31 March 2012

Did You Fly C-123? File your VA Claim NOW!

The VA famously (and sadly) takes years to make up its mind about a veteran's disability claim. This is a period of anxiety and worry while the veteran tries to address mounting medical and financial problems, but there's not much to be done about their timeline.

What you can do is consider the following:
1. get a letter, postcard ANYTHING to the VA immediately stating it is your intention to submit a disability claim for your illness or injury. Whatever compensation that eventually is awarded dates from the time-stamp on your notification to the VA...so don't wait. Say "Dear VA: I expect to apply for benefits for exposure to military herbicides and (any other issues you may have.)" sign and mail. Couldn't be easier!
2. consider using the VA's Fast Track claim process, where you complete everything you're going to present, gather all your proof (doctor's letters, personal statements, medical records, line of duty determinations, EVERYTHING) and submit. This is a process where you declare to the VA that you have a complete claim and are willing to let them make a determination based on the total package you present and on what's in their files on you already.
3. get with one of the veterans service organizations - they are the professionals in this mess. The Disabled American Veterans, Vietnam Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc., all employ highly-trained advocates to help you put your claim to the VA. They require a power of attorney to represent you, and these people are bull dogs! They really latch onto the finer points of VA rules and regulations and make sure your application is as solid as can be. They know the ins-and-outs of strategies such as Individual Unemployability, which can bring many veterans up to 100% disabled ratings. Not only is the 100% rating a better monthly payment but it also means complete medical care - eyes, ears, dental, everything. And if your rated disability is 70% or higher it also means nursing home care in your own community.
4. if you are ill, ask the veterans service organization to help you get medical care from the VA on a "presumptive eligibility" basis until such time as your claim is resolved.

29 March 2012

Latest Version of C-123 Agent Orange Binder - 30 Mar 2012

Here's the updated version of our C-123 Agent Orange epistle, AKA "Trail of Tears."
Click Here: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B88rlJ4p_859dVF4X0NvNEJTa0tQWFBYbFdnRktQdw

It has improvements in the date sequences and page numbering. Also, we've added a very important newly uncovered 1996 USAF report which used water-based swipes for one of the testing sequences on some of the C-123 fleet...this test wasn't for dioxin in particular but it was positive for military herbicides, and it is the broad category of "military herbicides" which various veterans' benefits are based upon and not dioxin in particular!
Why is it important that water was used on this test's swipes? Because the VA's position against the multiple USAF tests which we've been pushing him their face has been that those tests used the industry-standard protocol for a solvent...and the VA immediately created a hypothesis that only such solvents would have released harmful substances...and that crews couldn't have inhaled, ingested or absorbed the military herbicides by dermal contact. Note that when the 1994 and 1996 tests were done, no EPA protocol existed for the toxicologists to follow...yet, their conclusions have been reviewed in 2011 and 2012 and held to be still valid! Yes, we were exposed.

Somehow, in the back of my meager but darkly suspicious brain, I feel the VA would have been quick to develop an argument to any claim we'd make even if we showed them photos of toxins entering us by IM, IV, oral, sub-lingual, nasal, and every other route possible.

It has been suggested that we submit the binder for academic "peer review." I say the heck with that...we do "BEER REVIEWS" in this ancient but honorable flying squadron of amazing aging aviators!

Gee. Major. Is this required reading? Is there gonna be a test? Na...this is just a 430-page, 66MB reference work collecting all the materials we've found since April 2011, and my simple layman's attempt to get our veterans' case explained, simply using the VA and USAF documents that proliferate the record...the C-123K fleet was exterminated because it was contaminated - and here's the proof! You might consider printing parts of whatever you and your veterans service office (DAV, VFW, VVA, etc) feel appropriate to submit and buttress your VA disability claim.

1. Isn't it a fact that every USAF and other official document dealing with the C-123K over the decades since the first tests were ordered on Patches in 1979 has labeled the airplanes "toxic, contaminated, Agent Orange, dioxin" or "military herbicide"and treated them (properly) as contaminated waste? answer: yes.
2. In 2009-2010 discussions about the C-123 toxicity and plans to destroy the airplanes, didn't OSD and AMFC officials arrange manage the event to prevent veterans who'd already been exposed from finding out about the dioxin problem, and the need to make sure those veterans wouldn't then get VA benefits - and didn't the officials discuss the fact that the veterans were indeed eligible for VA benefits because of the airplane's dioxin toxicity? answer: yes.
3. Why the heck did the USAF take action in 2010 to prevent already-exposed veterans from being able to get VA medical care? answer: anybody's guess but probably fear of publicity and blame for wrong decisions. This is what happens when military and civil service folks act without considering the impact on their personal honor and the broader good of the service.
4. And isn't it a fact that once our aircrews and ground personnel learned about the contamination the airplanes were suddenly not toxic after all? And already destroy?? Miracles? Or merely VA budget policy? answer: what do you think?

27 March 2012


9 Jan 2015 Update: VA now invites C-123 veterans to arrange an Agent Orange Registry exam.

(edited out Agent Orange Registry restriction, now removed)

If you feel that you qualify for Agent Orange exposure through service 
on the C-123(aircrew, aerial port, aeromedical evacuation maintenance),
and for benefits for diseases associated with herbicide exposure for 
the veteran must establish a Direct Service Connection Claim for 
herbicide exposure related diseases.

The Veteran must show on a factual basis that they were exposed to 
herbicides during their service by showing: 
  1. Credible evidence proving work on the C-123K
  2. Medical diagnosis for disease associated with herbicide exposure.
  3. Medical nexus connecting 1 and 2

If you have met these criteria’s, then file a Direct Service Claim with 
your local Regional Office. We need to stress the "military herbicide" 
issue rather than the more specific Agent Orange issue. Turns out the
C-123 was contaminated with a variety of agents and the law more 
broadly specifies "herbicides" - a big "thank you" to Professor Jeanne 
Stellman of Columbia University who, using very small words and lots 
of patient repetition, explained the fine points to me.

Please note:

·       This is not a Direct Claim for Agent Orange, it is for Herbicide only.

   Additional information can be obtained at the following VA link: http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange/thailand.asp
Below is a directory of VA Environmental Health Coordinators by state and U.S. territory. Veterans may contact their local VA Environmental Health Coordinator about registry evaluations or health concerns related to military exposures to herbicides such as Agent Orange - don't worry about the Thailand and Vietnam-era language as we are presenting our claims on the basis of exposure on the C-123K outside Vietnam...there is a category for us, even though the VA presently denies that we were exposed. Because your claim is based on the date of your filing for benefits, and because the Agent Orange Registry exam might uncover useful medical information, each of us needs to call and get a physical scheduled!
The directory below contains the latest information received from VA health care facilities and is updated as changes occur.
Note:  To send a secure e-mail, use VA's Ask a Question - IRIS"
Names and other info last updated: March 2012
Aircrew Chem Warfare Romance!
AL  |  AK  |  AZ  |  AR  |  CA  |  CO  |  CT  |  DE  |  DC  |  FL  |  GA  |  HI  |  ID
IL  |  IN  |  IA  |  KS  |  KY  |  LA  |  MA  |  ME  |  MD  |  MS  |  MI  |  MN  |  MO
MT  |  NE  |  NV  |  NH  |  NJ  |  NM  |  NY  |  NC  |  ND  |  OH  |  OK  |  OR
PA  |   RI  |  SC  |  SD  |  TN  |  TX  |  UT  |  VT  |  VA  |  WA  |  WV  |  WI  |  WY
Philippines | Puerto Rico

**Dr. Walters' change to the Agent Orange Registry Exam:
Mr. Carter

The information Mr. Legere received is correct. The registry exam is essentially a physical exam and is not part of the disability exam.  The Agent Orange registry is available for the following Veterans. 

Vietnam :
Veterans who served in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975, regardless of length of time.
Veterans who served aboard smaller river patrol and swift boats that operated on the inland waterways of Vietnam (also known as “Brown Water Veterans”)
Korea :
Veterans who served in a unit in or near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) anytime between April 1, 1968 and August 31, 1971.
U.S. Air Force Veterans who served on Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) bases near U-Tapao, Ubon, Nakhon Phanom, Udorn, Takhli, Korat, and Don Muang, near the air base perimeter anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
U.S. Army Veterans who provided perimeter security on RTAF bases in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975.
U.S. Army Veterans who were stationed on some small Army installations in Thailand anytime between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975. However, the Amy Veteran must have been a member of a military police (MP) unit or was assigned a military occupational specialty whose duty placed him or her at or near the base perimeter.
Other potential Agent Orange exposures:
Veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides during a military operation or as a result of testing, transporting, or spraying herbicides for military purposes. Learn about herbicide tests and storage outside Vietnam. Agent Orange or Dioxin dried on surfaces does not present a significant threat to human health. Veterans are eligible if they were in the presence of liquid Agent Orange such as when Agent Orange was sprayed, tested or transported.

Terry Walters

Terry Walters MD MPH
Deputy Chief Consultant Post-Deployment Health
Office of Public Health
Veteran Health Administration

From: Wes Carter  
Sent: Monday, May 06, 2013 9:42 AM
To: Walters, Terry
Subject: Fwd: C-123 Veterans Challenge VA Publication "Scientific Review of Agent Orange in C-123 Aircraft"

Dear Dr. Walters,
May I ask your assistance? I understood that, regardless of any disagreement concerning our veterans' exposure claims, any veteran believing himself/herself to have been exposed to Agent Orange may request an AO physical if exposure is claimed to have occurred. This gentleman was refused...what is the situation?

Thank you,

   Wes Carter, C-123 Veterans Association

Chicago Area C-123 Veterans Needed for Interview!

We have fortunately attracted the attention of a network famous for caring about veterans' issues, and we hope for some great coverage next month.

For their reporters to look further into our C-123 Agent Orange claims they really want to interview any of our veterans or surviving family members in Chicago, or in the broader Illinois area. If that's you, or if you know where we can find such folks, please get an email to me or call!

And there's news coming out of Springfield, too!

26 March 2012

Latest Volume of Our Source Materials - download now

Click HERE to download the most recent version of our 420-page binder of source materials. It is 56mb in size, and includes all the C-123 military herbicide testing information, memos describing the official effort to "keep this information in official channels only," GSA court cases in which AF toxicologists described the C-123K fleet as "a danger to public health" and much, much more. 

This is the volume we have provided legislators, media representatives, scientists and military coalition organizations as we ask for their support. This is the volume we hope you will share with your congressional representatives, and share with other C-123 veterans as you explain the need for them to call the Agent Orange Registry hotline and get themselves in for a complete physical!

Thanks for all your support!

23 March 2012

Agent Orange 101 - the stuff you gotta know

Agent Orange FAQ 

What is Agent Orange?

Agent Orange was a herbicide, or defoliant, which was used in Vietnam to kill unwanted plant life and to remove leaves from trees which otherwise provided cover for the enemy. Agent Orange was a mixture of chemicals containing equal amounts of the two active ingredients, 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T (or TCDD). The name, "Agent Orange," came from the orange stripe on the 55-gallon drums in which it was stored. Other military herbicides, including Agent Purple, Agent White, and Agent Blue, were also used in Vietnam to a much lesser extent. Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam were tested or stored elsewhere, including, many military bases in the United States. Further, the C-123K (in the UC-123K version) remained contaminated with dioxin during the years it was flown until finally retired.

When and where was Agent Orange used in Vietnam?

Fifteen different herbicides were shipped to and used in Vietnam between January 1961 and 1971. Agent Orange accounted for over most of the herbicides sprayed in Vietnam. Agent Orange was used between January 1965 and April 1970. Herbicides other than Agent Orange were used in Vietnam prior to 1965, but to a very limited extent. However, a study released in April 2003 found that while relatively small amounts of highly dioxin-contaminated Agents Purple and Pink were sprayed in the early 1960s, these agents might have deposited a relatively large percentage of the total dioxin. The total area sprayed with herbicides between 1962 and 1965 was small, less than 7 percent of the total acreage sprayed during the Vietnam conflict. Rapid increases in the annual number of acres sprayed occurred from 1962 to 1967. The number of acres sprayed reached a maximum in 1967, leveled off slightly in 1968 and 1969, and declined rapidly in 1970 prior to the termination of spraying in 1971. During this time more than 19 million gallons of herbicides were sprayed over 6 million acres, some of which were sprayed more than once. More than 3.5 million acres of South Vietnam approximately 8.5 percent of the country were sprayed one or more time. Spraying occurred in all 4 military zones of Vietnam. Certain bases, such as Phu Cat, had especially heavy contamination.
Heavily sprayed areas included inland forests near the demarcation zone; inland forests at the junction of the borders of Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam; inland forests north and northwest of Saigon; mangrove forests on the southernmost peninsula of Vietnam; and mangrove forests along major shipping channels southeast of Saigon. Crop destruction missions were concentrated in northern and eastern central areas of South Vietnam.

Why are veterans concerned about Agent Orange?

In the 1970's some veterans became concerned that exposure to Agent Orange might cause delayed health effects. One of the chemicals (2,4,5-T) in Agent Orange contained minute traces of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (also known as TCDD or dioxin), which has caused a variety of illnesses in laboratory animals. More recent studies have suggested that the chemical may be related to a number of malignancies and other disorders. Several university studies, and the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, have concluded C-123K aircraft were contaminated (a requirement for VA benefits) and the crews exposed therein (another requirement of the VA.)

What should concerned veterans do?

In 1978, the Veterans Administration, now the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), set up a special examination program for Vietnam veterans who were worried about the long-term health effects of exposure to Agent Orange. This was as a result of a persistent VA employee in Chicago who realized the TCDD connection, and Mr. Bill Kurtis of CBS News who broke the story. Vietnam veterans and others who believe they've been exposed can participate in the Agent Orange Registry, and should contact the nearest VA medical center for an examination. Since September 2000, Veterans who served in Korea in 1968 or 1969 are also eligible for the examination. Furthermore, beginning in August 2001, VA has offered the Registry examination to all other U.S. veterans, such as our C-123 crews, aeromed, aerial port and maintenance personnel who may have been exposed to dioxin or other toxic substances in a herbicide during the conduct of or as a result of testing, transporting, or spraying of herbicides for military purposes...or as a result of the dioxin contamination of our planes.

What can a veteran expect from this examination?

Turn your head and cough! Commander's Call at the 439th!
Veterans who participate in the examination program are asked a series of questions about their possible exposure to herbicides in Vietnam. A medical history is taken, a physical examination is performed, and a series of basic laboratory tests, such as a chest x-ray (if appropriate), urinalysis, and blood tests, are done. If the examining physician thinks it is medically indicated, consultations with other specialties or clinics are scheduled.
No special Agent Orange tests are offered since there is no test to show if Agent Orange or other herbicides used in Vietnam caused a veteran’s medical problems. There are tests that show the level of dioxin in human fat and blood, but VA does not do such tests because there is serious question about their value to veterans. In January 1992, VA signed a contract with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) under which, among other things, the NAS considered the feasibility and possible value of dioxin level blood tests for Vietnam veterans who apply for VA medical care or VA disability compensation. In its July 1993 report (published in 1994 as the Veterans and Agent Orange: Health Effects of Herbicides Used in Vietnam), the NAS concluded that individual TCDD levels in Vietnam veterans are usually not meaningful because of common background exposures to TCDD, poorly understood variations among individuals in TCDD metabolism, relatively large measurement errors, and exposure to herbicides that did not contain TCDD.

How does a veteran benefit from taking VA's Agent Orange Registry examination?

The veteran is informed of the results of the examination during a personal interview and gets a follow-up letter further describing the findings. Each veteran is given the opportunity to ask for an explanation and device where medically necessary, a follow-up examination or additional laboratory tests are scheduled. The examination and tests sometime reveal previously undetected medical problems. These discoveries permit veterans to get prompt treatment for their illnesses. Some veterans think they are in good health, but are worried that exposure to Agent Orange and other substances may have caused some hidden illness. The knowledge that a complete medical examination does not show any medical problems can be very reassuring or helpful to Registry participants. All examination and test results are kept in the veteran's permanent medical record. This information is also entered into the computerized VA Agent Orange Registry. So far, more than 425,000 Vietnam veterans have participated in this program. Finally, by taking the exam the veteran contributes to the body of knowledge about Agent Orange-related illnesses and veterans' overall health.

Can a veteran get treatment for Agent Orange-related illnesses?

Yes. Section 102, Public Law 104-262, the Veterans’ Health Care Eligibility Reform Act of 1996, provides that VA is required to furnish hospital care and medical services, and may furnish nursing home care to veterans exposed to military herbicides.. There are some restrictions. VA cannot provide such care for a (1) disability which VA determines did not result from exposure to Agent Orange, or (2) disease which the National Academy of Sciences has determined that there is “limited/suggestive” evidence of no association between occurrence of the disease and exposure to a herbicide agent. 

Can veterans get disability compensation for Agent Orange illnesses?

VA also pays disability compensation to many veterans with injuries or illnesses incurred in or aggravated by their military service. Vietnam veterans do not have to prove that Agent Orange caused their medical problems to be eligible for compensation. Rather, VA must determine that the disability is "service-connected." Non-Vietnam veterans have an uphill battle with the VA as they must prove to a reasonable degree of certainty that, if the veteran has an Agent Orange-presumptive illness, that illness was caused by the veteran's military service and herbicide exposure. A Veterans Services Representative, at any VA medical center or regional office, can explain the compensation program in greater detail and can assist veterans who need help in applying. For more information about the VA disability compensation program, call 1-800-827-1000.

What conditions have been “service-connected” based on evidence of an association with Agent Orange (or other herbicides)?

The number of diseases that VA has recognized as associated with, but not necessarily caused by, Agent Orange exposure has expanded considerably during the 2000’s. The following conditions are now presumptively recognized for service- connection for Vietnam veterans based on exposure to Agent Orange or other herbicides: chloracne (a skin disorder), porphyria cutanea tarda, acute or subacute transient peripheral neuropathy (a nerve disorder), Type 2 diabetes and numerous cancers [non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, soft tissue sarcoma, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, certain heart diseases, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers (including cancers of the lung, larynx, trachea, and bronchus), and chronic lymphocytic leukemia]. Note: AL Amyloidosis was added to this list May 7, 2009 and IHD in 2007.
In addition, Vietnam veterans’ children with the birth defect spina bifida are eligible for certain benefits and services. It remains unclear about what the VA will do about C-123 children once a final decision is made regarding the veterans' themselves.

What else is VA doing?

In addition to the efforts described above (that is, Agent Orange Registry examination program, medical treatment eligibility, and disability compensation), VA is doing research to learn more about the possible adverse health effects of Agent Orange exposure. The Environmental Epidemiology Service (EES), in Washington, DC, is the premiere office for Vietnam/Agent Orange-related research within VA. EES investigators have completed two studies about possible connections between Vietnam service and specific kinds of cancers called soft tissue sarcomas, a large scale study of mortality among Vietnam veterans, a study regarding the relationship between Vietnam service and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas, a study of dioxin in adipose (fat) tissue, several mortality study follow-up efforts, mortality studies of individuals in the Army Chemical Corps in Vietnam, an analysis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Vietnam veterans in the Agent Orange Registry, a study of the relationship between Vietnam service and Hodgkin’s disease, a study of the relationship between military service in Vietnam and the risk of death from trauma and selected cancers, an analysis of testicular cancer among Agent Orange Registry participants, a study of suicide among wounded veterans, and a study of the relationship between lung cancer and military service. EES had assistance from others on several of these research projects.
Girls of the 74th! Those were the years!

Only recently did the VA begin serious consideration of women veterans' issues, and little has been done regarding women and TCDD to learn if any health concerns develop differently than in the male veteran population.
In 1981, VA published a two-volume report reviewing scientific literature on herbicides in the United States and throughout the world. This publication was updated with an additional two volumes in 1984, 1985, 1986, l987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. (These annual updates were discontinued to avoid duplication of the ongoing scientific literature review by the National Academy of Sciences Institute on Medicine [IOM], a non-governmental organization under contract with VA.) Lay language summaries of the VA’s scientific reviews have been published to help non-scientists understand this complex issue...and VA is pressured to follow the IOM's findings! VA has also published a series of monographs regarding Agent Orange-related matters. From 1979 to 1994, VA was part of an interagency group monitoring and coordinating Agent Orange-related and dioxin- related research within the Federal government. 

What are other government departments and agencies doing?

Many other Federal departments and agencies have pursued and/or have also conducted scientific studies on this subject. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Air Force (in particular the School of Aerospace Medicine), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), National Cancer Institute (NCI), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have all been involved in research. The CDC published an important study, partially funded by VA, in 1984 regarding Vietnam veterans' risks of fathering babies with birth defects. CDC investigators found that overall Vietnam veterans were not at increased risk of fathering a child with birth defects. VA also funded the CDC Vietnam Experience Study published in 1997 and 1988, and the CDC Selected Cancers Study published in 1990. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), part of the CDC, released a "game changer" official letter on 26 January 2012 which concluded that the C-123 dioxin tests in 1979 and 1994 indicated dioxin contamination and that crews were most likely exposed - and at 200 times the threshold for cancer concerns! 
The USAF conducted a long-term study of mortality and morbidity among the men involved in the herbicide spraying missions. USAFSAM released an influential study of the C-123 contamination in April 2012, generally supportive of the claim AF veterans have regarding exposure aboard that aircraft.. NIOSH is maintaining a registry of individuals exposed to dioxins and other chemicals in the workplace. NCI has studied the health effects of herbicides on selected agricultural workers. EPA worked with VA on the determination of dioxin in adipose tissue. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology collaborated with VA on soft tissue sarcoma research. Several States also have undertaken research efforts to learn more about the possible health effects of Agent Orange and the wartime experiences upon our nation's veterans. 

What is the National Academy of Sciences doing regarding this issue?

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a non-governmental organization, reviews all relevant scientific literature and provides advice to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on a wide range of issues relative to herbicides and dioxin. The NAS project is being undertaken in accordance with Public Law 102-4, the Agent Orange Act of 1991, made law on February 6, 1991. The NAS reported its initial findings to VA and Congress in July 1993. The first update report was released on March 14, 1996. The second update was released on February 11, 1999. A special report on the relationship between herbicides used in Vietnam and Agent Orange was released on October 11, 2000. The third update was released on April 19, 2001. The fourth update was released on January 23, 2003. A second special report was issued on February 27, 2002 and another update released in 2005, followed by a 2011 report. One special report reassessed the relationship between herbicides and acute myelogenous leukemia in the children of Vietnam veterans. Future reports are anticipated biennially through 2014 under current law.

Where is additional information available?

A great deal of information can be obtained from www.va.gov/AgentOrange. There is an “Environmental Health Clinician” at each VA medical center who is responsible for the conduct of Agent Orange Registry examinations. These clinicians participate in regularly scheduled nationwide conference calls and receive periodic mailings from VA headquarters updating them on the latest developments on Agent Orange. Each facility also has an “Environmental Health Coordinator” to facilitate the Agent Orange program.
As indicated above, other Agent Orange Briefs provide additional information on specific Agent Orange concerns and issues.
The Environmental Agents Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, 810 Vermont Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20420, is another good source of information on this subject. The telephone number is 202-273-8580. The Environmental Agents Service used to be known as the Environmental Medicine Office. (It was also previously named the Agent Orange Projects Office.
Veteran’s service organizations (such as The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, and VietNow) and State government entities (including Departments or Divisions of Veterans Affairs, Departments of Health) have also provided helpful information to individuals seeking information on this subject. In particular, Vietnam Veterans of America has particular expertise in Agent Orange issues and has taken a firm stand on the C-123 aircrews having been exposed and being deserving of VA benefits.
The initial NAS report, an 800+page document, and the updates are available for purchase from the National Academy Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055. The telephone numbers are 1-800-624-6242 and 202-334-3313. Copies of reports are in all VA medical center libraries and can be downloaded from the Internet. Congressional committees, especially the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, have conducted numerous hearings regarding the long-term health effects of exposure to Agent Orange. A great deal of information has been gathered during these hearings. Both committees are located in Washington, DC. The zip code for the Senate Committee is 20510. The zip code for the House Committee is 20515. The staff of Senator Burr, Veterans Affairs Ranking Member from North Carolina, have been especially helpful to our C-123 veterans.

C-123 veterans have had very little interest in support from associations such as the Disabled American Veterans, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Jewish War Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America and others. Only the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America have reached out with strong helping arms, and only those two organizations have turned to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs with demand for our fair treatment.

22 March 2012

Agent Orange - How'd This Mess Get Revealed?

(from the National Academies Press)

The Beginning of the Controversy

Snoopy Explains Agent Orange to his ground crew!
During the early and mid-1970s, a growing number of veterans began to question the possible linkage between their conditions or diseases and their exposure to herbicides, mainly Agent Orange, in Vietnam. In 1977, Maude deVictor, a benefits counselor in the Chicago regional office of the Veterans Administration (VA), was contacted by the wife of Charles Owen, a Vietnam veteran who believed his terminal cancer was the result of exposure to Agent Orange. 

After learning that Charles Owen had died and that the VA had refused his widow's claim for benefits, deVictor began to research the health effects of exposure to Agent Orange (Wilcox, 1989). She contacted Alvin L. Young, Major, U.S. Air Force, an expert in plant physiology, and inquired about the types of herbicides used in Vietnam. DeVictor recorded the conversation in a memorandum to the file, which explained the use and toxicity of Agent Orange and Agent Blue (DeVictor, 1977). In response to this memorandum, a line-by-line commentary was prepared by Dr. Young, and a copy was recorded in a congressional hearing (U.S. Congress, House, 1980b).
DeVictor continued her inquiries into the possible connection between Agent Orange and certain health outcomes. She began gathering statistics on veterans' exposure to Agent Orange by questioning veterans who visited her office for benefits, widows of veterans, and wives of veterans about the health of their husband and children. When the VA learned that she was carrying out this research, she was asked to cease these additional inquiries and concentrate on her assigned duties, but she continued her research on Agent Orange. 

Soon after, someone contacted Bill Kurtis, a local television reporter, about deVictor's inquiries on veterans' exposure to Agent Orange (Linedecker et al., 1982). On March 23, 1978, WBBM, a CBS affiliate in Chicago, aired Kurtis' documentary Agent Orange, the Deadly Fog. Subsequently, local and national media began to report on Agent Orange and veterans' complaints with more frequency (Wilcox, 1989).
Early in 1978, Paul Reutershan, a former helicopter crew chief responsible for transporting supplies to the 20th Engineering Brigade, appeared on the ''Today" show and shocked many of the show's viewers by announcing: "I died in Vietnam, but I didn't even know it." He told of how he flew almost daily through clouds of herbicides being discharged from C-123 cargo planes, and how he observed the dark swaths cut in the jungle by the spraying, and watched the mangrove forest turn brown and die (Wilcox, 1989). Even though he observed this destruction of the jungles and forests, he did not worry about his own health. He said that he was told by the Army that Agent Orange was "relatively nontoxic to humans and animals" (Wilcox, 1989). 

Upon returning home from Vietnam, Reutershan was diagnosed with cancer.  On December 14, 1978, at the age of 28, Reutershan died.

Strategy Modified - VA Cannot Rush Claim Denial

Why Can't We Move Our Claims Forward?
(ref: March 16 posting)
I'd hoped to push my year-old "Fast Track" claim along by asking the VA rating officer here in Portland to quickly deny it rather than let it sit in the pile, taking months or years to progress. They'd told me (through my DAV service officer) that could be done immediately with a letter request, but I learned yesterday the VA's unable to do that...due process must be taken. Apparently, Portland is still waiting for details from the Veterans Benefits Administration about how to properly deny the claim - even though ample evidence has been provided proving dioxin contamination, dioxin exposure, and dioxin-related illness.

Remember: The VA says nobody has ever been"exposed" to dioxin unless they served in Vietnam, along the DMZ and just a couple other situations. Nobody except those already-recognized situations can ever prove an illness resulted from TCDD exposure to a scientific certainty, thus the denied claims.

Fortunately, my service officer learned that my five-volume case should only take another month or two for the denial process because of a local time limitation on one of their administrative procedures.

On Thursday last week I had my Agent Orange Registry Exam, and it went quickly. Answered a few questions, had my BP, pulse and blood Ochecked, had the strength in my arms and legs checked, and had the circulation in my ankles and carotid artery checked. Didn't even have to undress or show off scars from my nine service-connected surgeries. No need for x-rays, etc. The examiner had read through my records the night before and was familiar with my condition and asked appropriate questions. Hope to learn the results in a week or two.

19 March 2012

Great Story For Great Reporter! Call Us. Pulitzer Awaits !

Ace Reporter Looking for Great Agent Orange Story
Calling All Ace Reporters: This story has it all...romance, intrigue, adventure, airplanes, toxic dioxin chemicals, billions of dollarsgovernment cover-up & veteran abuseDid I mention airplanes? Did I mention romance?

2012 Prize for Agent Orange C-123 Story
Here is is, ready for your research, ready to put your      name on every wire service in the country, ready for you to get that well-deserved call from Columbia School of Journalism announcing the 2012 Pulitzer...with your very own name on it! Wow, that will leave the old J-School bragging you went there!

Are you backed by a great metropolitan daily or a large regional broadcaster? Do you have a sense of defiance? Do you yearn for an editor screaming "this story's too hot for us" as you type up your notes? Do you wish it had been you partnering with Bernstein as he met with Deep Throat? Well, Ace, that weren't nothin! Here's the blockbuster story of 2012 on a golden plate, just for the first hot shot like you to pull out his/her notebook, lick the pencil stub and start outlining the guts of a wicked awesome piece of journalistic excellence.

Here's what we offer: We are a group of 1500 manly Air Force guys and womanly Air Force ladies. We flew the C-123K Provider after Vietnam and have learned it remained heavily contaminated. Gosh, I don't know why we don't glow in the dark!

Our airplanes were discovered to be toxic, but there was a cover-up of sorts and our aircrews left unaware and unable to take health precautions related to their toxic exposures. The all-powerful Department of Veterans Affairs seems flat determined to prevent our veterans from receiving medical care (this is where you add tear-jerking emotional content), leaving us sick, and in some cases, leaving our widows in desperate situations. That ain't right, Ace.

Edward R. Murrow
This guy on the right set the standard. This guy invented journalism the way you always wanted it to be. It could be your voice saying, in effect, "This...is London." Not every reporter gets the opportunity Murrow had...or that you can grab right now!

We need your help fighting the VA's Evil Empire (that's funny...we need to fight them so they'll take care of us!) We need skillful investigative journalism, taking our 320 pages of detailed source materials and digging out the whole stinkin' mess -- we want to partner with a writer like you able to tell our story and in return, we'll give access to our pilots, flight nurses, maintenance personnel and point you to where the rest of the story can be revealed. Air Force, government agencies, universities, veterans, airplane boneyards, dark alleys, foreign agents, billion-dollar fines, dramatic court scenes...this story has depth and breadth you've never worked on before...give us a call and be the first to break the news!

We need you, Ace! Give us a few columns coverage and watch the story break.

16 March 2012

Giving Up My Agent Orange Claim - But with a Strategy

I have given up my Agent Orange disability claims today...but with a strategy.

Today I had my C&P exam in Portland and thought it went well, with the nurse-practicioner having read through my file last night and ready with questions for me today. Good exam. My application has been in for a year now, and I was told on March 8 in our Washington DC meeting with Mr. James Sampsel of the Veterans Benefit Administration that it will "probably" be denied, regardless of all the Air Force, CDC, GSA, university or other documents that clearly support in my claim and the claims of my crew mates.

So, on to a more public forum. Once denied on a Notice of Disagreement, I'll progress to the Board of Veterans Appeals where I will be able to have proper legal representation. My DAV VSO here in Portland has been great but there is nothing outside the Beltway which will get VA to change their pre-determined opinion, So on to the BVA and whatever follows. Hope I'm not shooting myself in the foot!

Unrelated: The nurse-pratitioner doing my C&P exam today was surprised that, 20 years after my injury, I still have yet to see a VA neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon for my injured neck or back. Hey...this is the VA. Virtually every single partitioner I have seen has been skillful, kind and caring, but get real...waiting three years to see a dentist isn't my idea of good dental care. Waiting six months to see an orthopedist for an unstable hip and new knees isn't anybody's idea of good medical care. No VA employee would accept this standard of care for themselves or their families. Oh, well...just venting a bit. I absolutely love my primary care, dental (when I can see them), audiology, optometry and the pharmacy services. My prostate cancer treatment has been top-notch.