period for the agency. The committee began to meet increasingly rarely and considered fewer new program initiatives. Funding became increasingly problematic as the 1980s began. The country's continued economic problems affected the Medical Follow-up Agency during this period, as it did most entities that relied on government funding. However, the agency could point to numerous completed manuscripts, and publication levels remained healthy; only in 1982 did agency projects yield as few as four published manuscripts. Other years in this troubled period saw almost three times as many articles printed in respected journals by agency staff or investigators.160

As Remington reached the end of his chairmanship in 1977, he looked over the Medical Follow-up Agency and noted some of the ongoing limitations of the agency's efforts. By now the litany of complaints was familiar. Extensive pilot work was often required to assess project feasibility and cost. The very breadth of the MFUA mission also left it no specific focus. The fragmentation, and even obsolescence, of source documents and the extensive use of non-VA hospitals by veterans lessened the usefulness of the veteran cohort over time. Moreover, its funding pattern left the agency unable to plan effectively, and the weakness of the agency's links to the larger scientific community meant that this funding pattern was unlikely to change soon.161

Yet, the agency continued to take on new projects. Studies exploring the relationships between immunological abnormalities of various kinds and subsequent cancer were undertaken in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute. Twin projects, including topics as diverse as genetic variations in fluoride effects on dental caries, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease, and alcoholism, were approved in the last two meetings of the 1970s. A study of Navy radar workers, which found no measurable health effects from exposure to microwaves, and a study of World War II veterans with limb amputations following trauma (see Box 12) which found excessive mortality from cardiovascular disease, were completed. CEVFUS also approved pilot studies on alcoholism among veterans and the potential relationship between household pets and multiple sclerosis.162

In 1982, Dr. Lazen of the Academy of Life Sciences proposed reorganizing the MFUA as a more broad-based epidemiological organization, emphasizing "activities of a more traditional, advisory kind," such as the agency's review of the protocol for a study of health effects of phenoxy herbicides in Vietnam and its still-nascent entry into the area of atomic veterans. In part because of Zed Hrubec's departure in 1981, Jablon found himself understaffed as well as underfunded. Jablon realized that much of the work Lazen prescribed for this proposed committee on epidemiology was already being done by other groups in universities and government. "There may be occasional cases in which our own talents and expertise surpass those available to any other group," he wrote, "but I cannot think of any offhand." Lazen backed down. Jablon, after all, had history on his side.163

For want of core support with which to pay meeting costs, CEVFUS went



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement