29 October 2011

What We Need for VA Agent Orange Service Connection

VA leadership, in particular Dr. Michael Peterson, shot at nearly every claim we advanced during last Friday's teleconference. The VA experts have in addition actually suggested three ways they'd consider our C-123 Agent Orange claims:
 1. if the Air Force scientists who conducted the tests in 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000 or 2009 would step forward and state it is likely that aircrews were exposed to dioxin during our 1972-1982 duties aboard the aircraft or 
2.if scientific interpretation could be offered explaining the exposure to the aircrews from the dioxin on surfaces in the aircraft, or from the dust therein, or 
3.the Air Force should inform the VA that it is "more likely than not" that aircrews were exposed to dioxin during the timeframe of our service aboard specifically-identified Agent Orange spray aircraft
 Dr. Fred Berman, head of the Toxicology Department at Oregon Health Sciences University (and a pilot!) has already made that conclusion. So has Dr. Jeannie Stellman of Columbia University's School of Public Health. Thank goodness for these "wingmen" in this effort, and God Bless them!

Our group of C-123 flyers has scattered to nearly every state in the country. Your state has a state university and nearly every one of those universities has an associated medical and/or veterinary medicine school...with experts who can interpret the test data we've gathered from the Air Force, and help advance reasonable justification for our having been exposed.

Our country is rich with private universities such as Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Tufts, Princeton, Rutgers, Emory, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Carnegie-Mellon, MIT, Boston University, Northeastern, Northwestern, and so many others. Universities full of experts able to analyze the Air Force C-123 test results and explain with the prestige of their institutions behind them, in writing addressed to the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, that the dioxin which contaminated our C-123s "more likely than not" exposed the aircrews.

So you need to get involved! You need to gather our set of Agent Orange documents, and start walking the halls of your local university to find these experts. There will be a wonderful Dr. Berman or Dr. Stellman-type person you can find who will help. From what I've seen since April, so many academicians are willing to help...we just have to find them.

From the Air Force, we need organizations like NCOA, AFA, MOAA, ROA and the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States to contact the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to advance our cause. We need the Air Force to task the School of Aerospace Medicine to look over the data and report whether there is a reasonable interpretation of it to allow our VA claims to go forward. 

I feel the military and the General Services Administration already stated the C-123s were the source of our dioxin exposure. Report after report, from 1994 on, details the testing and label the aircraft "heavily contaminated," "extremely dangerous, extremely hazardous, extremely contaminated" and "a risk to public health." The problem is these reports didn't detail that our physical contact with the contaminated surfaces in the C-123 should be considered "exposure" for the VA's purposes.

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