Ex-VA worker: Negative data hid, manipulated
WASHINGTON — Department of Veterans Affairs officials purposely manipulate or hide data that would support the claims of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent paying costly benefits, a former VA researcher told 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.
“This applies to data regarding adverse health consequences of environmental exposures, such as burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, and toxic exposures in the Gulf War,” Coughlin said. “On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible.”
Coughlin testified before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that the 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.
Top officials in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System have avoided questions about why they waited until Nov. 16 to notify the public about a Legionnaires' outbreak — more than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied two Legionnaires' cases to the VA Oakland hospital's water supply.
Many families claim they weren't told there were Legionella bacteria in the water system at the VA hospitals in Oakland and O'Hara when the system was shut off in late 2012 for flushing in response to the outbreak. At least one family has filed a notice of intent to sue the VA Pittsburgh, and spokesman David Cowgill has cited pending legal action as one of the reasons for declining comment.
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 and traumatic brain injury from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Corinthian Colleges to shut down more than two dozen remaining schools
- Study a surprise: Commercial bees unfazed by pesticides
- Presley’s planes will remain at Graceland
- Severe storm with tornado roars into north Texas
- U.S. lowers fluoride in water; too much causing splotchy teeth
- Wis. resident dies in crash on way to birth of 8th child
- Calif. man accused of climbing White House fence released
- Magma chamber spied under Yellowstone volcano
- Police protesters tangle with baseball fans in Baltimore