LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Federal health officials may have only recently called autism a “national health emergency”, but a new study released Wednesday showed the U.S. has been quietly compensating families with autism for nearly two decades.

The report from SafeMinds.org — a group that believes scientific evidence has linked autism to vaccinations – alleges that a fund set up by the U.S. government to compensate those injured by vaccines has paid out claims to dozens of families of autistic kids.

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The study conducted by the Pace Environmental Law Review revealed that since the late 1980s, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) has paid money for 83 cases involving autism out of approximately 1,300 cases of vaccine injury that resulted in childhood brain injury.

In that same time period, federal officials have maintained that autism — which now affects an estimated one in 110 individuals — is still “rare” and has publicly conceded to only one vaccine-induced autism case involving nine-year-old Hannah Poling.

But Dr. Elizabeth Evans, a pediatrician and specialist with Northridge Hospital Medical Center, told KFWB 980’s Maggie McKay she disputes the study’s findings.

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“The important thing for the American public to know is that the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program is very unique,” said Evans. “It is in no way related to a court case or something in a court of law.”

“There is no proof that an injury has been caused by a vaccine,” she added.

The study’s authors stand behind the findings and warn they are only “the tip of the iceberg.”

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Currently, there are over 5,000 vaccine court cases pending that claim autism as a result of vaccine injury.

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