28 February 2013

JSRRC Visit Successful!

On February 27, I visited with the Army's Joint Service Records Research Center, positioned at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Met by their chief, Mr. Domenic Baldini, we reviewed the concerns of C-123 veterans over a cup of coffee, and Mr. Baldini graciously let me bend his ear as long as I felt it a good exchange.

My key objective was to review with Mr. Baldini the extensive set of official documents...Air Force, GSA, NEA, CDC and so many other sources...pointing to the dioxin contamination of the C-123 transport we flew between 1972-1982. So long ago!

Mr. Baldini took special pains to detail his mission: it is to serve as the archivist of the military services regarding Agent Orange and PTSD. He is not a scientist to evaluate data, he is not even an historian who can review two documents and reach a third (and logical) conclusion from contemporary data (A plus B equals C...he might understand that but cannot report such a thought process, however logical.) He only reports what official US government documents describe. As Joe Friday on Dragnet says, "Just the facts, Sir."

Of note here is our insistence that JSRRC understand no mention was made back in 1972-1982 in unit histories of the 439th TAW or its subordinate units because (1) we were told the 1979 survey of Patches was proof nothing was wrong and (2) nobody worried about Agent Orange, especially once we were told none was on the airplanes, and thus no mention was made in official unit histories. I know...I supervised the unit historian for the 439th Tactical Airlift Wing (MSgt Marshall Hathaway) and spent hours getting the history into a format General Haugan would accept! Still, even with the absence in this particular document of record,

Further suppressing the paperwork needed by JSRRC was the mysterious step taken by the Air Force Office of Environmental Law in 1996, directing that "all information be kept in official channels only." That wrapped up information about C-123 contamination until 2011 when it was finally released via FOIA to the veterans. Too late to help avoid health issues. And remember - this was somehow, NOT a coverup! Right! Roger that!

I stressed JSRRC should include other contemporary and subsequent documents to conclude whether or not the C-123 fleet was contaminated, and if possible, reach a conclusion about the veterans' exposure. In particular, we reviewed the 1979 Conway and 1994 Porter/Weisman reports, each of which was positive for contamination by military herbicide. Further proof was in the many USAF toxicological studies of the stored surplus C-123 fleet, the January 2000 GSA court case where the USAF toxicologist testified under oath before a federal judge that the C-123 fleet was "heavily contaminated and a danger to public health."

Mr. Baldini repeated his duty as an archivist, able to address only official USAF documents, so I laid them on the table (having earlier provided hard copy as well as a DVD).

The result: Mr. Badlin expects that JSRRC will be able to provide a more comprehensive response to VA inquiries about C-123 veterans' claims, no longer simply stating no materials exist to substantiate the veteran's assertions. Otherwise, the claim is doomed, with VA using the JSRRC negative response as adequate proof to deny. Mr. Baldini works with Mr. Jim Sampsel of the VA's Compensation Services, and I've had the opportunity to meet with him. We were assured in 2011, well before other federal agencies and university experts concluded we've been exposed, that C-123 veterans are not and will not become eligible for VA Agent Orange benefits and their perspective has not changed. Nor will it. Even when regional offices suggest approval, such claims receive an "advisory opinion" insuring they will be denied.

Still, at least JSRRC is to be congratulated for its honesty and dedication to provide VA and each veteran a comprehensive detailing of its examination of the claims. The 15 JSRRC researchers (they need MORE!) are to be congratulated and thanked. All we asked for was a fair shake...we flew the airplane, there are officials reports about its contamination, and we want that history documented to the VA so that if our claims are denied, it will be for reasons other than the truth of our service! JSRRC will give us that fair shake from now on, and the VA will utilize other steps to prevent claim approvals.

Ya gotta wonder: there are so few of us C-123 veterans. The VA broadly swung open the benefits gate to PTSD and other Agent Orange groups, yet even when we provide expert medical, scientific and appropriate federal agency supporting opinions, the VA insists it will abide only with the views of its own scientists.

25 February 2013

USAF Internal Memo re: C-123 Agent Orange Study

Today I received from the excellent USAF Historical Research Agency their meager collection of C-123 Agent Orange documents. We had more USAF documents than did they! However, new to us is the cover memo which went out from the Assistant Surgeon General of the USAF in which he summarizes both the assignment given USAFSAM (USAF School of Aerospace Medicine) and the conclusions reached by his office.

The USAFSAM principal assignment: determine whether exposed veterans would benefit from notification. Notice...not determine whether we'd been exposed, just whether any good would come of notification. Well, duh. Three decades after we retired the C-123 fleet, it would be hard to imagine any benefit, however we could have benefitted back 1994, with strong warnings to reduce fat intake, watch PSAs, etc.

Important: USAFSAM in no way denies that veterans were exposed. Instead, describing any absence of data to determine how much exposure, they guessed  (in order to reach accord with the VA) that the exposure was somehow insufficient to cause harm. This conjecture of "insufficient" exposure is disputed head-on by other federal agencies such as the EPA, NIH and CDC, as well as leading scientists and physicians in the field, all of whom conclude veterans were exposed to significant amounts of dioxin, estimated at some amount between the Ranch Hand veterans and troops on the ground in Vietnam.

Further, the USAF states no conclusion could be reached about personal exposures, and then somehow also concludes that whatever exposure was, somehow, minor. How the heck was that conclusion reached? 

Then the zinger: "Given the absence of a clear finding of potential harm, we believe it unnecessary to relay such individual findings to persons whom had entered or worked on C-123s between 1972 and 1982, and whom may be unaware of this assessment."  I guess the USAF Surgeon General feels patient ignorance is always best, but in any civilian setting the failure to notify a toxin-exposed population of such a likely hazard would be criminal. The Surgeon General instead wants to help us avoid "undue distress!" Imagine a civilian employer deciding not to notify exposed employees to help them avoid undue distress...and perhaps, criminal charges and litegation. This kind of garbage screams out for Feres to be overturned!

Should we read the Assistant Surgeon General's memo as saying he wants to avoid distress to the VA which would have resulted from a more accurate USAFSAM report? Is it somehow helpful to veterans to avoid undue distress by leaving us helpless before the VA's refusal to permit our access to medical care for Agent Orange presumptive illnesses? He says there would not be a helpful recommended action...how about check one's PSA numbers, get into the Agent Orange Registry, and file claims with the VA. Instead, this USAFSAM report itself became the VA's cited authority for denying C-123 veterans' claims!

So...somehow this memo describes "an absence of a clear finding of potential harm" even though:
1. "heavily contaminated on all surfaces" - USAF C-123 test results, conducted by qualified toxicologists
2. "a danger to public health" per sworn testimony of USAF toxicologists
3. aircraft all destroyed as toxic waste
4. a decision not to notify that is somehow based on USAFSAM "inability to determine how much exposure" and avoidance of distress
5. AF officials ordered all aircraft destroyed to prevent veterans learning of the contamination
6. USAF Surgeon General in 2000 ordered HAZMAT protection for civilian workers, but not USAF aircrews
7. CDC/ATSDR determination veterans were exposed to TCDD
8. NIH determination C-123 veterans were exposed to TCDD
9. EPA determination C-123 veterans were exposed to TCDD
10. scientists and physicians determination veterans were exposed to TCDD
11. key IOM experts (Birnbaum, Stellman, Schecter) determination veterans were exposed to TCDD

I doubt the Navy could have any torpedoes left, because the USAFSAM shot them all into us and torpedoed any chance our veterans had to get VA medical care!

Excuse me..I'm going to rest on the living room sofa, contemplate my cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, peripheral neuropathy, avascular necrosis and other dieases, and luxuriate in the Assistant Surgeon General's decision to help me "avoid distress." 

Their motto: Trusted Care Anywhere. I don't think so.

---USAF Assistant Surgeon General Internal Memo re: C-123 Study---

1982, and whom may be unaware of this assessment. Such a notification could cause undue distress and would provide a limited benefit, as there would not be a recommended action.
Please direct any questions concerning this matter to my action officers, Col James Bennion (MD, MPH) and Col Richard Ashworth (PhD) at 703-588-6435.
1. Distribution List
2. USAFSAM Consultative Letter 

24 February 2013

Vietnam Veterans of America - doing their job?

Yes, they are indeed!

There has been some Internet chatter this weekend about the usefulness of the Vietnam Veterans of America - some folks feel VVA isn't doing enough for Guam, Blue Water Navy or other non-core VVA populations.

That's not my experience. Rather, VVA was the first to address our needs with their national resolution calling on DOD and VA to treat us right. VVA introduced us to effective allies in the Agent Orange community, without which much time would have been wasted. I have no complaints and each request for liaison or other support has been honored by their leadership.

My only concern is a local one here in Portland, Oregon. VVA lacks a service officer in the Portland VARO and instead utilizes dedicated volunteers elsewhere in the state. With my own claim, I felt I needed a local contact and went with another service organization (State of Oregon) only for that reason...I wish local VVA VSOs had been available as obviously the Vietnam Veterans of America has the expertise in Agent Orange issues.

Heck...some of the veterans' organizations in which I have life memberships, such as the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, never even answered multiple letters and phone calls asking for their leadership and assistance in our C-123 veterans' struggle. I get the feeling too much focus is on fundraising. Specific requests to PVA regarding help needed in Washington DC re: handicapped issues have been ignored. PVA even lost my appeals documents for my claim before the Air Force Board of Correction of Military Records when their staffer left the organization. This happened twice, then they told me they no longer represented members at the AFBCMA! Two years wasted. Yet, years ago, it was the PVA medical director, the late Dr. Bodenbender, who documented my Gulf War injuries for my initial VA claims.

From my experience, we have had all the assistance we could have hoped for from the Vietnam Veterans of America and the American Legion. We hope for a national resolution this summer from the Veterans of Foreign Wars. To all  veterans organizations dedicated to helping veterans stand up to the VA, our thanks. God bless!

Let's stop squabbling, okay?

Wes Carter, Chair, C-123 Veterans Association

Member, Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars

23 February 2013


Their Agent Orange booklet makes the claim "VA CARES."  They even broaden their scope to "and other Veterans Exposed to Agent Orange."

Well, that would be us, veterans exposed outside Vietnam because of our service aboard the contaminated C-123 transports during the years 1972-1982.

But no. I haven't met a single man or woman with the VA who cares about us, other than those giving us hands-on clinical care. Outside the wonderful staff in the hospitals and clinics, no care shown.

They are not like us.

Nice people? Probably...in fact, VA people are certainly very nice folks. But they are not like us. We were exposed to Agent Orange, not them. We proved our exposure, and in spades! They don't care. They know all they have to do is wait us out a few more years. And for some of us C-123 veterans, so very few years.

Waiting for an Air Force to die?

(ps...wrong airplane - a C-123 should be the one in silhouette, not that C-130B)

22 February 2013

Dermal Route of Dioxin Exposure Confirmed

To better prevent qualified C-123 veterans' Agent Orange exposure claims, the VA's Public Health unit suggests that the skin of aviators is a near-perfect barrier to dioxin exposure. Thus, because the VA (but not science) suggests skin keeps dioxin from exposing us, we veterans were not exposed.

This is a concept new to science, and one valid only in the instance of the VA denying service our connection. Elsewhere in toxicology, dioxin exposure occurs via inhalation, ingestion...and dermal routes! Elsewhere in science, medicine, law and logic, and in the opinions of other federal agencies such as the NIH, CDC, EPA and DOD, C-123 veterans were exposed. But not according to the VA, because their mission is to prevent, not approve, Agent Orange exposure claims.

This article from the scientific publication "Organohalogen Compounds" was found in my own "C' file at the VA Regional Office, with a notation made "spraying in Vietnam resulted in absorbed TCDD on dust" which suggests somebody in the VA decided crews were exposed via inhalation, as well as dermal, routes.

The key part of the article is a simple sentence.."The available literature suggests that dermal uptake of dioxin in the workplace may be the primary source of occupational exposure."

The sentence directly refutes the VA's pretense that we were not exposed via skin contact with dioxin contaminated surfaces. But then, science is not a part of the VA's toolkit for preventing VA claims, is it?

21 February 2013

VA oncologist confirms C-123 dioxin "likely" cause of veteran's prostate cancer

Today I received an official opinion on VA letterhead from my VA urology oncologist confirming in the words the VA itself hoped never to hear..."It is my opinion, based on the facts presented, your prostate cancer condition is likely related to (your) exposure to Agent Orange during your service." Thanks, Doctor! That's what I've been telling the VA myself!

What effect will this have on claims like mine? Probably it will be dismissed initially by the VA for some reason even though this physician is the Portland VA hospital director of urology oncology. But once the BVA has a chance to consider when my widow pursues our service connection claim before their more exact and less reactionary forum, it will yet another proof to be weighed in my favor.

Also received today a letter from my orthopedic surgeon in which my avascular necrosis in both hips is found to be likely caused by my C-123 Agent Orange exposure. That doctor, however, was far more "evasive" and wouldn't phrase the issue any more strongly so the VA might not weigh it too heavily.

I asked...but in both instances the doctors were uncomfortable writing letters addressing us as a body of veterans, and both instead would only comment on my case. However, I'm glad to copy anyone interested in the letters themselves.

DOD Document Supports C-123 Dioxin Dermal Exposure Claims

Yesterday a scientist with the US Army Public Health Command forwarded to me one of their important documents titled "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure." I found these parts especially informative, when viewed in light of the VA's insistance that there is no possibility (only from the VA perspective, not from that of other federal agencies or the scientific community!) of our dermal exposure from service aboard the contaminated C-123 transports.

The VA says we could not have been exposed to dioxin on the airplanes via dermal exposure because the skin is a near-perfect barrier. How reassuring.

The Army, Navy and Air Force, in preparing "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure," state "Dioxins can be absorbed through food, air (inhalation), or through the skin."

The VA says we couldn't be harmed by dioxin, which, according to Compensation and Pension (C&P), "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects. How reassuring.

The Army, Navy and Air Force, in preparing "Health Effects of Dioxin Exposure," state "...dioxins are considered to be carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Agency." Similarly, except in the case of C-123 veterans, the VA says dioxin is a carcinogen. 

Gosh, was there something special about those Nomex flight suits? Like Superman's cape and costume, were we magically protected? Is dioxin like kryptonite?  Or does the VA ignore science, medicine, law, logic and other federal agencies in their determination to prevent C-123 veterans' valid Agent Orange exposure claims?

Amazing...forty years of "those Agent Orange airplanes" except the minute the first veteran's exposure claim reached their desks, and suddenly, by magic and not by law, science, logic or medicine, the airplanes were perfectly safe, perfectly clean. According to the VA. And only the VA.

For Service members 
Important Facts:
Dioxins are chlorine-containing chemicals that are
considered environmental pollutants.  While often associated
with burning, dioxins are produced by a wide variety of  
industrial processes.  Dioxins can be found in the air, water,
soil, and foods throughout the world.  
Incomplete combustion resulting from low burning
temperatures and reduced oxygen availability is a primary
source of dioxins.  Open-pit burning of trash, especially
plastics, can produce dioxins.  Dioxins are also found in
tobacco smoke and car exhaust.
Foods we consume are the main source of our exposure to
dioxins.  Foods high in saturated fats tend to have higher  
levels of dioxins.  Dioxins can also enter the body through
the air we breathe (for example, in smoke).
All people are exposed to small amounts of dioxins. The
health effects, if any, associated with these low levels of
exposure are not fully understood.

What are dioxins?
Dioxins are complex, toxic chemicals containing carbon,
hydrogen, oxygen, and chlorine.  They tend to stay in the
environment for long periods.  Although dioxins are released by
volcanic eruptions and forest fires, most dioxins are unwanted
by-products of human activity including industrial processes. 
These include smelting, bleaching of paper pulp, manufacturing
of herbicides/ pesticides, and exhaust from internal combustion
engines used in most vehicles.  Open burning of trash and other
materials is a primary source of dioxins throughout the world --
especially low temperature/low oxygen fires that burn materials 
(such as plastics) containing chlorine.  Incinerators usually are
better for burning waste, because they increase the temperature
and oxygen levels for more complete and efficient burning, 
 thus reducing the amount of dioxins produced.  Dioxins vary 
in their ability to cause harm to people.  While some dioxins 
are very potent, others are less so, or are not harmful at all.     

How can I be exposed to dioxins? 
Because dioxins are found widely throughout the 
environment in the air, water, and soil, nearly everyone is 
exposed to dioxins in small amounts.  People living near 
incinerators that are not operating correctly or who live or 
work close to hazardous waste sites that contain dioxins 
could have greater exposures.  Dioxins can be absorbed 
through food, air (inhalation), or through the skin.  
Most of the dioxins in our bodies come from our food.
Because dioxins easily dissolve in fat, foods high in fats tend 
to be higher in dioxins.  The saturated fats in dairy products, 
meat, and some fish and other seafoods are major sources 
of dioxins.   Dioxin levels in foods vary according to where 
the foods were grown or raised (more dioxins are in the 
foods where levels were higher in the environment).  
Although rumors have circulated that dioxins could migrate 
into foods from plastic containers used in microwave ovens, 
the FDA reports that this does not occur. 

What health effects can be associated with 
exposure to dioxins? 
The amount (or dose) of dioxins people are exposed to 
determines the amount in their bodies.  The amount of and 
 the specific types of dioxins present, determines the 
potential health effects.  As levels of dioxins in the body rise, 
the risk of health effects increases.  Because dioxins 
dissolve in fats, they are often deposited in fatty tissues in 
our bodies and stay in place for long periods.   Although 
rare, people who have been exposed to very high levels of 
dioxins may develop skin rashes or a severe acne-like 
condition called “chloracne,” which can be a serious 
disfiguring condition.  Chemical workers, who have had high 
exposures and therefore large amounts of dioxins stored in 
their bodies, appear to be at increased risk of developing 
cancer.  Many forms of dioxin are considered to be 
carcinogens by the US Environmental Protection Agency      
(EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).    
Page 2 
Laboratory animal studies involving both low and high dioxin
exposures have identified developmental and reproductive
problems. There are also indications of problems with the
immune and nervous systems, but human studies are not
conclusive.  More research in laboratory animals, including
studies involving long-term, low-level exposures to dioxins, is
needed in order to better understand the risks dioxin exposures
pose to people.  

Studies of military veterans who were exposed to herbicide
orange (also referred to as Agent Orange), which was
contaminated with dioxins, have reported a variety of health
problems, some of which have been attributed to exposure to
dioxins.  Herbicide orange was used during the Vietnam War to
kill foliage and make it harder for the enemy to wage war without
being seen. (For more information, see  

How can exposure to dioxins be prevented?
Because dioxins can be released during low temperature
burning, open burning of trash should be avoided whenever 
possible.  Sometimes this is not possible during 
deployments.  When open burning is required, measures 
should be taken to reduce individuals’ exposures to smoke 
and potentially to dioxins.  These steps include eliminating 
certain types of  materials (like plastics) to be  burned; using 
properly operating incinerators; and locating burn operations 
downwind so the  smoke blows away from areas where 
people are located.  

 The amount of dioxins in one’s body can be gradually 
reduced by choosing to eat foods less likely to contain 
dioxins.  For example, one can limit consumption of high-fat 
foods and liver, since they tend to contain higher levels of 
dioxins, and also reduce the amount of foods that are eaten 
that come from locations known to contain higher levels of 
dioxins, such as seafood from certain bodies of water.  

There is also recent research that suggests that consuming 
some natural chemicals in vegetables might block the effects 
of dioxins.  In general, following Federal Dietary Guidelines 
may also reduce dioxin levels in your body.  People should 
also stop smoking, or never start, to ensure better overall 
health and to reduce dioxin exposure.

20 February 2013

Help Needed to Refute VA Dismissal of C-123 Dioxin Exposure as "Secondary"

Under Secretary Allison Hickey
The C-123 veterans need help addressing a couple of the positions VA has taken in order that they might deny our Agent Orange exposure claims.

General Hickey, in her 1 October 2012 letter to me, stated “Currently, there is no equivalent legal basis for acknowledging "secondary" or "remote" Agent Orange exposure, such as that from contact with material or equipment previously used in Vietnam.” She, and the Director Compensation and Pension (C&P) have used that language to deny claims like mine.

This language is very similar, and perhaps even taken from Fast Letter 09-20. Issued by then-Director of Compensation Services Bradley Mayes, it addressed Thailand and other exposure situations outside the “boots on the ground’ population, and stated the VA allowed “no presumption of ‘secondary exposure’ based on being near or working on aircraft that flew over Vietnam or handling equipment once used in Vietnam…no studies that we are aware of showing harmful health effects for any such secondary or remote herbicide contact that may have occurred in Vietnam.
In their zeal to prevent claim approvals, Compensation Services clearly misstates the situation involving C-123 aircraft, proven contaminated by multiple Air Force tests. The C-123 veterans’ exposure was primary…not secondary. Secondary exposure a completely different situation in toxicology than that which applies to C-123 veterans. The C-123 crews, maintenance and aerial port personnel had long-term, intense, direct contact and thereby exposure to aircraft “heavily contaminated” with military herbicides, including Agent Orange and its toxic TCDD. It is scientifically incorrect for the VA to label exposure aboard C-123 aircraft to be merely “secondary.” It is therefore improper to dismiss C-123 veterans’ claims on the unscientific basis, erroneously presented, of mere secondary exposure when the instead these veterans endured primary (also known as initial) exposure, via dermal and inhalation routes, and perhaps ingestion as well.

Scientifically, and logically, “secondary exposure” is extremely simple – to touch that thing which first touched the contaminant. The hand touching the toxin, then touching the airplane, results in secondary exposure to the next hand touching the airplane. The VA should recognize that ours is the initial hand and not the secondary hand. Follow? The first hand has primary exposure, the second hand secondary expsoure.

C-123 veterans take no position on whether, as General Hickey states, there is or is not any legal basis for acknowledging secondary Agent Orange exposure, or remote Agent Orange exposure. That is not our situation, and that is not our mechanism for having been exposed to Agent Orange and other military herbicides, because our exposure was primary.

Kindly solicit the opinion of qualified experts from the CDC/ATSDR or NIH/NIESH, or any beginning toxicology graduate student, or even Google the definitions of “secondary exposure” and “remote exposure” to resolve any lingering question regarding the inappropriate, and apparently highly selective, application of these terms employed to deny eligible C-123 veterans’ claims. These claims are well-founded, clearly have merit, are substantiated by appropriate federal government agencies, reputable universities (Columbia, University of Texas, Oregon Health Sciences University, others) and independent toxicologists (and whose opinions are perfectly acceptable to the Institute of Medicine which routinely seeks out their counsel [Dr. Stellman, Dr. Birnbaum, Dr. Schecter], and clearly are not “inherently incredible”, to use the language of FL 09-20 and other VA documents. The critical observer will see these names cited through the IOM reports and elsewhere in peer-reviewed publications. The critical observer will not a similar presence for authors of the VA’s position.

Dr. Tom Sinks, Deputy Director of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, reviewed the situation and in his finding repeated the VA position “(the) VA has concluded the potential for long-term adverse health effects from Agent Orange residues in these planes is minimal. Even if crew exposure did occur, it is unlikely that sufficient amounts of dried Agent Orange residue could have entered the body to have caused harm.” He then disputes the VA website information and language used in denying several veterans’ claims with his conclusion “I believe that aircrew operating in this, and similar, environments were exposed to TCDD.” Dr. Sinks did not find our exposure to be secondary. He did not find it to be insufficient to cause harm. He found it quite harmful, and also noted our cancer risk was 200-times greater than the screening value.

Can a reasonable rating officer review the C-123 veterans’ claims and dismiss them as inherently incredible, lacking merit, without scientific foundation, deceptive? That doesn’t seem to be the case, especially given the support of these claims by the EPA, NIH and CDC.

If a rating officer requires a C-123 veteran to submit evidence elevating a disability claim to the threshold of “as likely to or not” or deserving of the “benefit of the doubt,” adequate evidence has been submitted to satisfy that requirement. If a rating officer properly insists the veteran meet the law’s requirement of proving contamination and exposure, those proofs have been submitted and the veteran need only substantiate having an Agent Orange-presumptive illness for a claim’s approval.

The law requires veterans claiming benefits but who do not have Vietnam boots on the ground service to submit evidence of exposure to military herbicides to be considered for disability compensation. The C.F.R.s fine-tuned this with the VA’s stated obligation of treating veterans in this category the same as boots on the ground veterans.

The EPA defines exposure as “contact between a person and a hazard.” Another EPA definition is “contact between a chemical or biological agent and the outer boundary of an organism.” Therefore, our veterans’ skin coming into contact with the military herbicides throughout the interior of a contaminated C-123 resulted in primary exposure. The law does not state how much contamination. The law does not state how much exposure or what kind. The law does not specific what color, what flavor, what brand, what anything regarding the toxin other than it be “military herbicide” which, in our case, is Agent Orange.

Clearly the Department of Veterans Affairs has categorized C-123 veterans’ exposure as “secondary” merely to provide some basis, however shaky, for dismissing perfectly legitimate disability claims. These veterans had primary exposure, that exposure was to dioxin present on a wide variety of surfaces inside the warplanes (dust, ceramics, glues, wood, paper, cardboard, glass, composites, bare aircraft grade aluminum, paint on metal and other surfaces, fiberglass, glass, leather, nylon, dunnage of all types, and other surfaces) and that exposure was via dermal, inhalation and perhaps ingestion routes.

We're calling for any expert to weigh in on this. We need especially those experts in the federal government to comment. The Army's Public Health Command is looking into the issue, and considering especially the VA's dismissal of wipe tests used to determine the C-123 contamination and potential for exposure. Can you help? Can you provide a scientific or a legal opinion to help us?

C-123 Veterans' Agent Orange Documents Submitted to JSRRC

After finally getting email addresses straightened out, we submitted a PDF collection of AF, GSA, EPA, NIH and other government documents establishing the contamination of the C-123 fleet and our exposure while serving between 1972-1982.

VA does not contest the contamination but dismisses the possibility of our exposure. Only the VA has that perspective...it is disputed by the CDC, NIH, EPA, DOD and other alphabet agencies which say aircrews, maintenance and aerial port veterans were indeed exposed to military herbicides and are, therefore, eligible for Agent Orange exposure benefits.

The Joint Services Records Research Center in Alexandria VA plays a role in this. The VA asks JSRRC to verify a veteran's exposure to Agent Orange, or at least, to validate the facts surrounding the veteran's service and possibility of exposure. Thus far JSRRC has told VA no records exist to support C-123 veterans' claims...and thank goodness, their director has invited us to submit those very documents.

He even promises to immediately advise the VA in situations where JSRRC has information to correct earlier responses to the VA. We meet with their chief on February 27, 2013 to review the situation...stay tuned for this important activity!

VA Selectively Choses Data (& ignores the rest) to Deny C-123 Vets' Expsure

Think about it. They were the Agent Orange spray airplanes during Vietnam. But not after?

After Vietnam, in our "age of innocence," they were the cargo C-123s.

Beginning in 1979 with the first comprehensive toxicological tests on Patches (Tail #362), the C-123 fleet began transitioning again to "the Agent Orange airplanes" but we were assured they were quite safe. Quite safe. Except for something called "military herbicides."

Retired in 1982, the toxin evidence became perfectly clear at the USAF Museum in 1994 when Patches was carefully examined by the USAF Armstrong Labs, whose toxicologists labeled her "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces" and "a danger to public health."  Because they love us and care, the USAF Office of Environmental Law felt it better to keep us from worrying about this Agent Orange exposure which we'd already underwent, so they ordered "This information should be kept in official channels only." There it quietly rested until Freedom of Information Act requests in 2011 began uncovering what shouldn't have been covered up at all...we veterans were already exposed to deadly dioxin for a full decade while flying the C-123 fleet.

Now that the word is out, the VA carefully selects which words they'll accept regarding the C-123 history, because their mission is to ignore proofs and deny benefits. Always. Whenever requested - deny. And they indeed denied. Denied - all expert opinions that we were exposed. Denied - all other federal government agencies' opinions that we were exposed. Denied - and the list of excuses goes on. In particular, the VA was very careful to ignore a legal case which grew out of the inadvertent sale of C-123s out of Davis-Monthan. The GSA sold two to Walt Disney Films, and then a GSA whistle-blower notified everyone she could mail that this shouldn't have happened, leading to a court case brought by a buyer who'd wanted five more C-123s for fire-fighting.

Sworn testimony from that court case (GSBCA14165) taken from Air Force toxicologist Dr. Ron Porter and senior leadership at Davis-Monthan, really illustrates the danger of the dioxin contamination. It really demonstrates the degree to which the VA forces blinders on itself and its rating officers to pretend that the C-123 veterans weren't exposed during the years 1972-1982.

The GSA and other reports are further confirmed by the Army's TG312, which analyzed toxins within closed spaces such as offices, and by which standards the C-123 veterans were exposed to 800-times the screening values!
---summation of exposure issues revealed in GSA GSBCA Appeal 14165----

GSA testimony re: Board of Contract Appeals, GSBCA14165, ruling issued 22 Sept 2000
01/24/00 (date of hearing)   
Following is the C-123 Veterans' Analysis of the Government's Testimony:
[The case involved an inadvertent sale by the government of five contaminated C-123 warplanes, an action canceled by the government but contested in court by the buyer. The Air Force and GSA together asserted the airplanes remained hazardous with Agent Orange contamination and the sale was negated by the GSA hearing judge, in agreement with the government’s position. Two contaminated aircraft had been inadvertently sold to Walt Disney Films which brought the issue to greater visibility to the Air Force and GSA (highly embarrassing!)]

The C-123 veterans point out that we flew these airplanes decades before these actions. Decades during which the dioxin described by expert witnesses as hazardous, was far fresher and dangerous in our service. It would require an unusual thought process to consider these warplanes hazardous and in but somehow not also dangerous in the years 1972-1982, given the general predictability of dioxin’s half life having reduced the toxicity in later years.
Of special note is the sworn testimony that the airplane’s dioxin did indeed represent both a dermal and inhalation exposure threat to unprotected personnel in 2000. We were unprotected between 1972-1982, wearing thin NOMEX flight suits and not wearing any respirators.
page 67 (18) the Air Force expert witness testifies under oath in federal court proceedings that the hazards of dioxin exposure existed for all personnel associated with the C-123, not just museum restoration workers or demilitarization workers as suggested by the VA’s interpretation of AF test results.

Page 83 (22) Dr. Ron Porter, AF toxicologist from USAF Armstrong Laboratory Brooks AFB, Texas, and one of the scientists who conducted the 1994 tests of C-123 aircraft at the USAF Museum, confirms under oath the major part of the hazard  “was physical contact with the contaminated (24) surface. He continued, “If there’s significant dioxin there, then dioxin can volatilize into (6) the air, so it could be a respirable hazard, a (7) respiration hazard.” The VA has improperly characterized the exposure hazard as non-existent, yet here the government testifies that it was significant in both dermal and inhalation routes of exposure. VA has characterized dermal exposure as “unlikely” and inhalation exposure as impossible. VA has done so only via literature review, not via hands-on investigation of the contaminated airplanes as has Dr. Porter.

Porter stated that he directed personnel at Wright-Patterson be kept out of the C-123 because of dioxin, once his report was completed in 1994. We were not kept out of the airplane but instead served aboard it for a decade. Porter (5, 107) reminds the judge that the interior of the C-123 is not only metal (upon which the VA asserts the dioxin had dried) but actually bare aircraft-grade aluminum, painted and unpainted metal surfaces of various types, wood, canvas, glass, plastic, fiberglass, paper, cardboard, rubber and a wide range of other materials, all presenting a variety of dermal dioxin transfer characteristics. Porter formed a firm conclusion, expressed under oath, (14) that “there was a potential risk of exposure to chemicals in those airplanes, specifically (17) Agent Orange and/or dioxin.

The C-123 veterans cannot accept any characterization which holds that the C-123 aircraft presented a potential risk of exposure to Agent Orange in January 2000 without that risk being considered also present during our decade of service between 1972 and 1982, when the dioxin was much less degraded, and fresher following the missions in Vietnam which ended only the year before.