22 July 2013

VA Challenge: Show VA MILITARY Proof That Vets Flew Contaminated C-123s?

The question keeps coming up...and we keep answering it. YES! You want proof???

1. YES. There is military documentation firmly establishing the necessary proof of the C-123s in our unit being former Ranch Hand spray aircraft.

2. YES. There is military documentation firmly establishing the necessary proof of the C-123s in our unit, particularly Tail #362 (Patches) and the others, at last five, being contaminated with dioxin (Agent Orange.)

3. YES. There is military documentation firmly establishing the necessary proof of our aircrews flying C-123s specifically identified as former Ranch Hand spray aircraft.

Here are the three answers for the important question, last raised by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs on June 7 2013 in his letter to Senator Burr, in which the Secretary wrote:
"VA does not currently have a method of determining if a Veteran claiming stateside AO exposure was flying on one of the Operation Ranch Hand C-123s or one of the many other post-Vietnam C-123s flown stateside during the 1970s and 1980s." 
1. The USAF Historical Records Research Agency, Maxwell AFB AL, has identified the histories of
nearly all C-123 aircraft from manufacture and sale to the Air Force, and has identified which of them by specific tail number was modified for aerial spray operations and used for Operation Ranch Hand, spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam. Further, they identified which of the three post-Vietnam USAF squadrons had which former spray aircraft. Tail numbers and units to which the aircraft were assigned were reconfirmed by HQ Air Force Reserve Command.

2. For Westover veterans, the most heavily tested C-123 is Tail #362 (Patches, mentioned by the Secretary) now at the Air Force Museum. Its first test confirming military herbicides was in 1979, and a more comprehensive series of tests by AF toxicologists in 1994 confirmed the aircraft was "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces" and "a danger to public health." None of the other former spray planes were tested so thoroughly, and because they've been destroyed as toxic waste no testing can be done any longer. Documentation released by AFMC showed 1996 testing of 17 aircraft reported all 17 positive for dioxin contamination.

There is every scientific and logical reason to conclude the other aircraft were similarly contaminated, especially as Patches ceased spraying Agent Orange years before the other aircraft when it was switched to malathion missions, thus the other C-123s had "fresher" dioxin.

3. Air Force aviators are provided tracking of their flying activities via a "Form 5" which reports the individual's name, crew position, date and time of the mission, type of mission, and tail number flown. Thus, veterans who flew Patches will have a Form 5 showing their name and Tail #362. In the decades since the C-123 was flown, very few veterans will have saved paperwork dating back over four decades. Veterans have been gathering available Form 5s and flight orders. Flight orders do not show a tail number but they list the crew members for the flight. Matching names on Form 5s and names on flight orders satisfies Air Force archivists requirements for documenting any individual's flight activities.

So there is no question. All three parts of the Secretary's question are addressed with military documentation adequate to convince any jurist or archivist. If some VA officials remain unconvinced, it is because they are deliberately looking away from the proof and are dedicated to wrongly preventing our veterans' access to vital medical care.

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