Steven Coughlin, a formerly an epidemiologist for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs testified to members of Congress yesterday that the Office of Public Health “hides or obscures research findings on veterans exposed to environmental toxins and hazards going as far back as the Persian Gulf War” according to Bryant Jordan at Military.com;
“On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible,” he told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Coughlin said his former office never released findings of a $10 million study that produced data on 60,000 Iraq and Afghan war vets – of which up to 30 percent were Gulf War vets – that revealed exposures to pesticides, oil well fires and more.
He said the results of a congressionally mandated study on Gulf War veterans and their family members also was never released, and claims he was advised that “these results have been permanently lost.”
“Anything that supports the position that Gulf War illness is a neurological condition is unlikely to ever be published,” he said. One of Couglin’s former supervisors, Dr. Aaron Schneiderman, threatened retaliation against him after he balked at the idea of deliberately leaving out certain relevant data in a research project, Coughlin said.
Well, of course it can’t be neurological condition – the VA would rather hire psychiatrists than doctors;
Victoria Davey, chief of the VA’s public health and environmental hazards office, told lawmakers that the office follows strict guidelines in analyzing and publishing its work. However, but she never directly addressed Coughlin’s allegations.
In a statement released after the hearing on Wednesday, the VA said VA Secretary Erik Shinseki has ordered the VA’s Office of Research Oversight to review Coughlin’s claims, including the alleged threat.
Shinseki does an awful lot of closing barndoors after the horses are out. So his statement says that the agency doesn’t punish whistleblowers, but I’ve gotten email from DVA employees who have been critical of practices in the VA and have been told in no uncertain terms that their jobs might be in danger if they continued.