29 February 2012

Tucson Publishes Our Letter to Secretary Shinseki

By Michael Patrick Brewer         Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
 As is frequently said in my coterie of combat veteran friends, “Agent Orange, the gift that keeps on giving.” Friday, the National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America issued a public letter to the Secretary, endorsing the C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims and calling for prompt action in the face of convincing scientific proofs.

I will remind the reader, that one of the more elevated functions of blogging is to solicit more truth from a broader base than might be afforded in the dailies. If retired Major Wesley Carter, is on his game, than one could say that this topic is not much different than what the Marines have been dealing with at Camp Lejune with toxic water supplies. Truth is the first, and the last casualty of war.

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki

Secretary of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I chair our small group of veterans who flew and maintained the Fairchild C-123K “Provider” for ten years following the Vietnam War. These aircraft remained poisoned after spraying Agent Orange during the war, with dioxin intense enough to be labeled by Air Force scientists as “heavily contaminated” and “a danger to public health.” These aircraft should be designated Agent Orange Exposure Sites.

When we asked the Air Force and VA to investigate, we were instead given two press releases explaining that, while the aircraft “may” have been contaminated, there wasn’t enough TCDD left to likely cause long-term health problems for our veterans.

VA’s position was quickly challenged, in particular by Dr. Fred Bernam, director of the Toxicology Department of Oregon Health Sciences University and by Dr. J. Stellman of the School of Public Health at Columbia University. Further, on 26 January 2011, the deputy director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry stated that our veterans were most likely exposed, and over a long time, and at a level about 200 times more likely to cause cancer. He also said our exposure was probably even more intense in the decade we flew, which was as much as 22 years before that first scientific testing. The ATSDR letter was certainly a game changer…how can VA possibly deny the authority of an ATSDR finding?

General, any observer would conclude that the VA’s threshold of probably has been well-met in our case. Our aircrews, maintenance personnel, flight nurses and medics have been exposed to dioxin, our parent service has confirmed this contamination and its danger, and the federal agency responsible for reaching the definitive conclusion about that has voiced their finding quite clearly. Any benefit of the doubt must rest in our favor, but there is little doubt left surrounding this issue.

We must ask that the Department withdraw its statements concerning the lack of TCDD contamination and the unlikelihood of personnel exposure. Outside scientists have called the VA’s preparation of their C-123 position “unscientific.” Some of the authors cited have specifically told VA that their works have no relation to aircrew exposure. Several of the authors cited insist aircrews have been exposed, and yet the inference of the VA reports is that the sum of evidence available speaks against a reasonable possibility of aircrew exposure.

That simply is not so. Yet, these statements discourage veterans from considering Agent Orange claims. The statements discourage VSOs from working on our claims, regardless of our proven legitimate eligibility for claiming TCDD exposure.

Benefit of the doubt is supposed to fall on the veteran’s side. We have exceeded the threshold of any reasonable benefit of the doubt, and indeed quite the opposite – there is very little doubt left about our being exposed.

As we understand it, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs can designate our aircraft (since destroyed by the USAF because of their contamination) as Agent Orange exposure sites. Please do so. If instead, some other action on your part leads to our veterans receiving medical care for their Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses, please bring us relief via that path instead.

As volunteer aircrews we willingly flew these older airplanes and accepted the extra hazards of flight inherent in them. The Army really needed these aircraft and their unique short-field capabilities, as we proved in several REFORGER exercises. Nobody knew about the contamination during the years we flew but certainly everyone knows now! Our duty was to fly, and now the VA’s duty is to address our medical concerns resulting from exposure to dioxin.

We’d be grateful for an opportunity to discuss this with you or a representative, but we’d be better served by your executive action in designating our old airplanes as Agent Orange hotspots so that we can proceed with fair evaluation of our claims.
And our claim, sir, is “Boots on the Airplane.”


28 February 2012

Getting There Slowly - still hoping for VA to do the right thing!

The Old Sarge puts his faithful but tired C-123 out of its misery!
Support Comes In - Pressure Mounts on VA

C-123 veterans have been favored with strong support this month from Mr. John Rowan, National President of the Vietnam Veterans of America. Also, Independent Scientific Opinions were offered by Oregon Health Sciences University and by Columbia University.

No challenge or question has been raised about the dioxin contamination of the old Provider, nor about our aircrew exposure to all that dioxin which remained on the aircraft.

Next week, the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine runs their findings of a three-month investigation past Senate staffers who've been tracking our concerns (Mr. Brooks Tucker of Sen. Burr, NC) and we anticipate solid support from the Air Force. Last month the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry issued with everyone has been calling a "game changer"...directly challenging the VA's position against us, the ATSDR's official letter found that aircrews DID fly in a heavily contaminated aircraft, DID become exposed to the dioxin remaining from the Vietnam War, and DID suffer a 200-times greater cancer threshold. Further, ATSDR said the exposure was likely even more intense in the years 1972-1982 than when tests were finally done in 1994.

How much more of a case does a veteran have to make to the VA to get medical care for Agent Orange presumptive illnesses? We have had our flying buddies rejected by the VA and the Board of Veterans Appeals because no proof was available about the aircraft use in VN nor the specific aircraft contamination - because all such proof was withheld by the USAF Office of Environmental Law until released via the Freedom of Information Act in May 2011. Now that the information cited has been found, the VA develops new objections to allowing our crews and maintenance troops vital medical care. Now they say we weren't exposed to "enough" dioxin. Well, folks, the Institute on Medicine reports that there is no safe level of dioxin exposure. None. And in our case, tests show Patches and the other birds were exposing us to 200 times the safety threshold.

And what a delaying act the VA presents! This writer's own Agent Orange application for service connection (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, misdiagnosis, bad attitude) has been on the so-called "VA Fast Track" for 329 days. Thank goodness I'm already 100% for other issues or I'd have been devastated financially by now.

My senator's office called to say the VA was waiting for papers from another agency??? Huh? Takes a year to drop a memo to somebody and get a reply? Fast track? Off the track?

24 February 2012

Vietnam Vets of America - Press Release Supporting C-123 Dioxin Claims!

(RECEIVED TODAY - With thanks from our fellow veterans of the VVA!)
February 24, 2012 No. 12-06
Contact: Mokie Porter
301-585-4000, Ext. 146
Make Agent Orange Aircraft Crews Eligible for Care and Disability Compensation
(Washington, D.C.)—“Vietnam Veterans of America holds true that crews who flew the C-123K aircraft contaminated with Agent Orange should be acknowledged by your department to have been exposed to this herbicide, and that those crew members who are afflicted with any of the maladies the VA considers presumptive to service connection ought to be eligible for health care and, when warranted, disability compensation,” wrote John Rowan, National President of VVA, to General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Citing the strong language from Dr. Thomas Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, in acknowledging the contamination and the crews’ exposure, Rowan noted, “This directly challenges the VA’s contention that, although the aircraft ‘may’ have been contaminated by dioxin, there was little likelihood of any harmful exposure.”
Acknowledging that, far too often, the VA has taken an adversarial stance concerning invisible wounds of war suffered by too many of our veterans, rather than acting as an advocate on behalf of these men and women, Rowan stated, “It is time for the VA to acknowledge what the U.S. Air Force has already certified, that there is enough evidence these aircraft were, in fact, heavily contaminated, and that those crew members afflicted with illnesses the VA recognizes as service-connected presumptive ought to be eligible for health care as well as disability compensation.”
“We bring this to your attention,” stated Rowan in his letter to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, “because we hope your good offices might ask for a reevaluation of your department’s stance in this matter.”

Vietnam Veterans of America - Agent Orange Resources

Over the years one of VVA members and a former Chairman of the Agent Orange Committee put together a database of studies related to “Agent Orange/Dioxin” exposures and their impact.  George Claxton wants to share this information with his fellow veterans.   We are grateful for George’s hard work and dedication in working on these important issues. 
In order to make this information available to veterans, the Agent Orange/Dioxin and Other Toxic Substances Committee has converted the information into a PDF file as well as an excel spreadsheet, and as a Microsoft works spread sheet. 
The last column in all three of these documents lists the original database number and refers to the disease cover or the type of study as listed below.
  1. Analytical
  2. Soft tissue Sarcoma
  3. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  4. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  5. Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma
  6. Respiratory Cancer
  7. Prostate Cancer
  8. Liver Cancer
  9. Skin Cancer
  10. Nasal/Pharyngeal and Brain Cancer
  11. Other Cancers
  12. Mechanism of Toxicity
  13. Developmental and Reproductive
  14. Mutagenic Damage
  15. Animal Toxicity
  16. Immune System Toxicity
  17. There is no #17 database
  18. Human Toxicity
  19. Neurological Damage
  20. Desert Storm Toxicity/Biological Warfare
The PDF file GCdatabasePdf82010 makes this information available to everyone who can get on the internet.   If you don’t have the program to read the pdf file you can download a free reader at the below address:
The Excel file GCdatabaseExcel82010 is in a spreadsheet.  To use this information you will need a program that can run Excel spreadsheets.   Microsoft office or Open Office will work for this file.   Open Office is a free software program that you can use to read the excel file.  A  link is provided below http://www.downloadtop.info/openoffice/
So more people can use the data in spreadsheet format, we converted the data to Microsoft Works spreadsheet format.

GCdatabaseWorks82010 spreadsheet allows people who have Microsoft Works spreadsheet program on their computer to read the information.  
VVA and the AO/DOTS Committee hope this information will help veterans who are working on their claim or researching as advocates for other veterans.   As we will be updating this information the number at the end of the file name is for the month and year of the file.
Let VVA know at aoates@vva.org if you have questions or comments about the information.
from:Alan Oates, Chairman, Agent Orange/Dioxin and Other Toxic Substances Committee

23 February 2012

Naval Aviator Asks House Veterans Committee to Support US!

I ask my friends to support us by writing their congressional representatives, and am heartened by this letter to Congressman Burr (chair of the Veterans Committee). Earlier, I'd convinced Mike to sign up for the Agent Orange Registry and he was fortunate to discover a previously unknown health problem during the physical! Here's this retired senior Naval officer's letter:

My friend, Major Wesley Carter,  USAF, Ret. Has been spearheading an effort to give aircrews who flew in Agent Orange contaminated aircraft the right to treatment in Veterans’ Administration medical facilities.  As you know, a number of C-123 aircraft that were used to spray Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war were later assigned to CONUS-based reserve squadrons.  Air Force tests show the aircraft remained contaminated, and, in turn, the crews who manned them were exposed to dioxin.  I thank you for the support you have already given to this issue.  I understand from Wes that your staff member, Brooks Tucker has been tireless in his efforts to obtain VA medical support for these aircrews.

I see VA’s adamant refusal to recognize the claims of the aircrews who flew in C-123K aircraft post-Vietnam as just another manifestation of the historic bureaucratic foot-dragging that has been typical these last thirty-odd years.  The VA has fought treating service members exposed to Agent Orange at every step of the way, but I fear we have yet to see the end of the claims resulting from this powerful toxin.  In the spring and summer of 1972, the aircrews from my helicopter detachment were in Da Nang at least every third day.  Out of approximately a dozen pilots,  I know of one with diabetes, another with prostate cancer and one with heart disease.  These diseases are on the list of illnesses attributable to Agent Orange.  Unfortunately, I haven’t been in contact with the remaining aircrew personnel in my unit and there could certainly be more illnesses.

In the coming years, we are going to see efforts to reduce and restrict the benefits available to our active duty and retired military personnel.  In the current fiscal climate, Americans are going to have to make sacrifices.  I often hear the statement, “Thank you for your service.”  The sincerity of that gratitude will be revealed, in part, by whether the American people will demand that military personnel (active and retired) make sacrifices in addition to those already incurred by virtue of their service.   I hope you will continue to “support the troops” both by backing Major Carter’s tireless labors and in broader areas of military benefits.

Thank you.

/Michael N. Lewis/

Asheville NC 

22 February 2012

Oregon Health Sciences University - NEW C-123 exposure confirmation

Today the Secretary of Veterans Affairs was sent an Independent Scientific Opinion from Oregon Health Sciences University. In this expert opinion, Dr. Fred Berman concludes that C-123 aircrews flew aboard aircraft were indeed contaminated as per the 1994 Air Force tests (Porter/Weisman), and that exposure occurred within these "heavily contaminated" airplanes!

Dr. Berman agrees that the VA's announcement dismissing our Agent Orange exposure claim was incorrect, and that aircrews "were more likely to than not" subjected to AO-presumptive illnesses caused by the dioxin exposure.

The VA has claimed there wasn't even any exposure! This is in denial of multiple Air Force tests, reviewed and accepted by other federal agencies and universities, all which say there WAS both exposure and crew contamination.

What's it take? Gold tablets from Heaven?

21 February 2012

Recognition - Our Supporters!

Thanks to Paul, John and Dan, we have recognized several of the folks outside our organization so vital in getting our Agent Orange issues addressed. We still need help recognizing three more key players...if you are able to lend a hand on this part of our effort, drop me a note so I can give you addresses and ordering details.

Note that we wish to offer our thanks for help already received, not to attempt to solicit it in advance.

Please, whatever you do, don't send me money!

VA Re-examines Blue Water Navy Vet's Claims!

"Hundreds of Vietnam Navy veterans whose Agent Orange claims were denied because VA failed to obtain key military records will receive benefits as a result of a review requested by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii. As of April 2011, VA had re-examined about 6,700 of the 16,820 cases Akaka called to the agency's attention, says Tom Pamperin, deputy undersecretary for disability assistance. Many will receive disability compensation and medical care for illnesses connected to Agent Orange exposure. "

Blue Water Navy & C-123 Veterans - what are the differences?

I have been asked to explain, as best I can, some differences between our effort to have the VA recognize Agent Orange exposure by C-123 veterans, and similar claims by veterans who served aboard ships during the Vietnam War - well-known as the "Blue Water Navy". Another group are the children of Vietnam veterans with birth defects, and I do not know how to address their claims - my heart is torn apart when considering their suffering. Men like Ben Quick are the best voice for justice for these folks.

First, in no way do I argue with or disparage claims made by Blue Water Veterans, nor seek to make our claim more or less legitimate than theirs. We should all expect that justice and science treat both groups equally.

The fundamental differences in our situations are:
1. The Blue Water Navy group is huge...over 200,000 veterans, compared to C-123 post-Vietnam flyers, AME and maintenance folks totaling only about 1,500; Blue Water Navy has tremendous political support, membership support, and media visibility. Large size means huge financial impact on the VA if benefits are approved. C-123 veterans have had their requests to Congress and the Senate answered by exactly one staffer...Mr. Brooks Tucker of Senator Burr's staff, who has carried the burden for us in Washington for nearly a year now! Other politicians have simply ignored us
2. The C-123 has detailed, scientific USAF testing establishing the contamination by TCDD (dioxin) on many aircraft, with exact tail numbers identified in many instances. There are also AF tests done before and after decontamination of Tail #362. There have been no similar scientific tests on Blue Water Navy vessels although a convincing report was just released about decontamination of carriers!
3. There is a huge paper trail of official documents within Air Force Material Command and the Air Staff concerning the "Agent Orange" airplanes, from 1994 through final destruction of the remaining aircraft in 2010. AF Office of Environmental Science recommended test information "be kept in official channels only," prompting questions about a possible cover-up
4. The recent Institute of Medicine report about Blue Water Navy concerns said the possibility of dioxin contamination via desalination procedures out at sea "could not be disproved." This gives some low degree of probability to the argument, rather than the VA's requisite "as likely to as not" level of proof. In the case of C-123s, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the CDC with responsibility for this issue) has determined C-123 aircrews likely were exposed and stated our exposure was at a high level of cancer threat. This language is far above the VA's threshold requiring the benefit of the doubt resting in favor of a veteran's claim for disability
5. TCDD contamination of the C-123 was established by AF testing, and the testing procedures and results challenged by the VA in November 2011. However, the AF testing was specifically cited as proper procedure with valid results by the ATSDR, as well as by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in their Independent Scientific Opinion. Columbia labeled the VA review of C-123 Agent Orange issues as "unscientific"
6. Columbia further classified C-123 veterans' exposure as on a par with or greater than ground personnel serving in-country during the Vietnam War
7. C-123 veterans, in some cases, served a full decade aboard the contaminated aircraft. Service was in direct contact with contaminated surfaces, providing inhalation, ingestion and dermal contact routes of contamination
8. Blue Water Navy has successfully had many ships identified by hull number for presumptive connection for veterans who served aboard. No C-123 veteran (other than those who previously served in Vietnam during the war) has had a claim approved by the VA or by the BVA upon appeal

I feel that both groups have valid claims deserving of scientific and legislative evaluation and, if well-founded, recognition by the Department of Veterans Affairs for treatment of our veterans' Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. That's all we ask...if TCDD contamination and exposure can be established and a veteran suffers from an AO-related disease, the veteran should be given treatment for that disease. 

Our claim  - "Boots on the Airplane" = Recognition for Agent Orange Illnesses

18 February 2012

EPA Releases Latest Dioxin Analysis - Volume One

EPA finally released their long-awaited dioxin study, with a second volume due soon. Many industry lobbyists had fought release of this document but the Secretary of Health & Human Services finally did the right thing.

It is highly technical, but gives experts more to chew on as they evaluate our aircrews' Agent Orange exposure claims. More to follow....

16 February 2012

Support Sought from Military Coalition

(Letter dispatched yesterday to Military Officers of America, host organization for the DC-based Military Coalition, consisting of nearly every national military and veterans organization)

McMinnville OR 97128
15 Feb 2012

The Military Coalition
Attn: Matt mattm@moaa.com

Dear Members of the Military Coalition:

We need the Coalition to request that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs designate our aircraft (all now destroyed by the Air Force) as Agent Orange exposure sites, or take other executive action to recognize our dioxin exposure.

I represent aviators, medical crews and maintenance personnel who crewed the Fairchild C-123 Provider between 1972-1982. This was the aircraft earlier used for spraying Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. The aircraft remained contaminated with dioxin during our use, and was first tested as "heavily contaminated" and "a danger to public health" when first tested by the USAF.

Seeking VA benefits and treatment for our veterans, we approached the VA in letters and a teleconference sponsored by Senator Burr’s staff last year, but in November VA released statements that the aircraft “may” have been contaminated but aircrews were not likely to have been exposed enough for long-term health problems. This effectively blocked any hopes of service-connection. may have been contaminated but not enough for long-term health problems.

We have recently gained extremely important support from the the CDC's deputy director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (Dr. Sinks), who concluded“I believe that aircrew operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD.” “The average value (of surfaces tested in the aircraft by the Air Force) exceeds the Army screening level by 182 times and is equivalent to a 200-fold greater cancer risk than the screening value.”

Other Independent Scientific Opinions have been provided by Columbia University School of Public Health and the Toxicology Department of Oregon Health Sciences University. Both institutions concluded exposure to dioxin was “more likely than not.” The articles by Tom Philpott of Military Times and others in the Army Times have resulted in supportive comments by spokesman from the Vietnam Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Columbia University, given our flyers’ long-term exposure aboard the airplanes, explains that our crews’ exposure to dioxin was equal to or greater than that of ground forces during the Vietnam War. This level of proof is more substantive than the IOM’s statement addressing other well-known exposure situations where IOM says “exposure cannot be ruled out” – here, the demonstrated level of proof is well past “more likely to than not”!

We believe we cannot address our needs via legislation, given our grave illnesses and the time required to seek support from Congress. We believe adequate proofs can be presented the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to invite his consideration and approval of the designation of the aircraft we flew on as Agent Orange Exposure Sites. Existent law and regulations should suffice to protect us.

Our crews can document their service aboard specific aircraft known to be Agent Orange spray aircraft. Those of our group who have Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses, armed with proof of service aboard contaminated aircraft, could seek medical care from the VA if the Secretary were to follow this, or other such path as he could approve.

Please provide your support in whatever manner would be most effective in helping our veterans.

For the C-123 Veterans:

Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired

15 February 2012

Columbia University - Expert Support for C-123 Agent Orange Exposure Claims!

Here is the text for the recent letter of Independent Scientific Opinion received from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. It directly challenges the VA's November claims against us, and validates the 1994 Patches study as well as making the vital conclusion: we were exposed to dioxin! (Bold face emphasis added by webmaster)
News received today: staffers from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will be meeting with senior leaders from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry late February to discuss the ATSDR's challenging response to the VA's C-123 position (that crews weren't exposed.) We owe much to Senator Burr's staff, particularly Mr. Brooks Tucker, himself a combat veteran.

February 7, 2012 
Wesley T. Carter (Major, retired)    
Dear Major Carter, 
I am writing this letter in response to your request for assistance in 
establishing evidence of likely exposure to Agent Orange and other military 
herbicides during your years of service as a crew member on C-123 “Provider” 
aircraft. A large number of the Provider aircraft on which you flew had previously 
been used for herbicide missions in Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam. They 
returned from Vietnam heavily contaminated with herbicide residues.  Indeed, 
their contamination levels were so great that, as a final resolution to the 
contamination problem, it is my understanding that the aircraft were shredded by 
the Air Force in order to avoid further exposure of either military personnel or 
In my opinion, there is every likelihood that you would have been exposed 
to both airborne herbicides and their contaminants, as well as come into contact 
with surfaces contaminated by these toxic substances. In my opinion, the extent 
and manner of exposure is analogous to that experienced by many Vietnam 
veterans, with service in-country.  Such in-country Veterans are eligible for Agent 
Orange-related compensation should they develop a disease that the VA deems 
to be related to such exposures.  My further understanding is that you have 
developed one or more eligible conditions and thus, in my opinion, you should 
qualify for appropriate compensation, just as if you were an in-country Vietnam 
I feel well qualified to render this opinion.  I have extensive experience in 
evaluating exposure opportunity arising from military herbicide exposures.  I 
served for nearly a decade as the Exposure Consultant to the Special Master for 
the Eastern District Court’s Agent Orange Veterans Payment Program.  I was the 
Principal Investigator of the National Academy of Sciences contract for a $5 
million dollar study on developing a methodology for evaluating exposure to 
herbicides in Vietnam. The funding for this study was from the Veterans 
Administration.  My methodology has been strongly endorsed by the Institute of 
Medicine in three separate major published reviews. I am currently the exposure 
consultant on several federally funded health studies that involve evaluating 
herbicide exposures. I have recently been appointed by the Province of Ontario 
to a special panel to evaluate the historical use of 2,4,5-T in the province.  My 
work on military herbicides and other occupational and environmental health 
issues has been widely published and cited in prestigious peer reviewed journals.  
My professional expertise has been recognized in the academic community, as 
well.  I am Professor Emerita and Special Lecturer at Columbia University and 
since 2007 I have also held the position of Professor of Environmental and 
Occupational Health Sciences at the SUNY-Downstate Medical Center in 
Brooklyn N.Y. 
In order to render this opinion, I have carefully examined several scientific 
studies of contamination of C-123 aircraft that had been deployed to Vietnam in 
Operation Ranch Hand, as well as technical guidance documents issued by the 
Department of Defense with regard to indoor and surface contaminants.  I am 
also relying on my extensive research of existing records of herbicides used and 
their consequent exposures in Vietnam (see for example, 1).  
In my opinion, it is highly likely that you and other crew members were 
exposed to the herbicides and to their highly toxic contaminant, 2,3,7,8-
tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (dioxin, for short), although it is not possible to estimate 
the precise levels of exposure because of the failure of the Air Force to carry out 
proper assessments of contamination levels prior to assigning the contaminated 
aircraft to post-Vietnam military operations.  I base my opinion on several sets of 
measurements that were eventually carried out by United States Air Force 
technical personnel (references 2 and 3). The 1979 Air Force air samples clearly 
establish that the herbicides were airborne and hence could be inhaled. The 
1994 wipe samples of surface residues show that the levels of dioxin present 
greatly exceeded the maximum recommended levels of exposure set in the 
technical guidance provided by the U.S. Army Center For Health Promotion And Preventive Medicine regarding potential exposure to indoor contaminants  
(reference 4 ). The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry concurs 
in this opinion (reference 5). 
I have reviewed the Veterans Administration website (reference 6), which 
states: “VA has concluded the potential for long-term adverse health effects from 
Agent Orange residues in these planes is minimal. Even IF crew exposure did 
occur, it is unlikely that sufficient amounts of dried Agent Orange residue could 
have entered the body to have caused harm.”  The VA further states “But in the 
dry form – for example, adhered to a surface – Agent Orange residue cannot be 
inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and would be difficult to ingest.”  These 
statements, to be blunt, are technically flawed and show insufficient 
understanding of surface contamination and its potential toxic effects, 
as well as of the various routes of entry of toxic substances. The VA 
statements appear to have been made without knowledge of standard 
practice for assessment of contaminated surfaces and uses terminology,
like “dried Agent Orange residue,” that does not reflect insight into the 
nature of surface contamination.  The VA also states “Crew members had reported smelling strong odors but these odors may be attributed to various chemicals associated with aircraft. TCDD, the contaminant in Agent Orange, is odorless.”  In fact, the investigations carried out by the Air Force, following the crew complaints 
of odors, showed measureable quantities of the military herbicides in the air. (See reference 2.) There is no requirement that dioxin be the only exposure that qualifies for compensation.  

Indeed, nothing more than the 1979 measuresments are needed in order to 
establish that crew that flew the C-123 Provider aircraft were likely to have been 
exposed to military herbicides. 
The inconsistency in the VA’s policy with respect to military herbicide 
exposures is not defensible.  No minimal levels of exposure to herbicides have 
been set for veterans who served in-country, Vietnam and exposures have NOT 
been limited to dioxin. 
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance. 
References cited 

 Stellman, JM, Stellman, SD, Christian RC, Weber, TW and Tomasallo, C. The extent 
and patterns of usage of Agent Orange and other herbicides in Vietnam. Nature,422, 
681-687, 2003
  Conway, William W. Aircraft Sampling Westover AFB MA. Technical Report 79-59. 
USAF Occupational & Environmental Health Laboratory. Brooks AFB TX. September 
 Weisman, WH and Porter, RC. Consultative Letter AL/OE-CL-1994-0203, Review of 
Dioxin Sampling Results from C-123 Aircraft, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH and 
Recommendations for Protection of Aircraft Restoration Personnel. USAF, Armstrong 
Laboratory, Brooks AFB, TX.  19 December 1994. 
 U.S. Army Center For Health Promotionand Preventive Medicine.  Technical Guide 312 
Health Risk Assessment Methods and Screening Levels for Evaluating Office Worker 
Exposures to Contaminants on Indoor Surfaces Using Surface Wipe Data. June 2009 
(http://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/envirohealth/hrasm/Pages/EH RAP _ 
 Sinks, Thomas. Official Correspondence to Wesley T. Carter. Agency for Toxic 
Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).  Atlanta GA. January 25, 2012. 

VA Retroactive AO Rules (per Nehmer decision)

VA Publishes Agent Orange Retroactivity Rules (Nehmer Decision)
(this is of greater interest to our Vietnam veterans)

Since 1991, the VA has been required to follow special retroactive benefit 
rules whenever it grants a disability compensation claim or a claim for death 
benefits under the VA’s Agent Orange rules. These rules are very favorable to 
Vietnam veterans and survivors of Vietnam veterans and they are contained 
in an Order issued by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California 
in the Nehmer class action brought by lawyers from the National Veterans Legal 
Services Program.
The VA finally recognized that the retroactive benefit rules are complex and that 
VA regional offices and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals need more guidance 
on how to apply the rules. As a result, on August 25, 2003, the VA published 
detailed regulations that VA regional offices and the BVA must follow in deciding 
the effective date of benefits awarded under the VA’s Agent Orange rules. (The 
effective date of an award controls the amount of retroactive benefits to which a 
Vietnam veteran or a survivor of a Vietnam veteran is entitled when the VA grants 
an Agent Orange claim).
The new regulations also explain that if the person to whom the retroactive 
benefits is owed (that is, the Vietnam veteran or the survivor of a Vietnam veteran 
who claimed death benefits) dies before the VA is ready to make the payment, 
the VA does not get to keep the money; instead, the VA must make the payment 
to the surviving spouse, surviving children, or surviving parent of the deceased 
individual, or, if no such surviving family member exists, to the individual’s estate.
What follows are:
The new regulation – which is 38 C.F.R. § 3.816; and The VA’s detailed explanation
of the meaning of these rules, which the VA published on January 28, 2003, when it
first proposed the new regulation.
THE NEW VA REGULATION -- 38 C.F.R. § 3.816
§ 3.816—Awards under the Nehmer Court Orders for disability or death caused 

by a condition presumptively associated with herbicide exposure.              
(a) Purpose. This section states effective-date rules required by orders of a United 

States district court in the class-action case of Nehmer v. United States Department 
of Veterans Affairs, No. CV-86-6160 TEH (N.D. Cal.).
(b) Definitions. For purposes of this section-
(1) Nehmer class member means:
(i) A Vietnam veteran who has a covered herbicide disease; or
(ii) A surviving spouse, child, or parent of a deceased Vietnam veteran who died 

from a covered herbicide disease.
(2) Covered herbicide disease means a disease for which the Secretary of Veterans 

Affairs has established a presumption of service connection before October 1, 2002 
pursuant to the Agent Orange Act of 1991, Public Law 102-4, other than chloracne. 
Those diseases are:
(i) Type 2 Diabetes (Also known as type II diabetes mellitus or adult-onset diabetes).
(ii) Hodgkin's disease.
(iii) Multiple myeloma.
(iv) Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
(v) Acute and Subacute peripheral neuropathy.
(vi) Porphyria cutanea tarda. 

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