Monday, March 25, 2013

VA Launches Internal Investigation into Whistleblower's Allegations of Gulf War Illness Research Misconduct

( - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has launched an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct related to VA's handling of Gulf War Illness and other deployment health research.  The allegations were raised at a recent, highly charged Congressional investigative hearing.

“If the studies produce results that do not support Office of Public Health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them,” testified Dr. Steven Coughlin at the March 13, 2013 hearing of the House Veterans' Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (HVAC-O&I).  Coughlin is a former senior epidemiologist-turned-whistleblower who resigned from the VA's Office of Public Health (OPH) due to "ethical concerns".

Coughlin and others testifying at the hearing, including Dr. Lea Steele and myself, provided numerous allegations of serious VA staff wrongdoing -- primarily within VA-OPH -- related to Gulf War Illness, burn pits, and other serious post-deployment health issues.

On March 14, the national commander of the American Legion called for an investigation:
“If Dr. Coughlin’s allegations are true, VA’s conduct is absolutely unconscionable. Some veterans – those of the first Gulf War – have been suffering from this disease for as many as two decades. That the cause of this serious, painful and debilitating malady might have been purposely withheld from broad medical knowledge is beyond comprehension. With knowledge of the cause could have come a cure, perhaps long ago. A thorough investigation is demanded by The American Legion.” 
The internal VA investigation will be led from within the Office of the Director of VA's Office of Research Oversight (ORO), a subunit of VA's Veterans Health Administration.  

Federal law creating ORO [PL 108-170, Sec. 401] specifies that the ORO, "shall investigate allegations of research impropriety and misconduct in medical research projects of the Department."  

A link on the ORO website to VHA Handbook 1058.02: "Research Misconduct" is broken.

-Anthony Hardie  

1 comment:

Waiting said...

My first question regarding an internal review would be, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? "Who watches the watchmen?"

Looking in ORO regulations it would appear that the Director reports to the Under Secretary for Health, the [VA] Secretary, and the Committees on Veterans’ Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Perhaps it is time to set a few minutes aside and drop a line to your Senators and Representatives. Making sure that they know that they have constituents who are highly vested in the outcome of this investigation would be prudent, I believe. We should ask our Congressional Offices to put ORO on notice that their investigation will be scrutinized and they will not allow the report from the investigation to be swept under the carpet.

I feel that a subunit of the VHA would be more prone to an honest investigation if we can get a few Congressmen breathing down their backs.

Here is the link to the Senate Committee on Veteran's Affairs:

The House Committee on Veteran's Affairs:

Find your Senator:

Find your Representative:

Let your Senators and Representatives as well as the Chairperson of the two committees know that you are an ill Gulf War Veteran and how you feel about Dr. Coughlin's allegations. Ask them to pay close attention to the ORO investigation now before we have to ask them to investigate the investigation.

Thank you!