05 January 2019

C-123 Agent Orange Veterans: Too Few Know About Our Special VA Benefits

The Buckeye Wing's Tom Scanlon forwarded VBA records on C-123 Agent Orange disability claims. CONCLUSION: The word hasn't gotten out!  Only about 10% of  our vets have had disability claims approved, a much lower percentage of disabilities for our population than others in our age group, plus the overall number of applications is lower than it should be.

Actually much lower, because VA has seen a significant number of claims from obviously ineligible people...passengers, people who might have worked on one at some base, people who were out of the service before Agent Orange was used, or claim exposure long after the C-123s were all retired.

It seems VA might be shutting down its C-123 dedicated claims team in St Paul, believing that most veterans who needed to will have already applied. I don't agree. To me, the low numbers mean that VA and USAF/DFAS simply need to do a better job informing potentially eligible C-123 veterans that anyone with Agent Orange disabilities can apply for disability benefits.

Help get the word out to other C-123 veterans, won't you? Not only are our Agent Orange illnesses going to be cared for, but we get the full range of other VA benefits...compensation, Combat Related Special Compensation (for military retirees,) home loan, medical care, pharmacy, counseling, pretty much everything. You earned it with "boots on the airplane," so get your application in to VA today!

02 January 2019

Major Diane Sampson Passed December 31, 2018

This very sad news was received today. Diane attended my wedding at Hanscom AFB, arriving after a hasty departure and two hour drive from her hospital and still in her scrubs...but she was there. In earlier years I attended her brothers' memorial services and admired Diane's steady support to her parents. God bless and keep our dedicated flight nurse.

Diane R Sampson

AUGUST 16, 1955 ~ DECEMBER 31, 2018 (AGE 63)
Obituary Image

Diane R.(Nosar) Sampson, 63, passed away on December 31, 2018 at Baystate Medical Center. She was born in Holyoke to Walter and Muriel (Giguere) Sampson. Diane served her country in the United States Air Force as an enlisted aeromedical evacuation technician and after receiving her RN, as a Flight Nurse (74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron) for 20 years retiring as a Major. She was a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Following her service she worked as a maternity nurse and a psychiatric nurse for Providence Hospital in Holyoke. Diane was a member of the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 
Diane is survived by her loving daughters, Alyssa Sampson of Hampden and Sabrina Sampson of Holyoke, her parents, Walter and Muriel Sampson of Westfield, her cherished granddaughters, Alivia and Taylor, her brothers, Walter Sampson, Jr of Westfield and Donald Sampson of Texas and her best friend Cathleen Wilson of Chicopee. Sadly Diane was predeceased by two brothers, Thomas and Robert. Diane’s funeral will be held on Friday, January 4, 2019 with a Mass at 10:30AM in St. Mary’s Church, Bartlett St. Westfield followed by burial in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Southampton Rd. Westfield. Visiting hours will be held prior to the Mass from 8:30-10 AM in the Firtion Adams FS, 76 Broad St. Westfield, MA 01085. www.firtionadams.com

Review: Our two goals for C-123 Veterans' Agent Orange Benefits

Simple. A mostly successful seven-year effort. Many folks chipped in funds to help and I never wrote thank-you cards. That is because all I did was work and the contributors know it and know their help was vital.

GOAL ONE. VA designation of C-123 veterans as "presumptively exposed" to Agent Orange, thus entitling us to VA medical care and other benefits.

GOAL TWO: Get our VA disability claims honored from the earliest date submitted, if earlier than what VA limits for retroactivity (June 19 2015 at the earliest.) This is because many C-123 vets had claims in prior to that date, but were met with the then-automatic VA denial. And VA did deny...100% of all our claims were refused.

At least the VA barrier to our retroactive claims has been broken down a little. A handful of C-123 vets had claims approved via BVA appeals (Paul Bailey, Dick Matte) but VA has been firm in limiting retroactive claims to June 19 2015 and no earlier. It has to do with Reservists not being entitled to disability benefits unless disabled during the Reserve duty.

For some, this has cost tens of thousands in anticipated, but denied, "catch-up" checks. An example: a claim submitted in 2007 but denied at the time, then honored by VA once its C-123 rule was published on June 19 2015. If the vet was due a 100% disability rating, that's eight years of compensation VA won't pay...about $200,000 lost by the vet because of VA's limit of retroactivity set at June 2015.

The good news: at least one claim has been awarded retroactive Agent Orange benefits from the date submitted (in this case, March 2011. On the vet's appeal the BVA determined that C-123 exposure itself was a disabling injury that would date from "back in the day" while flying the Provider. That decision meant the affected Reservist satisfied the law's requirements regarding a disabling injury to trigger statutory veteran status, and the claim was honored back to the date the vet first filed for Agent Orange disabilities. That was a lot of money, with thanks due to the National Veterans Legal Services Project and their cooperating pro bono attorneys!

01 January 2019

C-123 Agent Orange VA Benefits: A January 2019 Resource List

Below you'll find a fairly current list of VA and other significant publications about C-123 veterans and our Agent Orange exposures...just click on what you want to read or download.

Here's a reminder: if you are a post-Vietnam C-123 veteran and have any of the recognized Agent Orange illnesses, you are entitled to the full range of VA health care and other benefits.  Some veterans have succeeded in having claims approved for disabilities not on VA's list of presumptive ailments, getting benefits for avascular necrosis and other problems, but VA is mighty cautious about such coverage...it is a painful uphill battle.

If you are diagnosed with an Agent Orange-related illness, you are entitled to the full range of VA medical care and other benefits...almost. Our benefits vary in that children of C-123 vets aren't eligible for spina bifida benefits, and our claims cannot be honored prior to June 19, 2015 when VA published the C-123 Agent Orange rule. Fortunately, here too, VA has permitted some exceptions.

Agent Orange Newsletter 2018 (VA Public Health) (failed to include C-123 info)

Scientific American: Agent Orange Exposure Endangered Air Force Aircrews (January 2015)

Exposed Veterans Accuse VA of Foot-Dragging on Benefits (Huffpost, 2017)

CDC Report to VA: "C-123s unsafe in American airspace. Crews should have flown in full HAZMAT protection (Dr. C. Portier & Dr. T. Sinks) June 2012) June 2014

Post-Vietnam Military Exposures Aboard Agent Orange Spray Aircraft (Environmental Research, July 2014)