19 November 2013

C-123 "Grassroots Victory" – Reserve Officer Association Magazine

"A FIRST STEP TOWARDS A GRASSROOTS VICTORY"...Reserve Officer Association (from the November/December issue)
Major Wesley T. Carter, USAF (Ret.), is an ROA Life Member and chair of the C-123 Veterans Association. While he didn’t start crewing on the C-123 until 1974, Maj Carter, a medical service officer, suffers ail­ments faced by many Vietnam veterans. 

Maj Carter, 66, wasn’t motivated by his own medical situation. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) denied his claim for Agent Orange exposure, he is 100 percent disabled due to other military-related injuries.

The VA grants compensation for presumptive exposure to herbicides to those who served in Vietnam. Between 1972 and 1982, about 1,500 Air Force Reserve men and women served aboard 34 C-123s that had been used for the defoliation mission spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam and other coun­tries in Southeast Asia.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Paul Bailey was one of the 1,500. For nearly a decade in the 1970s, he flew the airframe #362  nicknamed “Patches”—the aircraft had more than 600 bullet holes from enemy fire as it sprayed over Vietnam. He suffers from prostate cancer and terminal metastatic cancer of the pelvis and ribs.

Every claim filed by C-123 veterans without Vietnam wartime expe­rience, including Lt Col Bailey’s, has been denied, Maj Carter told The Huffington Post. Several C-123 veterans were granted disability benefits after appealing denials to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).

Maj Carter brought this to the attention of ROA in 2011. In a testimony on Capitol Hill, ROA included the plight of Air Force Reserve C-123 crew members, including a statement before the VA Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation.

In his labors, Maj Carter is as much of a workhorse as was the C-123. He has contacted other nonprofits for support, vis­ited Capitol Hill, and reached out to scientists and medical professionals to gain support for submitted disability claims. Through his efforts, 14 high-ranking doctors, toxicologists, and environmental scientists questioned the VA’s C-123 pol­icy in a letter to Allison Hickey, VA undersecretary for bene­fits, in November 2012. 

Politicians have also begun pressing the issue. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., ranking member on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., have asked the VA Office of Inspector General to review whether the department is inappropriately denying disability compensa­tion to veterans who say they were sickened by postwar con­tamination, the Washington Post reported in an article about Lt Col Bailey.

In August, the VA reversed its denial of Lt Col Bailey’s claim and granted him the presumption of exposure. It was a significant decision.

“No such claim has ever been approved [short of BVA]— Bailey’s is the first,” Maj Carter shared with ROA. His efforts can be credited with changing VA policy.

It’s unknown whether Lt Col Bailey’s success will lead to a reversal of VA C-123 policy or if the VA will continue to main­tain that carcinogenic dioxin and other components of Agent Orange could not have posed health risks after Vietnam. However, in October, the C-123 Veterans Association reported that a second veteran, MSgt Dave Noonan, won his VA Agent Orange exposure claim. He joins Lt Col Bailey as the only veterans to succeed in convincing the government of the validity of their situation.

“Perhaps, dare we hope, some change is coming?” Maj Carter suggested. One thing is certain. He—and ROA—won’t stop fighting on behalf of C-123 veterans.

If you have had legislative success as an individual or as part of an ROA department, contact CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.), at mhanson@roa.org.
(note: LtCol Bailey passed away from his Agent Orange exposures on October 27, 2013)

18 November 2013

Oregon Paper Covers C-123 Veterans & Agent Orange

Seeking justice for his fellow vets

Marcus Larson/News-Register<br><b>Wes Carter stands in front of a F-105G Thunderchief, a bomber used during the Vietnam War. Carter was drawn to McMinnville due, in part, to the Evergreen Air Museum.</b>
Marcus Larson/News-Register
Wes Carter stands in front of a F-105G Thunderchief, a bomber used during the Vietnam War. Carter was drawn to McMinnville due, in part, to the Evergreen Air Museum.
Starla Pointer, News-Register 
As an Army and Air Force Reserves medic, Maj. Wes Carter took care of the injured who were fighting for their lives.

09 November 2013

24th SOW Veteran Checks in - needs help with Agent Orange disabled daughter

Received yesterday from an active-duty veteran of the 24th at Howard Air Base Panama. If you have information for children of exposed veterans, kindly forward it to me and I'll provide to Sergeant Dunn as well as forward it to the Agent Orange Legacy Organization which supports vet's children.
I wish to thank The C-123 Veterans Association for the tons of information on your website, I can see many days and sleepless nights compiling the info. 
I am a Viet Nam Vet  66-67 and on disability (70%) from the VA, having said  that, I am working on a claim for my ex-wife and daughter for direct exposure to AO, my daughter was born there in the Canal Zone and we lived in base housing. Your web site and the wealth of information on AO, has been a god send. 
I was stationed with the 24th SOW, Howard AFB Canal Zone, 69 thru 73, and my wife and daughter was with me. In 69 the 24th SOW started getting C-123's directly from Viet Nam, they were a damn mess. Five of the birds were ex-Ranch Hand, 54-607, 54-656, 54-658, 55-4532 and 55-4571. From all of the correspondence on your website I know you recognize 54-607...I worked on it  some. I worked primarily on 54-656  and your web site has been the only place that I have found any information saying that  54-656 was even a Ranch Hand bird I knew it was but couldn't prove it. There is very little info on it. 
As I said, the birds were a mess inside and out the anti skid flooring was  pealing up and missing in the fuselage  the walls all stained troop seats filthy. My job was crew chief,  cleaning  the walls striping the floor new anti skid as much as I could even to taking all the troop seats home for home laundering this is all documented on my performance report by tail number. We  did  not know the danger, all the work was done in regular fatigues and boots no rubber gloves, no rubber boots or hazmat coveralls. I would go home and pick up my daughter and play with her wash her clothes in the same washer and drier as doing the troop seats and my fatigues, she would crawl all around on the floor where I had been walking in boots that just minutes before had been walking around in the ex-Ranch Hand birds. 
Thank you;
                 James Dunn MSgt (USAF Ret)

07 November 2013

Wall Street Journal Carries C-123 Veterans' Response to Their Editorial

Last month, former Secretary of Veterans Affairs submitted an editorial which ran in the Wall Street Journal. Principi attacked the VA policies of providing medical care to all eligible veterans, and he suggested coverage is best restricted only to more recently wounded personnel.

The Wall Street Journal kindly published our brief response challenging his editorial:
The VA, in any response to Mr. Principi's article, must realize that many of the Agent Orange-related illnesses strike in a veteran's later years. In the case of highly aggressive prostate cancer, for instance, the rate among older veterans exposed to Agent Orange is double that for other men and clearly related to their earlier military exposures.
Maj. Wesley T. Carter, USAF (Ret.) McMinnville, Ore.
To emphasize his point about the supposed injustice of lines of deserving combat veterans having to wait behind undeserving and uncaring old guys who don't notice the suffering behind them, a cartoon was provided (below)
Although a veteran himself, Principi suggests that not a single man ahead of this veteran on crutches would fail to move aside. Principi seems not to realize that today's combat veterans are offered a virtually seamless integration from DoD care to the tender mercies of the VA. Principi seems not to realize that everybody in the line cares deeply about everyone else...and especially that last guy.

In other words, former Secretary Principi's op-ed attacks a problem which doesn't exist. The real problem, is delaying care for too many veterans not brought into VA channels via Dod. These "older" veterans face years of delay in normal processing of disability claims. Given the VA's determination to deny, deny, deny, these veterans then face three to five years of waiting for action by the Board of Veterans Affairs...and even more if the claim is simply routed back to the regional board for reconsideration rather than a decision being made by the BVA.

Why the Secretary's article, then? Simple...he encourages VA to save money by denying veterans' claims, by delaying veterans' claims, by denying veterans' benefits earned through honorable service. 

Benefits promised by a grateful nation to those who have borne the burden. Though a dedicated public servant, Anthony Principi is simply wrong-headed and a slave to VA's anti-veteran policies!

05 November 2013

C-123 Veterans Seek Association of Public Health Assistance

Before heading back from LtCol Paul Bailey's memorial services, I obtained press credentials and attended the Boston based-meeting of the American Public Health Association.

I missed Dr. Richard Clapp's presentation on Vietnam's problems with Agent Orange which was presented yesterday, but benefited from many experts who have weighed in to support our arguments with the Department of Veterans Affairs which opposes all C-123 veterans' claims. VA utilizes their unique redefinition of "exposed" to insure none of the Agent Orange-exposed veterans will receive medical care for their Agent Orange-associated illnesses.

In particular, I was helped at the Arizona State University booth, the National Cancer Institute booth and most especially, at the CDC booth where I was able to express my appreciation for the opinions of Rear Admiral (USPHS) Robin Ikeda.

04 November 2013

Farewell, Paul

Yesterday, our brother Paul Bailey was laid to rest in the
New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, Manchester, New Hampshire. This quiet “garden of stone,” already populated with Paul’s brothers and sisters in arms, now shelters another distinguished veteran who served America with all his heart and soul.

To the neighbors, friends and veterans associations gathered to honor Paul and comfort his family, our profound thanks. What a glorious day to be in the arms of his Lord!