received today, addressed to me from the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service. Certainly a polite letter but its value will only be felt if VA and DOD officials will, in turn, consider it. There is no doubt as to the accuracy of our AO claim, just the struggle to get those whose job it is to automatically deny such claims to yield in their position...just a little.
Dear Major Carter,
Thank you for your recent correspondence. Your letter refers to airmen and flight nurses who flew C-123K/UC-123K Provider aircraft from 1972 through 1982. You state that their service led to exposures to Agent Orange (AO). You state that they operated aircraft that had not been properly decontaminated after serving in Vietnam and spraying AO during operation Ranch Hand. Your correspondence includes substantial information to support your claim.
You ask that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) provide emergency assistance by recommending that the Department of Defense (DOD) designate these contaminated aircraft as Agent Orange Exposure Sites. I understand that the Department of Defense does evaluate information of this type and determine if an AO exposure occurred. Should DOD conform past AO exposures, the US Department of Veterans Administration (VA) applies this designation in determining a service connected illness. ATSDR has forwarded your information to the VA and requested that it be forwarded to the appropriate office in DOD.
Your letter concluded in stating that VA will automatically deny any Agent Orange exposure claim by a veteran without service in Vietnam. The VA's website provides the presumptive service connection for AO has been extended to veterans deployed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone between April 1 1968 and August 31 1971. In addition, veterans involved in duty on or near the perimeters of military bases in Thailand may qualify for benefits. These veterans must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to herbicides between February 28 1961 and May 7 1975.
The effort made by you and your colleagues to collect this information is remarkable. I greatly appreciate the service you and your colleagues have given our country. I believe the information you have provided should be carefully considered by the Department of Defense.
Chris Porter, Ph.D.
Director, National Center for Environmental Health, and
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry