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 

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