|Typical C-123 Veteran|
As is appropriate, the US Government has recently begun cleaning up the Agent Orange mess in Vietnam, beginning in Danang. This is right and proper, even if quite late in the game.
What is not right or proper, however, is the continued failure to address the Agent Orange exposure of C-123 aircrews who flew these dioxin- contaminated aircraft 1972-1982. Working hard and in defiance of science and the professional opinions of every outside expert, an illogical VA and USAF construct has been to pretend the situation was harmless where we flew "heavily contaminated" airplanes which were "a danger to public health." But in the view of these agencies, we were somehow not exposed. We're seeing brand new definitions for "exposed."
Thus far in this year-long mess, only the VA and USAF argue that C-123 aircrews weren't exposed...but every outside university expert, every other government agency, every outside private toxicologist has concluded aircrews absolutely were exposed! Careful investigation of the situation by the American Legion and by the Vietnam Veterans of America led these associations to also agree and to demand that the Secretary of Veterans Affairs address the situation.
|731st Tactical Airlift Squadron|
For the first time in the history of Agent Orange issues, government agencies (in our case, the VA and USAF) have suggested a threshold of dioxin exposure below which one is "safe." For the first time, by cherry-picking their resources as well as misinterpreting various official records and ignoring contrary evidence, these government agencies have constructed a theory whereby dioxin contamination somehow didn't expose us. Their position leaves us veterans denied medical care for our dioxin exposure. Their position defies published state and federal government reports and manuals, such as TG 312.
Why? Care for Agent Orange-exposed veterans costs money. Care for our survivors costs money. In the tragic history of Agent Orange the VA has fought tooth and nail to prevent each and every veterans group from receiving service connection. First they fought the individual Vietnam vet claims. Then Congress legislated "presumptive eligibility" for those vets to stop the VA's delaying tactics. Next, the Blue Water Navy guys sought care, and got nothing from the VA but push-back until once again, Congress stepped in. So our small group of about 1500 flyers and maintenance folks are denied care. The VA, rightfully afraid of any budget drain, doesn't calculate the fact that many of us are retired military and thus covered by Tricare...we'd not need VA medical care. The VA fails to consider that we're nearly all Medicare age and thus can turn to any civilian facility for care. So our potential impact isn't too bad, but for our members who don't have Tricare or Medicare...it is devastating to have to pay for our own Agent Orange illnesses! Remember...the VA will never accept a veteran for Agent Orange-releated illnesses unless in some way Congress dictates they must! So...we need Congress! Or the Courts! Or somebody inside the VA who will treat us with compassion.
We get no sense of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Air Force approaching the issue of C-123 Agent Orange contamination with a mindset of "how may these veterans be qualified." Rather, barriers began being established the moment we turned to them for help.
In a 30-piece series of reports to the President of the United States...
1. We'll argue in our upcoming posts that VA and USAF are scientifically in error about contaminated aircraft somehow not exposing the crews and maintenance personnel. Supported by Independent Scientific Opinions from experts throughout the country, we'll argue our case with findings by other government agencies which conclude we were exposed.
|C-123 Fleet Destruction, April 2010|
Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ
3. We'll reveal $250,000 of waste and abuse at Davis-Monthan AFB and Hill AFB.
4. We'll reveal false official, signed statements by senior USAF civilian personnel.
5. We'll reveal how federal judges were deceived and how GSA purchase contracts were manipulated after award.
6. We'll reveal press manipulation and deception.
7. We'll reveal how civilian workers at Wright-Patterson AFB and Davis-Monthan AFB were required to work limited hours and wear HAZMAT protection including respirators in order to prevent deadly exposure to Agent Orange left inside the contaminated airplanes, yet the VA and USAF twisted science and logic to erroneously conclude that our aircrews, performing most of the same duties in simple flight suits during ten years aboard even more contaminated airplanes, were somehow not exposed,
8. We'll reveal sale of dioxin-contaminated airplanes to foreign governments by the USAF Security Assistance Center.
9. We'll reveal contract manipulation to deceive a GSA client.
10. We'll reveal sale of dioxin-contaminated airplanes to Walt Disney Films.
11. We'll reveal improper management of DOD civilian union employee health complaints and erroneous release of employee SSAN numbers.
12. We'll reveal improper management of formal Inspector General complaints.
13. We'll reveal how the EPA and Arizona EPA were deceived about hazardous waste, tricked into not seeing a C-123 HAZMAT quarantine area, and how a threatened $3.4 billion EPA fine was avoided by changing a couple words used to describe dioxin-contaminated waste.
14. We'll reveal how one group of veterans has been treated differently than another in similar circumstances because of budget issues and political considerations.
15. We'll reveal failures to respond to formal Freedom of Information Act requests.
16. We'll reveal JAG and leadership manipulation of Air Force technical investigations.
17. We'll reveal detailed Air Force actions taken to prevent C-123 veterans' learning of hazardous exposure, and detailed actions taken specifically to prevent exposed veterans from receiving medical care from the VA.
18. We'll reveal decades of Air Force hiding information about aircraft Agent Orange contamination.
19. We'll reveal prejudice and sarcasm by Air Force officials in respect to airlift aircrews and maintenance personnel as these veterans seek medical care for Agent Orange exposure, including situations where the veterans were publicly categorized as "trash-haulers" and "freeloaders looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic Congress."
20. We'll reveal how agencies take steps to avoid receiving information which might later have to be released via FOIA.
21. We'll reveal how one agency uses another agency's work product to reach a finding, but where that second agency reaches its conclusions by citing the first agency. I know...confusing.
22. We'll reveal USAF and VA manipulation of the Institute of Medicine to prevent the IOM's release of findings in support of veterans' Agent Orange exposure.
23. We'll reveal how the VA prevented widows' claims for earned VA benefits.
24. We'll reveal how the VA prevented a handicapped adult child's claim for his father's earned VA benefits.
|C-123 Fleet in HAZMAT Quarantine (before destruction)|
26. We'll reveal how the USAF used tests completed in 2009 and 2010 which confirmed aircraft were contaminated with Agent Orange yet somehow used these tests to to declare the very same airplanes weren't contaminated "enough" in earlier years to expose aircrews.
27. We'll reveal how the VA and USAF ignored science when they suggested contamination levels inside C-123 aircraft as identified in 2009 tests were somehow the same levels in 1972-1982, as though several decades hadn't passed and as though years of exposure in harsh desert conditions hadn't allowed the Agent Orange to degrade.
28. We'll reveal how VA and USAF officials exchanged information during preparation of their recent C-123 reports to insure similar negative results.
29. We'll reveal how the authors of two reports cited by the USAF and VA stated their materials were not relevant to the issue of aircrew dioxin exposure, yet these reports were used anyway to deny aircrew chemical exposure.
30. We'll reveal how the USAF retained a retired AF colonel (whose entire career focused on promoting Agent Orange uses) to support the military's decision to destroy the surplus C-123 aircraft in April 2010, and how this retiree has for decades worked tirelessly preventing veterans benefits for Agent Orange exposure.
31. There are some more revelations which I'll bring up to the AF privately as I do not want to publicize the really bad materials.
I have an awful lot of writing ahead of me. Guess I'd better get busy. Stay tuned!