|Director Cameron Smith, OR Veterans Affairs|
While wholly symbolic in addressing federal benefits, Director Smith's letter puts the VA on notice that yet another agency concurs with C-123 veterans' claims for having been exposed to Agent Orange and its contaminant, dioxin, during our post-Vietnam decade of flying those warplanes. Of course, any decision from the US Secretary of Veterans Affairs to confront his own Veterans Health Administration regarding that group's illogical, unscientific and illegal steps preventing our veterans' access to VA medical care rests with the Secretary, but the moral weight of Oregon stands behind us at last.
Director Smith cited the fact that VA's refusal to permit C-123 veterans' claims to be approved violates both the spirit and the letter of several regulations:
1. 38 CFR 3.03(a), Principals Relating to Service Connection
2. 38 CFR 3.07(a)(6), Presumptive Service Connection for Chronic Tropical or Prisoner-of-War Diseases or Diseases Associated with Exposure to Certain Herbicide Agents, Wartime Service On, or After January 1, 1947
3. 38 CFR 3.03(a), Diseases Subject to Presumptive Service Connection
Not touched on but directly applicable iis another foundation of our legal claim, that of the Federal Register of 8 May 2001 page 21366 where VA states veterans exposed to herbicides outside the scope of the Vietnam War (boots on the ground) will be treated the same as Vietnam War veterans. This is where VA is very carefully, and unscientifically, redefining "exposure" specifically to prevent C-123 veterans from qualifying!
VA has recently inserted an otherwise-valid toxicological concept called "bioavailability" which they insist is necessary before C-123 exposure can be conceded. Bioavailability means the impact in some way that is measurable of a substance upon the body. For instance, drinking coffee usually elevates one's blood pressure.
This is wrong. Bioavailability actually follows the issue of exposure. One must first be exposed to coffee to then experience its bioavailability. Checking everywhere in medicine and science where we can get opinions, C-123 veterans were scientifically and medically exposed to Agent Orange, in whatever form it may have been found on the C-123 which was both inhalation and dermal contact with it. Further targeting C-123 veterans is the recent VA unpublished directive that none of them will be permitted exams under the Agent Orange Registry program, with VA now insisting that only "liquid" Agent Orange exposure qualifies a veteran for any care. Bioavailability = VA obstructionism, flung at C-123 veterans to prevent caring for our Agent Orange diseases. No other reason.
Oregon joins the US Public Health Service, the EPA, the National Institutes of Health, the CDC/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the National Environmental Institute of Health Sciences, the University of Texas Medical School, the Oregon Health Sciences University and
other scientists and physicians in having concluded that C-123 veterans flew a contaminated aircraft, that we were exposed to Agent Orange during our service, and that we are due medical care and other benefits associated with whatever Agent Orange-preseumptive illnesses we experience. One has to wonder just how many experts outside the VA will it take to convince those non-experts within the VA to open their eyes!
Thank you, Director Smith, and Deputy Director VanDyke. Amazing what you can get done when a couple Marines are in charge!
C-123 veterans, your Association urges everyone to contact both state and federal authorities, such as your senators and congressional representative, to gain their endorsement urging Secretary Shinseki to do the right thing - make the VA follow the law regarding C-123 veterans Agent Orange exposure!