01 July 2011

Putting in a Disability Claim? Maybe the VA owes you a backdate on it!

We have found so much information about the dioxin contamination that the issue is no longer in doubt...as Oregon Health Sciences University concludes...we've been exposed. Here's my view, offered for what it is worth.

The chief problem is our own health impact from Agent Orange exposure. But there is also an associated problem in that we have to file for VA rating on the exposure and the Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses (if any), and your claim is based on the date you filed. Let me explain the problem.

The Air Force did its first conclusive testing of C-123K/UC-1232K dioxin contamination in 1993. There was absolutely no effort made to inform the people who flew and maintained those airplanes in the decade we had them. At several times and places, various Air Force technical reports continue to report in detail the toxicity of the aircraft at the Air Force Museum as well as the stored airplanes at the Davis-Monthan boneyard and establish requirements for workers to wear hazmat protection and respirators, but nothing is mentioned about the crews and the impact on our health we were going to face over the years. The Air Force even provided evidence to a Federal judge during a court case that the C-123K/UC-123K were "heavily contaminated, extremely dangerous, extremely contaminated, extremely hazardous". Gosh, that sounds bad enough to do something about it!!!

What did the health officials at AFMC do about this? They turned to their JAG Office of Environmental Law which recommended the information "be kept in official channels". That was wrong...there was a moral and I believe a legal responsibility on the part of AFMC, AFRES and the VA to identify each AME, aerial porter, 731st flyer and our maintenance folks. Our health, our very lives were at stake. As were our families'.

In 2010, a retired USAF colonel and the Consultant on Agent Orange to the Office of Secretary of Defense visits Hill AFB and Davis-Monthan to help them address the issue of disposal of the contaminated aircraft. In his memos to various officials, he stresses the necessity of absolute elimination of the Providers, and reminds his reader that if the media turns its attention to the project, there'd be publicity which would result in veterans turning to the VA for Agent Orange-related issues. Examining the various FOIA results I can find absolutely nothing except his comment which showed any concern at any base, any MAJCOM, anyplace to care about the veterans already exposed.

Sure enough! Exactly what we're doing, now that we know. And turning to the VA is what we should have been told to do in 1993 when the Air Force conducted its first dioxin tests on Patches at the AF Museum. "Heavily Contaminated" was the result of that test...and those words should have triggered on the part of the base, AFMC, the AF Surgeon and the Office of Secretary of Defense an immediate alert to veterans who'd been exposed!

So that is why I recommend that all our Agent Orange claims be dated as far back as your illness' origin...the government of the United States had information relative to your Agent Orange exposure and took specific steps to prevent release of that information so as to prevent us turning to the VA with our claims.

Make your VSO backdate the claim to the point you feel proper.

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