17 December 2013

VA Denies C-123 Crews Agent Orange Claims

from the National Guard Association of the United States, Washington Report
The Department of Veterans Affairs is defending itself against charges that it inappropriately
 denies claims from C-123 crew members who say they were exposed to Agent Orange after
 the Vietnam War.
According to a lengthy article in The Washington Post Sunday, the aircraft used to drop the
defoliant on the jungles of Vietnam from 1962 to 1971 were flown after the war by reserve
component crews, some of whom now claim illnesses they suffer were caused by exposure
to the chemical. Members of the C-123 Veterans Association say they should be eligible for
the same compensation as Vietnam veterans who came in contact with Agent Orange and
now receive compensation for a range of ailments and conditions.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the ranking Republican on the
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, have asked the VA’s Office of Inspector General to review
the department’s denial of the airmen’s claims.
“It appears that [the VA] does, in fact, plan to deny any C-123 claims regardless of the
evidence submitted in a particular case,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki responded to Burr in a letter saying, “VA does not have a ‘blanket
policy’ for denying claims” filed by the C-123 veterans in the National Guard and Reserve.
The Post quoted a VA statement saying claims are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
The issue is clouded more because the Air Force destroyed most of the airplanes that were
retired in 1982. The newspaper cites Air Force memos that say that 18 C-123s were destroyed
in 2010, in part, because of liability concerns.
- See more at: http://www.ngaus.org/newsroom/news/va-denies-c-123-crews-agent-orange-claims#sthash.syMJtDln.dpuf
note: while we appreciate Secretary Shinseki's assurance of a case-by-case evaluation of C-123 claims, it is impossible not to note that 100% of them are denied, although then approved after waiting years through the VA's Board of Veterans Appeals process. 

This seems more like a policy-driven denial process than a "case-by-case" evaluation.

The simple legal requirement of non-Vietnam War veterans is that they submit proof of exposure to "military herbicides" such as Agent Orange. Our warplanes were contaminated...indeed, according to the Air Force, "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces."

The C-123 veterans have submitted that proof, provided them by the Air Force. The proof has been substantiated by the CDC, EPA, NIH, US Public Health Service and several university schools of medicine and schools of public health.

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