13 July 2012

Air Force Report - A Glimmer of Hope?

Sometimes, writers say what must be said in oblique phrases when more direct wording cannot be used. Reading carefully, perhaps we can find a glimmer of hopeful news in the USAFSAM April 27, 2012 report, which was briefed to Senator Burr's staff and C-123 veterans on Wednesday, 11 July.

The Air Force said in the Executive Summary that USAFSAM was unable to make accurate quantitative estimates of individual exposures. They also concluded the two groups dealt with (occupational and general population) were "unlikely to have exceeded acceptable regulatory standards for dioxin exposure."

We can work with this. Very importantly, both the report and the briefers from the AF Surgeon's office stress that USAFSAM was unable to quantify individual exposure...but they allow us hope from two perspectives:

  • individuals can actually use elements of this report to establish one's probable individual dioxin exposure
  • individuals can further use the report to stablish both cumulative and simultaneous exposure to dioxin by all three routes (ingestion, inhalation and dermal), and then reference several supporting reports (Weisman/Porter, Conway, ATSDR) to establish contamination, then reference ATSDR, Stellman, Berman, and Dr. John Doull. Doull's "Acceptable Levels of Dioxin Contamination in an Office Building Following a Transformer Fire, Doull makes the point that exposures can be cumulative, and can be simultaneous (dermal at the same time as inhalation and ingestion). If exposures are simultaneous such as while aboard the C-123, Doull states "the associated risks will increase by a factor of 2 with the assumption of a linear dose-response relation at low doses." This means the Air Force report and its opinion that crews "were unlikely to have exceeded acceptable regulatory standards for dioxin exposure" can be argued with the fact that we've actually had TWICE the dosage the AF estimates.
As this writer sees it, we presently cannot seek presumptive connection as a group of aircrew, maintenance or aerial port veterans. But...we can and should proceed with individual claims for Agent Orange benefits. The important thing is to reach the threshold of "as likely to as not", and to stress that the benefit of the doubt is supposed to rest in the veteran's favor.

This might be the formula by which we can proceed with our claims. And remember, you will do much better if represented by one of the dedicated professionals from the American Legion, VFW, Vietnam Veterans of America, etc. Veterans need not be members of any group - these service organizations represent any and all veterans who approach them for assistance and do so expertly, without charge!
  • establish proof of diagnosis for a typical Agent Orange illness(s)
  • establish the contamination of the aircraft (Weisman/Porter, Porter, etc all do that)
  • provide nexus letters from your physician stating the illness is "as likely to as not" to be associated with your dioxin exposure(s)
  • provide numerous scientific and medical opinions as to the likelihood of your individual exposure to the dioxin-contaminated C-123 (remember: both contamination and exposure must be proved to at least a 50% possibility)
  • try to obtain expert Independent Scientific Opinions from toxicologists or epidemiologists in your own state; approach medical schools and universities in your area
  • try to obtain support from state-level professional societies, such as the Society of Toxicologists, state medical board, etc.
  • And Most Importantly - get a claim in as soon as possible! Any benefits will likely date from the date your application is received by the VA. 
Have faith. We have friends working on our behalf!

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