Disinterest. We've been dumped. There aren't enough C-123 veterans (only about 1500) to interest the average Senator or Congressman - to motivate them to motivate the Air Force.
Mostly, that's because our own members haven't been vocal enough to bring the message to their elected representatives. And partly, there is little "sizzle" left in the Agent Orange story and the public wearies of the issue. After all, who wants to keep hearing about a problem for four decades?
Unfortunately, we as C-123 veterans do indeed keep hearing about the problem of Agent Orange contamination of the C-123. We hear about it from our doctors! We keep seeing the problem evidenced in painful clarity in beloved friends from our flying days in the Dumpster.
There are 100 United States Senators. Thus far, we have had interest in our cause expressed by only three (from Connecticut, Oregon and North Carolina.)
We need C-123 veterans, particularly those in New York, North Carolina, California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Washington to contact their representative and loudly, loudly, ask for their help!
Get off your tired, old, worn-out butts and get your Congressmen and Senators involved - PLEASE!
1. As for veterans' organizations, I count at least eleven of significant size and importance, yet we have only had assistance from the American Legion and the Vietnam Veterans of America. I have personally approached the leadership of the Disabled American Veterans, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the Military Officers Association of America, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Air Force Sergeants Association (I'm a member of all) without even the courtesy of a response! Also...the Fleet Reserve Association of which I'm not a member.
2. We did receive tremendous support from Dr. Linda Schwartz, Director of Veterans Affairs of the State of Connecticut, who at the time was National President of the State Directors of Veterans Affairs! Dr, Schwartz is also a retired Air Force flight nurse who flew C-123s!
3. As for professional associations other than Linda's, we have approached the Air Force Association, the Army Aviation Association, the Marine Corps Aviation Association, the Airline Pilots Association, the Society of Toxicology, and perhaps a dozen others...also without a single response even though our group of veterans belong to most of these groups.
4. Regarding government agencies: none has offered any opinions or support other than the tremendously important opinion rendered by Dr. Sinks of CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Dr. Sinks came out HARD and FIRM in confirming our dioxin exposure aboard the C-123. Every other agency declined involvement or referred us to another agency which they already knew wouldn't get involved, even if their mission statement did touch on concerns such as ours.
5. The Veterans Administration looked into the issue of C-123 contamination and conducted their investigation with the objective given their representatives of preventing all support regarding aircrew dioxin exposure. "How to keep the veterans from becoming qualified for service connection" was their position from start to finish. No effort was made to find an avenue, an "as likely to as not" possibility of our having been exposed, because that would have left us eligible for VA medical care.
6. The Air Force conducted a more formal investigation, done at the School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM). After five months their report generally stated the AF was unable to determine any degree of aircrew Agent Orange exposure. This was because of the years which have passed since the last spray missions, the years the aircraft were stored in harsh conditions and the methods used when first tests were performed. Somehow, unable to make a determination, they therefore concluded aircrews most likely were NOT exposed. Is that twist of logic or what? Further, the AF report was cited by the VA as their reason for canceling a promised investigation by the Institute of Medicine's Agent Orange Subcommittee. We've already been told (most privately) by previous members that the IOM would have a hard time NOT finding our aircrews, maintenance and aerial port to have been exposed!
7. We have had good support from the media. The Gannett chain, CBS, PBS, Mr. Bill Kurtis, New England Public Radio, the Springfield Republican, the Hartford Courant, Air Force & Army Times have covered our issue with both accuracy and compassion. Various Internet resources have also given us their backing.