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AEFI and disability: When joining the RAAF to become a fighter pilot, DHS improperly administered vaccines to me. I was repeatedly hospitalised – almost dying with pneumonia. Specialists wrote: ‘he would appear to be genuinely handicapped’ (1061); ‘suffers from chronic recurrent vertigo requiring medication’ (1857); ‘is significantly disabled’ (2630); and has ‘60% to 100% incapacity overall’ (2758). Centrelink concluded: ‘Baseline Work Capacity: 0-7 Hours per week’ (2928).

Contribution, Consistency, and Plausibility: ‘Ben has IgG1 subclass deficiency’ (0298). This ‘may alter your vaccine responses. …your IgG1 […when vaccinated] will be about what it is now…’ (0301). DHS failed to check contraindications – e.g. to see if I was immunodeficient. ‘Directions …used by RAAF Medical, were clearly not followed’ (0346). Contraindicated live vaccines greatly increased the risk of adverse reactions. ‘Certainly, the connection between vestibular dysfunction and …immune reactions is there. …Being dizzy following vaccination could purely be a systemic response without any involvement of the vestibular system’ (1037).

Coherence: Specialists excluded competing hypotheses: ‘He has been extensively investigated and assessed by several specialists…’ (0783). They found ‘…no evidence of organic disease’ (0602). ‘[A] range of specialists have not unearthed any specific disease process’ (2630). They did not find ‘…any evidence of any vestibular or central nervous system abnormality’ (1061). ‘[T]his constellation of symptoms is not consistent with any known or unknown medical or neurological disease …not consistent with substantial pathology within his vestibular system’ (2736) ‘There are no causally connected impairments’ (2739). Three of three psychiatrists found ‘No psychiatric problems’ (0949, cf. 2748, 3297). ‘[A]ssessments by ENT surgeons, neurootologists, psychiatrists and neurologists and no definite diagnosis has been made other than persistent disequilibrium or vertigo with somatic impairment …not consistent with substantial pathology in his vestibular system’ (2758).

Causality: The MRCC’s witness testified, ‘…the information that one gets from a clinical assessment of an individual patient is vastly richer than the information that comes in a one paragraph summary and which might be available to regulatory authorities.  That’s why they rely so heavily on the clinical judgment of the people making the case report when considering the connection.’ (P-77 AAT transcript) The DHS doctor who conducted those clinical assessments at the time wrote, ‘Reaction to vaccines — Hep B – Sabin’ (0101). Later DHS confirmed, ‘adverse reactions to vaccinations’ (0520). I asked TGA whether ‘vaccinations contributed to, caused, or had no effect on those symptoms occurring at that time’ (0971). TGA replied ‘From our [adverse drug reactions] data it appears that you have your answers to likely causes’ (0977). Parliament agreed, ‘lymphadenopathy…following BCG vaccine was assessed as ‘likely/certain’ (2450).

Discrimination: On immunologist advice, DHS administered Intragam to me (0257) and to a senior officer fast-jet pilot (even on his deployment in East Timor [0290]). A CO, without my consent or knowledge, phoned another specialist and arranged a medical review (1360) requiring the cessation of Intragam – thus denying equitable healthcare. The RAAF wrote: ‘…there are some anomalies… MECRB cleared [May] to fly unrestricted and deploy while taking… (Intragam)… Whilst this would appear to be clear guidance to the member and his gaining unit… May was… taken off the prescribed treatment for his condition. In other words, the directions of the MECRB were overruled. …May was taken off the ‘authorised medication… CAMECR… made recommendations that do not appear to be consistent with its own findings two years earlier. …there are two issues… to resolve… Firstly, the decision to overturn the… MECRB guidance… needs to be clarified; particularly whether the judgement was made with the appropriate authority and medical guidance. Secondly, the difference in… assessments begs interpretation that… May is being disadvantaged. Whereby… May’s condition was originally assessed to be clinical and treatable, the assessment now infers that it is a psychiatric condition rather than also consider that his condition may still be a clinical condition that the RAAF has failed to treat’ (08270828).

Concealment and False Information: ‘A significant problem …is the lack of supporting information in regard to a number of decisions made by medical authorities… Legal advice received, supports the member’s view, that without such clarification… his appeal would be meaningless’ (1047). ‘May in the past has received conflicting… advice and information from a number of people’ (1166). I asked DG-DHS for a review (1176). He said the RAAF has a duty to provide written justification to any member, for any DHS medical decision which affects the member (1182). Meeting DG-DHS face-to-face he said he would review my case. AFHQ wrote: ‘…the process concerns that [May] raises… will be looked at separately in [DG-DHS] AIRCDRE Austin’s review’ (1291). Meeting CAF Angus Houston face-to-face, he said he would review my case. Defence Equity Organisation wrote: ‘AFHQ intends to fully review your case’ (1117). The Redress of Grievance (ROG) investigation officer wrote: ‘I will investigate your complaint’ (1151), but later wrote, ‘[t]he appropriateness of the management of Mr May’s circumstances will be determined as part of the DPO [AFHQ] and DHS investigations’ (1746) – i.e. the ROG was incomplete. RAAF confessed: ‘the Department of Defence failed to notify Mr May in relation to outcomes… that arose from the redress of grievance process’ (2050); ‘No further review, or formal investigation by Defence Health Service …was concluded’ (2060); and ‘May’s case had not been further investigated [by AFHQ]’ (2462). In sum, the RAAF never completed their review of my case.

Holding Pattern: ‘May has been taken ‘around the buoy‘ by our medical processes for four years without resolution and treatment of his medical condition. It would appear he was under a successful treatment which was withdrawn… I think our first responsibility is to restore his health…’ (0777) ‘[May] has been unable to meet the deadline due to certain agencies continuing to ‘stonewall’ him.’ (1020) ‘Administrative delay \ decision paralysis \ too hard basket are very common for difficult cases. I think [May’s case is] a difficult case for [AFHQ]’ (0857). ‘May has experienced an unprecedented delay in, and disruption to, his career aspirations’ (1714). ‘I have identified significant periods of delay’ (1362). ‘Understandably… a source of frustration to [May] because his career was essentially on hold…’ (2463). ‘Given the previous resistance or inability to progress the member’s case, it is apparent that the RAAF would have some difficulty justifying all its actions if it were to face a challenge to its handling of this matter. …May has demonstrated considerable patience and good will to date, however the member does not wish to be the longest serving OFFCDT the RAAF has ever seen (five years service already)’ (1046).

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© Benjamin May  1997 – 2014 All rights reserved

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