The exact type of brain cancer that took Beau Biden’s life has not been publicly named. But from the reported timeline of his illness and other known factors, some claim it was most likely Glioblastoma Mutliforme, an incredibly aggressive cancer believed to be on the rise, particularly among those with exposure to burn pits like the one at Camp Victory in Iraq. The biggest reason this increase is believed to be on the rise and not proven is due to the intentional hiding of data on the part of the Veteran's Administration.
Some say the proof that Beau Biden’s brain cancer was related to his military service is the fact that he was admitted to Walter Reed for treatment. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is the nation’s premier facility for the care of active and retired personnel. There are reports of several classified studies being done there on brain and other cancers related to exposure to burn pits. The reason these studies are classified is the VA is desperately trying to deny any causative link between previously rare and aggressive cancers and service at bases where burn pits were used.
It is a curiosity that the White House has not countered the accusation that the son of the Vice President received special treatment an ordinary civilian would not, even one with presumably the best insurance money can buy. There hasn’t even been push back trying to claim Beau Biden is entitled to care at a military hospital because of his military service. Perhaps that is because one doesn’t get treatment at a military hospital unless you are either active duty or retired military, which he was not.
The closest to an answer we get is from Walter Reed spokeswoman Sandy Dean, who said the hospital “…often admits individuals as a matter of security precaution...”, referring to the need for higher security required in anticipation of frequent visits of Vice President Biden. This argument seems specious at best as George Washington University Hospital has been the treatment center of choice for Presidents and certainly is accustomed to and practiced at the security precautions necessary to care for the President of the United States.
The location of Walter Reed can't be the reason Biden was admitted there either. George Washington University Hospital is five minutes from the Vice President’s residence on the White House grounds, and that is for normal drivers. In a motorcade with Secret Service escort, stop lights and traffic would make the trip no more than two or three minutes. Walter Reed, on the other hand is more than twenty miles away. Even in a helicopter, it would take more than two or three minutes.
Whatever the reason for Beau Biden’s admittance and treatment at Walter Reed, the speculation continues that Biden’s cancer was related to exposure to the burn pits of Camp Victory. Further, the speculation is that while the VA is working very hard to find ways to deny care to those exposed, medical science, even within the military, is working on treatments for these cancers which are no longer so rare, at least among veterans of our most recent and current wars.
Those who are fighting the burn pit denials are both discouraged and encouraged by two recent events. For years, our government denied our troops were exposed to chemical agents during the first Gulf war. Finally, it was proven some were exposed to Sarin, the deadly nerve gas, when a munitions plant was bombed. This is in keeping with the VA’s continued refusal to acknowledge any connection between military service and brain cancer, even in specific situations where our troops were exposed to Sarin, the deadly nerve gas, during the first Gulf War as is outlined in this report from July 2014.
Thanks in no small part to pressure from veterans groups and some legislators, the VA seems to have reassessed that position. As reported in the Spring 2015 news release from the Department of Veterans Affairs Public Health, a Work Group has been formed to study brain cancers in this specific group of veterans.
If when faced with simple, incontrovertible facts and proof the VA refuses to grant presumptive status to veterans seeking care for service connected illnesses, it is no surprise that cancers, particularly brain and lung cancers among troops exposed to Burn Pits are being routinely denied. The proof is as incontrovertible and as obvious, both scientifically as well as according to the rules of common sense, yet in case after case the VA denies a causative link and denies care.
This too, though, may soon change as the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry is now up and running. At this point, the VA is not accepting exposure to Burn Pits as a presumptive condition, but it at least has been forced to collect the data. Each case is still being decided individually, and reports state that the majority of claims are still being denied.
Veterans groups that fought hard for the creation of this health registry admit this victory is just one battle in a long war. In order to win care for all those whose health or lives were lost due to the conditions created by the burn pits, participation in the registry is required. Critics of the VA contend that it won’t matter because the VA will simply skew the results to further deny claims and treatment. It is my belief that the VA and even the Pentagon can and will be forced to acknowledge and accept this classification of wounds only when and if enough people participate.
If you were stationed at a base where a burn pit was in operation, follow this link and register. It may not make a difference today but not participating will guarantee things will be no different tomorrow.
At this point, the incidence of cancer, specifically brain cancer among veterans could be called a closely guarded secret of the Veteran’s Administration, despite the Burn Pit Registry Act. Or, perhaps because of it. At a time when there are 2.7 million veterans who have been deployed overseas, a majority of whom were stationed at or transitioned through bases where burn pits were in operation, this is a most telling turn of events. And it is intentional.
Prior to 2007, the VA reported type, incidence and a host of information on cancer diagnoses to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program of the National Cancer Institute. Citing veteran’s privacy concerns, this reporting was suddenly halted.
This sudden concern for the privacy of veteran’s is simply bogus. The National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and National Program of Cancer Registries all participate in the reporting of data, so as to track the incidence, mortality and specific populations of cancers and current treatments. The primary goal is to both understand the potential causes and risk factors as well as the efficacy of treatments for specific types of cancers. This initiative has been deemed so important that a Public Law, the Cancer Registries Amendment Act of 1992 mandates reporting by all states.
The information collected does not ever include personally identifiable data. Demographics are collected to help understand and adjust for age, race, ethnicity and gender but the primary data collected is on the types, genomics and treatments of cancers. Further, there are specific and separate registries for types of cancers, classified by the anatomical location of the cancer’s first or primary appearance. In other words, the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, the place where one would assume definitive answers on the type and frequency of brain cancers in veterans could be found is not current in its data. By intention on the part of the Veteran’s Administration.
According to a report in the Oxford Journals Neuro-Oncology, Statiistical Report: Primary Brain and Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States 2005-2009 - “Reporting from Veteran's Health Administration (VHA) hospitals, the sole source of data for cancer cases diagnosed among Veterans served by those institutions, affects completeness of data. Cancer cases from VHA facilities account for at least three percent and possibly as much as eight percent of all cancer cases diagnosed among men. VHA policy that went into effect in 2007 restricting Veterans' health data sharing has resulted in the underreporting of cancer incidence data for diagnosis years 2005 through 2007. Since late 2008, VHA facilities and states with central cancer registries have been working to establish data transfer agreements that correct the problem to assure more complete ascertainment of national cancer incidence including brain and CNS tumor incidence data used in CBTRUS statistical reports.” The full article can be accessed here.
Another way, some say the most effective way to change the current state of affairs is not to just get more people involved and demanding answers, but to get the right people to speak up.
Next – Open Letter to Vice President Joe Biden
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