For the last six years, Idervan DaCosta has endured shortness of breath and pain in his lungs that feels like they are on fire. This happens every couple of months and lasts a few weeks at a time. DaCosta attributes it to inhaling toxins while sleeping yards away from burn pits in Afghanistan. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied his application for disability benefits for the condition. Now, the Marine veteran and Brookfield resident has more hope.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suppressed information that shows links between health problems of veterans and the dangers they were exposed to in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War, according to a whistleblower who testified to a House panel Wednesday afternoon. Steven Coughlin described an “epidemic of serious ethical problems” in the VA Office of Public Health, where he worked for 4 ½ years as a senior epidemiologist until December. “If the studies produce results that do not support Office of Public Health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them,” said Coughlin, in testimony to the U.S. House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Oversight and Subcommittee. “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. On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible,” he said.