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

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