This may be the hardest article I have written to date. It will upset some, anger others and sow dissention. I do not do it lightly.
I apologize for having to embarrass a Veteran. Anytime I find an injustice or untruth being propagated that will deprive a Veteran of potential benefits, I shudder. It is extremely difficult under the best circumstances to get VA compensation. To have someone standing outside the VARO screaming “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here!” is the antithesis of what we stand for. Our mission is to inform. As they say at Fox News, “We report. You decide”. That should be all we do.
To keep it in perspective, when a Veteran purports to be schooled in the medical arts and even crows about it with a detailed autobiography, you would tend to trust or give credence to his warnings:
US Army 1959-1969; Germany 1960-63;
SFC E-7 MOS: 55G10 (60-63) (55G is a nuclear weapons specialist)
1964 to 1969:
91B40 ( 91B is listed as a medical NCO)
91C40 (91C is listed as a practical nurse)
91F40 (91F is listed as a psychiatric “specialist”)
Registered Nurse, 1968-2005 (Licensed, not practicing after 1975)
Ed.D in Rehabilitation Counseling, Certified Rehabilitation
Counselor Retired, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Independent Social Security Contract Vocational Expert 1983-2005,
Contract Medical Expert 1987-2005
60% Service Connected Disabled; Life Member of the DAV since 1980
One will note that he purports to have been a “contract medical expert”. I assume that means he was allowed to give expert medical testimony regarding any number of medical subjects. When you give him a soapbox such as a Veterans site and allow him to disseminate knowingly false information that might dissuade a Veteran from filing, this borders on criminal behaviour. Veterans deserve better. In fact, they deserve the very best that we can deliver if we hope to truly help them. Providing incomplete or incorrect information often will cause them to lose and/or prolong the process interminably. Purposefully publishing untruths and medical misinformation is dangerous for any number of reasons. In the context of a VA claim, it is lethal. Your very credibility is at stake. Once that is in tatters, you whole claim is in jeopardy.
Meet The Old Medic from the VBN (Yuku) site. He is discoursing here on the Hepatitis C flavivirus about which he purports to know much:
As to the Hepatitis C, unless you can show that you got it while on active duty, it would not be a service connected issue.
Since the disease was only identified by Dr. Edwin Southern in 1989, how do you think all (or a majority) of us have proven we contracted it in the sixties and the seventies? This is the essence of the Risk Factors Questionnaire we fill out.
Using drugs is a VERY common source for Hep C, so anyone that has been using drugs is going to have any such claim denied very quickly.
Unfortunately for Mr. Medic, this is untrue. No less that the CAVC has remanded claims back to the BVA for a more nuanced explanation of how an affliction for left-handed tobacco could translate into contracting HCV. In the same decision, the Judge asked the VLJ to also illuminate the connection between being extremely trashed or hammered (ETOH abuse) and subsequent risk for hep. If you search the BVA HCV decisions blogs, you will find numerous incidences of Veterans with “imperial entanglements” of the drug kind who ultimately went on to success. Making unequivocal statements about things you do not understand, research properly or are ignorant of is puffed shirtery of the worst kind.
Your claim is not going to get you anywhere. There is no way that using a pneumatic injection system would spread Hepatitis C, unless the serum itself was contaminated. If that was the case, then everyone that got that injection would have gotten Hep C very shortly after they got the injection. This would NOT occur years later.
This argument is self-defeating. It ignores the possibility of an infected person being administered the inoculation and blood being transposed to the next in line. All who were there, medics included, can attest to the fact that flinching or moving while being inoculated invariably resulted in a laceration. In fact, those very same medics even admonished you not to move. In addition, Hepatitis C is a “cryptogenic” disease that often does not manifest itself with observable symptoms for 20 to 30 years. This is why so many of us were and are diagnosed late in life years after our service. The VA is belatedly coming to this realization and they are now more amenable to granting service connection based on that one single facet. For years they espoused what the Old Medic continues to-that there was no evidence of HCV in your medical records in 1968. My time worn analogy for that is like the car buff looking for a left front quarter panel for his 1969 Mustang in a junkyard in 1948. You won’t find one. It hadn’t been “invented” yet.
Mostly, this statement fails for the most obvious of reasons. The Hepatitis C virus is extremely durable and can exist outside the body in dried blood for months and still be viable. This is accepted medical science now proven in the laboratory. Doctor Medic merely opines on a contaminated serum, perchance Gamma Globulin, but ignores the documented CDC risk of the blood. Therein lies the seed of his medical malpractice. I shudder to think that he may have had occasion to opine on any Veteran’s risk factors for contracting HCV in a court of law as a “contract medical expert”. God forbid.
The chances of proving that you got it from a military pneumatic injection system range between nil and none. I suppose that’s as good a way to waste time as anything.
I suppose this was the last straw for me. Here, our self-taught expert in gastroenterology opines that it is a fool’s errand to pursue this. Some seek their knowledge at approved universities and institutions of higher learning. Then there are those who need the instant fix obtained from a Time-Life How To book. A small minority ignore all conventional venues and simply parrot the party line-which in this case happens to be the VA’s philosophy. VA feels that if you have HCV, you attained it via drug abuse. In rare instances it has been attributed to tattoos and STDs but the prime progenitor is drug abuse and that is that. Case closed. The exception to this rule occurs when you have a doctor provide the linkage to the risk (jetguns). I suppose this eventuality never occurred to our erstwhile “nurse”. Being so highly trained in the military, his knowledge surpasses that of mortal “M.D.”s- those who actually attended an institution of higher learning.
If I had subscribed to his theory, I would have several fewer Vets service connected at this point. The fact that Vets are winning using this defense disproves his hypothesis. Not only that, the CDC has finally come out and admitted that they were wrong about jetguns all these years-horribly wrong. Mea culpas of this magnitude rarely occur. Medical science is self-correcting and eventually comes around to the correct answers to most quandaries. They have here in no uncertain terms. Yet our esteemed Veteran/nurse clings to an indefensible logic that is woefully out of date. And to add insult to injury, he has a forum in which to disseminate this misinformation to the detriment and harm of other Veterans. That I find unconscionable.
When we moved the site over here from HCVets in 2011, I was faced with a choice of continuing the former forum style that many Veterans sites use or break new ground with the blog model. Cupcake suggested the latter for several good reasons- the most apparent being an opportunity to dispel old wive’s tales and myths about this disease. The forum model illustrates why you have to be careful. Giving everyone the moniker of “expert” and allowing them to publish their medical dissertations unsupervised on your website tars and feathers you as one who concurs. This is the problem. In a properly controlled environment, with some procedural safeguards, this works very well. Hadit.com is an excellent example. Fortunately, the moderators, administrators and Elders supervise their underlings and promptly rebut erroneous information. Note the word “rebut”. This is not synonymous with the word “censor”. Censorship occurs when you remove legitimate posts from your forum that make your moderator look like an uneducated boob.
Hadit.com has been around for eons and their moderators and Elders are wise beyond their years. They have a stellar reputation earned as a site where you can obtain the unvarnished truth devoid of politically (or VA) correct thinking. They do not publish untruths nor do they permit them to be published without a nuanced rebuttal that demolishes the hypothesis in a reasoned manner. Most Veterans who contribute advice research their answers extensively before pushing Print.
Obviously, in spite of his claim of being a registered (practical?) nurse, the gentleman who travels under the nom de plume “The Old Medic” appears to have no more knowledge than a lowly bedpan changer. Giving out advice is a dicey matter in the Veterans’ form of ex parte justice. One misstep and all your hard work is gone. Here, our old pecker checker has reported numerous mistruths that are easily disproven by long-held medical theses and studies. The mere fact that the DoD withdrew these inoculation devices in 1997/98 speaks volumes about their inherent unsanitariness. The old saw about HCV=drug abuse is no longer an absolute in light of newer studies. To cling to a theory after everyone knowledgeable in the arts has declared it obsolete tells us he either is not up to speed on current best practices or has an agenda to deprive Vets of knowledge. Whatever the reason, to allow him to hold forth and influence Veterans into refraining from filing or to give up is the antithesis of what we all stand for and the purpose of the websites.
This is the inherent danger of the unsupervised forum model. Everyone becomes a self-proclaimed expert. When the offender is elevated to a position of authority or by his self-reported autobiography, he dons the mantle of respectability and his word is revered. Why would he lie? What does he hope to accomplish by spouting these mistruths? Those are the pertinent questions. Veterans everywhere should ask themselves “What can this gentleman hope to accomplish with his lies?” Don’t misunderstand me. These are lies-not a simple case of someone misinformed. I do not use the word “lie” lightly.
Having observed this phenomenon for over four years, I can only conclude that the hierarchy of VBN supports this purposeful distortion of what is otherwise commonly accepted medical knowledge. They have had numerous opportunities to correct the mistruths. Indeed, for several years, this self-proclaimed medic was a moderator and given the cachet of a medical know-it-all to the detriment of the Veterans he ostensibly sought to help. He dispensed advice freely with abandon. How much, in retrospect, was in error is anyone’s guess. I note he has “retired” his title and is now just a contributing member again. Nevertheless, the damage he spread, and continues to, is irreversible in most instances.
Veterans, as I will continue to say until I die, deserve the best advice and help they can get in this business. In no legal venue in America is a citizen deprived of meaningful legal representation except the VA. Veterans tend to take counsel with their own and those who purport to represent their best interests. This is the essence of why we have Veterans help sites such as this one. Doesn’t it sound onerous to have one which does everything in its power to obfuscate, misinform and then censor those that try to reveal the perfidy? This is embarrassing. Some have counseled me not to discuss this on the site because it casts a bad light on all Vets help sites. I disagree. This is like aiding and abetting a child molester by letting let it continue. Nothing good can ensue-ever. The harm-to even one Vet- is impermissible.
We have one job and a sacred one at that. It is my opinion (not always shared by others) that our legal options are extremely limited. I do not feel the VSO system is quite the panacea that others do. I do not hold the VA and its personnel in the same high esteem that others do. Today I take the next pensive step and say that I do not feel that all Veterans help sites share that sacred desire to help Veterans. That might fly in the face of accepted dogma but it is supported by what I see and read above. That it continues unabated year-in and year-out at one, and only one Veterans website, speaks volumes about the ones in charge who aid and abet it by their inaction.
All Veterans advocates, be they VSOs, attorneys or even uneducated fools like me. should take a Hippocratic oath of sorts wherein they swear “First, do no harm”. Can VBN look itself in the mirror and say that in good conscience?”
I suggest all who read this go to the site http://vets.yuku.com/topic/98411/Hepatitis-C and ask the seminal question: “Why, in light of all the knowledge on HCV, do you continue to perpetuate this kind of misinformation? I will also make two prophecies It’s now 1357 hrs (L) on the left coast on 4/21/2013.
Prophesy #1 is that this subject will be closed to further comment as soon as the moderators discover you have noticed the Emperor is naked and comment about it.
Prophesy #2 is that any other discussion boards on this subject will also be curtailed so as not to embarrass their contract medical expert and spare him any humiliation.
I will add a last one. Any of you who go there risk being a) censored; b) derided as conspiracy theorists or c) refused entry and prohibited from membership posting. I discovered that I had attained that exalted status several days ago when apprised of this misinformation. I decided to refute it and was subtly informed my valuable knowledge on this subject did not rise to their high, medical standards. In a word, I was refused entry. Considering we inhabit a nonadversarial environment where the Veteran is accorded every benefit of the doubt, it seems the VBN help site does not extend the same courtesy. Rest assured. You will never be censored here except for expletives that exceed good taste. Your opinions, however will always be entertained and given equal space in the comments section. Unlike some sites, we subscribe to the unalienable right to freedom of speech-and opinion. What we will not permit is information we know to be harmful or prejudicial to your VA claim. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Forewarned is forearmed