulated government studies. Not only for compensations but also for medical treatment by our nations doctors and being classified as “Service Connected,” which is also tied to many “state benefits for Disabled Veterans.”
The VA leader that was there simply stated congress had given the “sole power” to the Secretary of the VA.
The NAS/IOM leader refused to answer specific questions regarding these issues.
One of the Ranch Hand leaders admitted they were indeed looking for “cause and effect” and that “he thought congress” wanted the Veterans to have some other form of “benefit of the doubt” other than “cause and effect.” However, he was not real clear on what that was and where that fit into the scheme of things as to recommendations for compensations. This statement is not very comforting to Veterans or their widows.
Congressional charges were made that the study was slow to publish findings and that the DOD/VA/Ranch Hand collaboration were less than forthcoming in the truth regarding many found toxic chemical medical issues with regard to severity and volume. For over three years, the Ranch Hand Committee did not even meet, while Vietnam Veterans died or became disabled with no government help.
One of the scientific advisors to the VA, as well as former and present members of this scientific study made additional charges concerning the flaws of the Ranch Hand Study. The most serious of these charges of total study collaboration are in my submitted statements.
After reviewing this congressional transcript and over 600 pages of Ranch Hand meeting transcripts (not the published reports), as a former components engineer and working in the failure analysis field; I can certainly understand why this study and the DVA processes used to correlate compensations wanted no congressional oversight.
You will find in those transcripts that I am submitting: (2)-(8)
· Charges of this study being done only to exonerate our own government.
· Charges of whole chapters being rewritten to deemphasize the medical findings.
· Many issues found and then not brought forward.
· When one scientist suggested he and the others did not want to review the drafts until the Air Force made all their changes, the leader then stated, we do not want to say, “changed.” The scientists then stated OK, how about “air brushed?” At this point laughter broke out in the room.
I can “assure this committee” that no veteran or veterans’ widow is laughing at this despicable behavior. We are disabled and dying and this is no laughing matter.
The most egregious issue you will find is a discovery of liver issues and then the suggestion was made that they inform the cohorts to tell their personal doctors of this issue and let them handle it. Never mind the 2.3 million of us that also do exist; or at least did exist.
A misconception about the Ranch Hand study is that it is studying Agent Orange Herbicides. This is not the case. This government study has been reduced to linear dose responses found to the contaminate dioxin (TCDD) only. When a dose response is found and no overt disease or disorder is detected “at that moment in medical time,” these findings are discounted and not brought forward into the light of the medical community.
An honest assessment would be that they did find a dose response to certain medical abnormalities, inform our doctors of such findings, and let our doctors decide if it is culpable in the Veterans medical manifestations.
When no mandated dioxin dose response is found, even if a 50% or more increase is found in one medical issue, it also is not brought forward.(1)
ONE SMALL EXAMPLE OF MANY DIRECT DVA COVER UPS WITH DISASTROUS EFFECTS FOR THE VETERAN (PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY)
As just “one example” in one disorder of what the DVA is not telling our nations Veterans or our doctors:
In at least two of the Ranch Hand transcripts, I found that the scientists stated that they had found a dioxin linear dose response to polyneuropathy. Even commenting that a second turn through the statistics demonstrated a found dioxin linear dose response to this medical condition.
In addition, under one transcript they included this specific medical disorder as a “study highlight of found conditions with adverse effects.”
Yet, the Secretary of the VA is still denying this debilitating nerve damage condition as a stand-alone disorder that now has thousands disabled, including myself.
In 1991, Admiral Zumwalt (now deceased), a former member of the JCS, after completing a two-year study as pro bono special assistant to the Secretary of the VA concluded the following in his DVA report using independent prestigious scientists and research groups at least 28 diseases and disorders were associated to Agent Orange alone and were service connected:(9)
This report was summarily stamped: NOT FOR PUBLICATION AND RELEASE TO THE PUBLIC.
This list of diseases and disorders is now approaching double that of those in the Admiral’s report that I believe I could make a good case for service connection including many neuropsychological deficits and disorders from the neurotoxicity effects of the toxic chemicals that our government blames on stress. In addition, many forms of birth defects that are the direct result of toxic chemical exposures.
I will not get into “Birth Defects,” as that should be a separate discussion. It is just as collaborative as what I have conveyed to this committee today. To include that anyone that would consider of all the toxic chemical exposures with the potential for mutagenicity, clastogenicity (chromosome damages), and teratogenicity caused birth defects and then theorize that only one specific birth defect of Spina Bifida would result is spurious at best.
Some of our nations doctors are now going up against the BVA with this ridiculous conclusion. Spina bifida itself falls under the category of a neural tube defect and that; “at least” all neural tube defects caused by a teratogenic toxic chemical should be included. If not, then it makes no embryologic sense in the world of medicine and science.
Korean Impact Studies
In the late 1990’s, Korea completed their impact study on Agent Orange. In 2003, the released and peer reviewed study categorically found a connection to peripheral neuropathy. Unlike our own government studies that compared like Veteran to like Veteran, this was a totally blind study that compared non-Vietnam Veterans to Vietnam Veterans and the results were staggering. There was some agreement with the Ranch Hand Study transcripts, but not the published redacted Air Force reports.(10)
The Korean doctors did not understand why the Ranch Hand study had not found ischemic heart disease, vascular diseases, and valvular heart disease that they had found associated.(10) Yet, clearly the Ranch Hand transcripts found this increase in mortality from these disorders as far back as 1991.
In a discussion on why they were not finding the cancer impacts they had expected, a theory was presented that Ranch Handers were dying from cardiovascular issues and not living long enough to develop the expected cancers. Certainly, a comforting thought for Vietnam Veterans and their family. You need not worry about the cancers associated with TCDD, as you may not live long enough to develop them. Especially, since our own government did not see fit to tell these Veterans or their doctors the real facts!
The Koreans reported an Odds Ratio found to Peripheral Neuropathy of OR= 2.39. In comparison diabetes (associated already by the DVA) was found at an OR=2.69. Not much difference at all in the Odds.(10)
When comparing Non-Vietnam Veterans to Vietnam Veterans the p-value of difference was an incredible p = 0.0042.(10)
When comparing this to dioxin they found a p-value of 0.039.(10)
In the Seveso, Italy dioxin disaster studies, while most of these studies were for 15 and 20-year cancer mortality or cancer diagnosed areas. As a side note, they also reported a significant three-fold increase in peripheral neuropathy.(11), (12)
Then we have statements in the second Korean report that states: (13)
Based on the results of two Korean Government studies, peripheral nerve disease is the most prevalent disease followed by lung cancer, Buerger’s Disease, larynx cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and chloracne connected to Agent Orange Exposure.
As probably associated to Agent Orange the list in order is:
Hypertension was the most prevalent followed by diabetes, seborrhea dermatitis, central nervous system diseases, liver diseases, multifocal neuropathy, cancer, hyperlipidemia, cerebrovascular disease, ischemic heart disease, and other skin issues such as urticaria, psoriasis vulgaris.
I would suggest, that the scientific medical and statistical evidence already found in this one medical disorder of “polyneuropathy” could not and would not be ruled as “not associated” by any “real court in this land” with the scientific evidence presented. Yet, this is done on a daily basis “against Veterans” at the BVA using the Secretary of the VA and Title 38.U.S.C 511.
The Federal Agency known as the “Department of Veterans Affairs” and its Secretary LIE to protect the president’s coffers and to cover up government and Department of Defense mistakes.
Many have indicated on the 9/11 issue and even the Katrina hurricane issue that the Federal Government cannot investigate its self. It is painfully obvious this government can also “not be trusted” to investigate this Federal Agency called DVA.
An independent counsel must be appointed to investigate these issues with at least three real Veterans concurrently reviewing this issue. I would suggest that former Senator Tom Daschle be brought back to head this investigation as he himself stated in the late 1980’s that this was not just an interpretation of the found facts but the perpetration of fraudulent government conclusions.
Veterans of our nation are finally realizing - just as Congressman Christopher Shays said it “the very best” in 2000 during the Ranch Hand oversight review.(1)
“At what level do you think Government should consider compensation? Should we have a no shadow of a doubt? The reason why I am asking the question is I have concluded, based on our work that we have done on gulf war illnesses, based on our review of Agent Orange, that I have to be honest with our veterans. By the time we will know the scientific data, “you are dead.” You will either have “died early” or you will have “died in your old age in pain,” but you will not get help from the Federal Government.”
Rest assured there is much much more to these issues that I would be glad to discuss with anyone; anytime or anyplace.
I would be glad to answer any questions at this time.
I thank you for your time and attention.
(1) March of 2000, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations, Committee on Government Reform, Washington, DC, ;Oversight review of the Ranch Hand Study.
(2) October 26-27, 1998 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, transcripts.
(3) August 26-27, 1999 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, transcripts.
(4) October 14-15, 1999 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, transcripts.
(5) October 19-20, 2000 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, transcripts from day one.
(6) October 19-20, 2000 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, transcripts from day two.
(7) January 22-24, 2001 Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting, Transcripts.
(8) March 12, 2003, Ranch Hand Advisory Committee Meeting Transcripts.
(9) Department of Veterans Affairs Report “Classified Confidential Status 1, not for Publication and Release to the General Public.” A report regarding adverse health affects from exposure to Agent Orange; Dated May 5 1990.
(10) Impact of Agent Orange Exposure among Korean Vietnam Veterans – Industrial Health 2003, 41, 149-157
(11) Short and Long Term Morbidity and Mortality in the Population Exposed to Dioxin after the Seveso Accident – Industrial Health 2003, 41, 127-138
(12) Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure: A 20-Year Mortality Study – American Journal of Epidemiology Vol. 153: 1031-1044
(13) Immunotoxicological Effects of Agent Orange Exposure to the Vietnam War Korean Veterans – Industrial Health 2003, 41, 158-166