19 October 2013

Agent Orange & C-123: The VA Ignores its Own Documentary Evidence

"JOB ONE: Prevent Claims" should read the bronze plaque at 810 Vermont, the VA's headquarters, rather than Lincoln's famous, more compassionate words from his poetic Second Inaugural.

Chart VHA used to sneak in redefinition of "exposure"
VA's dedication to preventing C-123 Agent Orange claims is one of their particular objectives. Actually, as veterans know too well, the VA its its own worst speed bump in the road to service connection! To better insure denial of these dioxin-exposed veterans who are clearly entitled to care, personnel from VA's Veterans Health Administration's Post-Deployment Health section delivered a poster display at t
he San Francisco gathering of the Society of Toxicology (SOT). Entitled "Agent Orange: The 50 Year History & The Newest Chapter of Concerns," the poster was not subjected to the usual scientific scrutany expected of professional articles. VA simply had their poster designed and put it on a stand.

And then they used it to make sure C-123 veterans are denied Agent Orange exposure claims! 

Our two most recent posts addressed the VA's creation of a special, in-house definition of the scientific concept of "exposure," one created by VA to skirt the law's requirements. VA simply added qualifiers to that word to prevent C-123 veterans from being considered as exposed, even though other federal agencies such as the CDC and NIH have argued otherwise...C-123 veterans were indeed exposed...except in the VA's definition.

But there's more. VA realized that the C-123s were used for spraying Agent Orange during the Vietnam War between 1961-1971 and began service with stateside Air Force units in 1972. The aircraft returned to the US and most had the spray tanks and pipes removed by a contractor at Dothan, Alabama to return to their original C-123K configuration. Many, however, remained in their UC-123K configuration and were assigned to insect control operations at Rickenbacker Field.

VA also realized that dioxin remains toxic and biologically available for quite some time once sprayed in the military herbicide, and VA knew the liquid settled throughout the fuselage and especially, below the cargo deck. Air Force tests even decades later confirmed the toxicity and in 2010 the AF took an extraordinary step of shredding and smelting all remaining C-123 warplanes as toxic waste.

VA acknowledged this lingering contamination, at least recognizing a year's worth of it, in their SOT poster. The fourth paragraph clearly states"
"Inhalation the least likely contributing route one year after spraying missions due to rapid drying of Agent Orange droplets, movement via wind, and removal of contaminated dust via decontamination efforts after returning from Vietnam."
Spray operations stopped in 1971. Stateside, C-123 veterans began flying the airplanes in 1972. Seems within that "one year after spraying missions" and includes our service, doesn't it?

Toxicology experts familiar with the Air Force research on C-123 operations have examined the issue of C-123 dioxin contamination and exposure via the inhalation route, and argue that it was absolutely a significant risk for aircrews! Vibration and the dirt and dust characteristic of cargo flight operations resulted in crew exposure because dioxin readily binds to dust. 

Flight after flight, breath after breath, aircrews continued to be exposed. Not just the year even VA recognizes, but over the full decade of operations until the C-123 fleet was finally all retired in 1982. IT only remained for the crews to grow ill, and for the VA to formulate policy-driven excuses to deny them care for the full range of Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses.

And that's why a new plaque should be ordered for 810 Vermont Street NW, Washington, D.C.

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