A recent report by the Associated Press has found that thousands of families with claims with a special vaccine court are left to wait for years, sometimes decades before receiving help.
The AP examined hundreds of court decisions, performed more than 100 interviews, and studied a database containing more than 14,500 cases. The database was last updated in January 2013 with the government refusing to release any new updates.
Officially known as the Office of Special Masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the so-called vaccine court is a little known system that is intended to address claims of Americans who believe their children have been harmed by vaccinations. The court is an established part of the federal judiciary system however the authorities over the cases are not called judges but rather “special masters”.
The AP investigation found several issues with the court. These include tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that has been paid to private attorneys who often practice “churning”, a practice described as filing a large number of claims regardless of the quality of the claims. In the private court attorneys are paid out whether or not they succeed in convincing the court. That fact has lead to questionable billing practices and an increase in court claims.
The AP report also found that “expert” witnesses for the families and the government often have a lack of credibility or conflicts of interest. The report says that some of the experts are also involved in setting up nonprofits that question vaccine safety. Meanwhile doctors hired by the government to testify in defense of vaccines have ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
Another complaint involving the system is the lack of publicity it receives. The court purposefully spends very little of its budget on promotional campaigns, fearing that admission of harm from vaccines would lead to a decrease in vaccinations. The AP alleges that the court has “a burden of proof more easily met than civil lawsuits.” The report highlights efforts by government doctors to deny 1,600 families more than $1.1 billion in cash from 1998 to 2012.
While the court requires claims to be resolved within a 240 day period, less than 7 percent of 7,876 claims not involving autism met this deadline. Cases involving autism claims were resolved in less than 240 days only 4.5 percent of the time. While non-autism claims drag on for an average of two and a half years, the other cases average more than three years. Hundreds of cases have taken longer than ten years and some people died while waiting to be compensated.
The Associated Press initially ran the report in mid-November, however, they republished an updated version on December 22. The update states that officials with the court have “vowed to publicize the program better”, and would use “plain language” in their literature and website. They also promised to target promotions to “health care providers, parents and expectant parents, adults aged 50 years and older (including Spanish-speaking older adults), and civil litigation and health attorneys.” Whether the government upholds those promises remains to be seen.
The money for compensation comes from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. If government doctors and lawyers believe vaccines were more than likely the cause of injury they award payment for future care and lost wages. The fund currently operates with a $3.5 billion budget.
In late 2013, Ben Swann reported on the VICP:
“In 1986 when the VICP was first created vaccine makers were protected from lawsuit by the public. The VICP insulates vaccine manufacturers from liability and requires that petitioners bring their petitions solely against HHS. They may not sue manufacturers or healthcare practitioners. The rationale for this industry and professional protection was to ensure a stable childhood vaccine supply and to keep prices affordable.
The 1986 Law also permits the vaccine makers the right to not disclose known risks
to parents or guardians of those being vaccinated. Based on something called the “learned intermediary” doctrine, manufacturers bear no liability for giving, or failing to give, accurate or complete information to those vaccinated.
In exchange for being subject to the vaccine court, families of those injured would be compensated through an administrative process based on a table of presumptive vaccine injuries.
Last year our Truth in Media Project took on a similar issue regarding vaccine court and autism. At the time we pointed out that a review of compensated cases of Vaccine-Induced Brain Injury finds that The VICP has compensated approximately 2,500 claims of vaccine injury since the inception of the program in 1986.
Since that time, despite the official ruling that there is no link between vaccines and autism, there have been at least 83 cases of autism among those compensated for vaccine-induced brain damage.”
In August of this year a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made headlines when he spoke about a study he was involved in that deliberately omitted important information from a study on the link between vaccines and autism.
Dr. William Thompson has been a scientist with the CDC since 1998. After his admission began garnering attention Thompson released a statement through a team of lawyers. Dr. Thompson stated that he and co-authors from a 2004 article published in the journal Pediatrics omitted data demonstrating a connection between an increased risk of autism in African American males who were given the MMR vaccine before 36 months of age.
Thompson believes vaccines have and continue to save lives but says that the CDC has been hiding controversial data. At the time he stated that he had handed over documents relating to the study to the office of Congressman William Posey for review. Posey’s office did not confirm or deny whether the documents were received but at the time we reported that “sources however tell Benswann.com that thousands of pages of documents are now in possession of the Congressman’s staff and will be reviewed over the next few weeks.”
Posey’s office could not be reached for an update.
What are the implications of the Associated Press report?
Is the vaccine court doing more harm than good?
What are your thoughts on CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson?
Let us know in the comments below.