The highest-level whistleblower ever to come forward at the Department of Veterans Affairs is leveling accusations of serious ethical lapses, claiming an agency intentionally manipulated and suppressed data which resulted in veterans — particularly suicidal veterans — being denied critical care, FoxNews.com is reporting. The whistleblower, Steven Coughlin, was a senior epidemiologist at the VA and lead author on two of the biggest studies the VA has conducted on veterans of the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan wars. His claims concern the VA's Office of Public Health.
Among a laundry list of claims that Coughlin told a House oversight committee Wednesday was that he was warned by a superior not to include data in his study that could have helped establish a link between so-called "burn pits" in Iraq and asthma and bronchitis among veterans. Such a link could put the VA on the hook for costly medical treatments.
"I was told two or three times in the second half of 2012 by my immediate supervisor not to look at data," Coughlin told Fox News in an exclusive interview. "And I found that very uncomfortable — very unnerving."
"I can tell you that many Gulf War veterans are infuriated by this," he told Fox News. "It has complicated their lives and made it much more difficult for them to get competent health care from VA providers."
Gulf War veterans like Paul Sullivan — also a former employee at the VA — are pleased that Coughlin is coming forward.
"Veterans have waited 22 years for answers on treatment," Sullivan told Fox News. "And now, finally, we have a high level VA official that is going to blow the doors wide open on how VA is blocking research and benefits for Gulf War vets."
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