The VA begins by saying that their actions and decisions are not at all based on “Scientific Articles,” which is one of the categories of responses they received. We will hold them at their word on this; and it’s probably a good thing because their lack of understanding of science and mechanics shows clearly. We might question the author’s certification to write about things nautical and naval, based on a confusion between ships and boats. But just for academic exercise, or the off chance they might change their minds, let’s take a look at what their understanding of the scientific issues are.They state that the RAN study has never been peer reviewed, published or cited “in any reputable study.” This shortcoming was pretty thoroughly addressed in a discussion of the IOM, from whom they would receive information concerning this state of affairs, in the two parts of The Challenge . The VA is still in denial of the fact that the RAN study did have international acceptance: It was presented at two international conferences (2001 and 2002) and published in an industry journal (2001).
The VA states they have been “unable to obtain confirmation” of how a US Navy ship’s water supply system worked in a ship of that era. This, of course, is not surprising, and falls into the same basket of excuses as waiting for the IOM to confer a scientific blessing on publications they’ve been ordered to ignore. In this case, the U.S. built and delivered several of the ships in question under the same specifications used for building some of the U.S. ships we served on. There shouldn't be much confusion here, but let's not forget who we're dealing with.
To their credit, they do bring up some issues which the study authors readily admit as potential short-comings. Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that, had these issues not been pointed out by the authors of the study, they would have gone past the noses of the DVA and the IOM as smoothly as evaporation and condensation slide into “the water cycle” of planet Earth - near virtually undetectable.
The VA states “…the levels of exposure estimated in this study are not at all comparable to the exposures experienced by veterans who served on land.” In fact, the VA has no idea whatsoever what that level of exposure for land-based troops was. This is exactly why they have the concept of presumptive exposure. And this is why the Congress, in 1991, essentially mandated the VA to 'apply presumptive exposure to everyone because we haven't the slightest idea who was exposed and to what degree, if any'. So don't let them fool you into thinking they have any idea of anyone's exposure level. They know nothing more than they did when they argued the case before two courts.
They go on to address supposed reactions to fictitious concentrations of dioxide in their baseless comparison of land-based and sea-based armed personnel. Were they actually capable of doing this, they wouldn’t be such miserable scientists. But you can rest assured in one fact: neither the VA nor the IOM have ever shown a "scientific understanding" of exactly what went on regarding the dispersion and effects of herbicide usage in Southeast Asia.
Throughout this announcement, the VA uses the word “presumption” in a number of ways, with a number of varying definitions or applications, with such inconsistency that this particular concept should be stricken from the document. And when the VA attempts to discuss science, the nature of presumption, the VSM and the status of off-shore and out-of-country personnel, mixed in with attempts to site their own regulations, abandon all hope. We might as well move on to the second category of comments received with the knowledge that "The VA" and "scientific understanding" are mutually exclusive concepts.
The second category, “related [to] the personal experiences of veterans,” is merely a soap-box for ideas waiting to be ruled on by the Federal Circuit court, and is hardly worth the stop. The VA states things they hope to be the case, but any of this can be quickly done away with by the stroke of a pen by the Federal Judges. I get the feeling they're acting quickly to get their nefarious deeds underway because they expect exactly that to happen any day now.
The third category directly addresses those same arguments that are awaiting a court decision. And so, again, the VA says they once again base no change on this category of comments. It is becoming fairly obvious that the VA learned nothing from nor took any counsel from any response that was filed during the public comment period. This, of course, was predicted and you'd have to be completely unhinged to have expected otherwise.
The “other comments” section yields some points of discussion. When asked about the VA’s contemplation of working toward severing the service connection of herbicide exposure for veterans of the Vietnam War, the VA indicates they have no intention of doing so. But from my reading of that statement, there is no assurance the VA is speaking the same language as the rest of the world. I continually loose faith in whatever the VA says, for good reason. They immediately state that IF a veteran had ever won a ruling on presumptive exposure, then it was the evidence in the review file that led to that conclusion. It appears that VA is assuming they have a consistency in their own history of compensation awards. If that is true, and if the VA both believes and relies on these words, then the Blue Water Navy should expect to have the majority of their claims positively adjudicated out of hand based on those claims which can be found at HERE . If past claim awards are their guidance, those will include anchorage in Da Nang harbor and service within the off-shore waters of Vietnam, with neither requiring boot-on-the-ground. At first blush, this is encouraging. As things work out, I’m betting dollars to donuts we will see no such pattern at all. It’s a good PR statement, but totally unreliable for predicting the future. This is just the first move in disqualifying the VSM as a criterion for presumptive exposure.
We then run into the clearest case of a misunderstood word on the VA’s part: presumption. We are told that, if a veteran can submit evidence of exposure to herbicides, they we be “eligible for that presumption.” My friends, if the veteran can show evidence of exposure to herbicides, it is considered a “direct exposure” and the concept of “presumption” never comes into play. So, we’re back in the circular phrasing the led us into the Haas Case, with the VA as clueless as originally shown. We’re back in the territory where, when asked by the Court what the VA’s decision to change the M21 was based on, the admission was simply “Because we can” as opposed to any substantive evidence... certainly no scientific evidence.
As I go through this, I realize the VA has advanced no further in its understanding of this issue than they had at their last appearance in the court room. And I further realize this is simply a groundless justification in working toward denial that not a modicum of dioxin found its way off the mainland soil of Vietnam between 1962 and 1975. See "Running Scared" for a possible explanation as to why they have been ordered to hold to this belief. And remember, "the government" doesn't make laws; the people working as public servants within the government make decisions about what the law should be. I suggest you all send "Campaign Letter One" to your Senators and Representatives to see whose name appears in support of these moves of the VA. If our public servants didn't want it to happen, it wouldn't and couldn't happen.
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