A number of articles have been written recently about the testimony of Dr. Stephen Coughlin, a former senior Epidemiologist at the VA. According to Coughlin, the VA has a history of purposefully skewing data and manipulating study results. Importantly, there is data to suggest a linkage between environmental toxins (i.e. burn pits) and illnesses suffered by veterans, but the VA is actively minimizing and discrediting the data.
“If the studies produce results that do not support Office of Public Health’s unwritten policy, they do not release them,” Coughlin told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
“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 …
… Coughlin told Fox News in an interview, “I was told two or three times in the second half of 2012 by my immediate supervisor not to look at data.” When he said he didn’t want to work on the project with those limitations, Coughlin said that his supervisor threatened him.
If Coughlin’s allegations prove true, a leading veterans’ advocate told the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the conduct by the VA “would be a total breach of trust with all veterans and their families.”
In 2010, Coughlin participated in a study of recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that linked exposure to burn pits to greater incidences of asthma or bronchitis. His request to see their medical records was denied, Coughlin said, and the results of the study were never published.
“I was very concerned they were withholding data or misleading people,” he told USA TODAY. “I don’t want to speculate about why.”