Senator Burr will be represented by Mr. Tucker. Major Wes Carter, USAF Ret. (74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 439th MAW) will represent the C-123 aircrews from all squadrons. Offering expert toxicology information and interpretation of Air Force tests will be Dr. Fred Berman who heads the Toxicology Department of Oregon Health Sciences University. Explaining the VA position that C-123 dioxin contamination is not a health concern for aircrew veterans will be Dr. Michael Peterson, Chief Consultant, Environmental Health, Veterans Health Administration, Mr. James Sampsel of the Veterans Benefits Administration will explain why the VA cannot permit medical care for aircrew C-123 dioxin exposure and AO illnesses.
Our C-123K veterans only ask that since we can provide persuasive evidence from a host of government and scientific sources as to the dioxin contamination of our airplane, and can prove that we flew aircraft specifically identified as contaminated with dioxin, that the VA accept disability claims from those who also have Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. I thought those were the ground rules described on the VA web site...perhaps not. Doesn't it seem wrong to deny veterans benefits not because of the abundant evidence of eligibility provided by the veterans but merely because of VA policy to prohibit such claims?
Perhaps we can draw some comfort from the assurances of Dr. Peterson that we haven't been exposed to dioxin after all.
Outside the scope of this teleconference, our small group working on this issue feels compelled to add an additional concern. We expect to eventually prevail (or at least, our widows will) regarding "Boots on the Airplane" so that if we can show service aboard a contaminated C-123 and proof of an AO illness, a claim can be put forward to the VA. Our new effort will be to uncover the confusing reason for the intensity of the VA's dedication in denying our claims....Questions arise:
- why did the Air Force take drastic measures to destroy ("the Navy way...the quiet way" as Mr. Boor of the 505th puts it)the surplus C-123 fleet specifically to prevent aircrews' Agent Orange exposure claims?
- What right did AF have to take any action designed to prevent qualified veterans from putting claims forward to the VA as cited by Mr. Wm. (Buddy) Boor of the 505th?
- why did versions of the 75 ABW/PA press release about the destruction edit out mention of Agent Orange and dioxin?
- why is the Blue Water Navy's highly theoretical argument regarding Agent Orange reaching out to sea from contaminated Vietnamese rivers accepted by the VA but our proven exposure to dioxin on the airplane ignored by the VA? Where's the benefit of the doubt here?
- why did the Air Force, once dioxin contamination was scientifically established in 1994, fail to notify aircrews of their exposure to hazardous substances, in violation of both state and federal laws?
- why did the Air Force Office of Environmental Law, in 1996, recommend information about the dioxin-contaminated aircraft "be kept in official channels only?"
- why did the Air Force, having scientifically tested and labeled the surplus contaminated aircraft as "extremely dangerous, extremely hazardous, extremely contaminated" and a "threat to public health", one requiring employees to wear hazmat protection...why did the AF support the VA in characterizing AF actions as merely the result of "an overly cautious mindset" so that the severity of decades of Air Force tests, reports, correspondence and actions would be minimized or disregarded when weighing veterans' claims?
- why did the Air Force fail to reveal the dioxin contaminated C-123K/UC-123K aircraft stored in quarantine at Davis-Monthan during the Arizona State EPA Hazardous Material Survey team visit?
- why did the Air Force Office of Inspector General dismiss the aircrew's complaint without investigation?
- why did the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Davis-Mothan fail to investigate complaints made by knowledgeable officers regarding the Agent Orange issue?
- why did State Department and the AF Security Assistance Center fail to notify foreign governments of sales to them of dioxin-contaminated C-123s? Is that why the VA opposes veterans claims for service aboard those contaminated aircraft..to minimize visibility?
- what role did the attitude of the Senior Consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense have regarding efforts to prevent aircrew Agent Orange claims? Did his statement labeling them as "trash haulers, freeloaders" affect Air Force actions?
- why were FOIAs to the Air Staff, Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records, Air Force Surgeon General, School of Aerospace Medicine and Air Force Security Assistance Center not answered as required by law?
- why did the VA brief Congress about C-123s and Agent Orange, stating that there had not been any dioxin tests on the aircraft after Vietnam, and fail to reveal the many Air Force tests that were completed?
- what would the VA, EPA, USAF and other agencies say if Patches, in its 1994 degree of contamination, were to be returned to flight status...safe, or unsafe?
- After HQ USAF/IG rejected the aircrews' IG complaint regarding C-123 dioxin contamination it was refiled with DOD/IG in June. Their regulations describe an investigation cycle taking not more than 3 months, yet by the end of October why still no response?