14 May 2013

If you haven't already had an Agent Orange exam, your C-123 Veterans Association urges to to obtain one immediately, even at your own expense. Yesterday an important article was published about aggressive prostate cancer being linked to Agent Orange exposure:
"This is a very, very strong predictor of lethal cancer," said urologist Dr. Mark Garzotto, who worked on the study at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oregon."If you're a person who's otherwise healthy and you've been exposed to Agent Orange, that has important implications for whether you should be screened or not screened," he said. (click here for full text of published article)
Dr. Garzotto happens to be my own VA urologist and already provided an opinion that I was exposed
during my years aboard the C-123, but the Portland VA regional office then rejected his expert opinion classifying it as "unacceptable lay evidence." From my perspective, he's a great physician, teaches at a fine medical school, works for the VA and obviously knows a lot about prostate cancer and dioxin...but VA makes its own rules and then choses which ones to use against us. VA regional offices seek any opportunity, however remote, to deny claims regarding Agent Orange. Any supporting evidence of C-123 veterans' exposure to Agent Orange is automatically unacceptable to the VA, per VA Compensation Services.

Last week we were informed by VA's Deputy Director of Post Deployment Health that Agent Orange exams are no longer allowed for our exposed C-123 veterans because of new internal VA rules requiring the exam be restricted to just Vietnam veterans or veterans in contact with LIQUID Agent Orange. Because our exposure was to the dried dioxin residue on the airplane which left it "heavily contaminated" we are prohibited from seeking an Agent Orange exam.

We believe Dr. Garzotto's research makes clear that all C-123 veterans need to be examined if they haven't already been seen for Agent Orange exposure. Do this promptly even though we are now excluded from the VA system.

The current Agent Orange Registry page on the VA site is outdated where that it says all veterans who believe they've been exposed may ask for the AO exam. "All veterans" does not include C-123 veterans as of last week. Outdated, or there may be some sort of confidential VA Post Deployment Health internal memo used to exclude us, but this new exclusion from the Agent Orange Registry has been confirmed with their Deputy Director and veterans already denied exams. The version for  C-123 veterans is:

"Other potential Agent Orange exposures
  • Veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides during a military operation or as a result of testing, transporting, or spraying herbicides for military purposes. Learn about herbicide tests and storage outside Vietnam. Agent Orange or Dioxin dried on surfaces does not present a significant threat to human health. Veterans are eligible if they were in the presence of liquid Agent Orange such as when Agent Orange was sprayed, tested or transported"
VA Health Benefits Administration, as we were told by Compensation Services when we met with them on 28 Feb 2013, already ruled that C-123 veterans could not have been exposed and that no evidence to the contrary, such as from VA doctors, scientists, medical schools, or even the finding by the Director of the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry that we WERE exposed, is acceptable to VA. So the VA has determined that we cannot seek medical care there, but Dr. Garzotto's research makes it clear that we must seek it somewhere - do so now! We can't wait for the VA any longer.

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