03 March 2014

C-123 Veterans Refused Agent Orange Registry Exam

As in 2013, we continue getting inquiries from our C-123 veterans trying to sign up for the VA's Agent Orange Registry Exam, but being refused by the VAROs. We even have VAROs such as Portland saying exams are available to C-123 veterans yet others, such as in Florida, refusing per the firm instructions from Post Deployment Health. Also confusing the situation is an earlier order by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs that any veteran claiming exposure be invited to the Registry.

The reversal of the Secretary's directive, per order of Post Deployment Health, is unfortunate and we don't agree, but it is correct.  VA's Post Deployment Health Acting Chief Consultant, Dr. Terry Walters, was asked by us last year about the language on the VA's exposure page inviting all veterans who believe they've had an exposure event to call the Registry.

Apparently the only way to regain permission to have an Agent Orange Registry exam is to petition the Secretary to reinstate his order following Post Deployment Health canceling it.

Too many of the C-123 veterans were relying on proofs of their dermal, inhalation or ingestion exposures to TCDD aboard the C-123 to conclude they'd been exposed. They were not aware of the VA redefinition in 2012 of "exposure" to redefine their TCDD exposures in a manner providing VA a way to deny exposure events. Yes, the vets were exposed in a scientific or medical sense, but no, not exposed per the VA's own unique redefinition created by Post Deployment Health for preventing claims.

The new definition used by VA for exposure requires veterans to proof that somehow that the TCDD we'd been exposed to had a biological effect...our exposures don't exist unless we can prove medical effect. This is hard, of course, with the VA prohibiting exactly those tests, plus we know the half life of dioxin in the body is 7 to 8.5 years, and for many of us it has been over 40 years since exposure.

VA has asked for a proof they know is impossible to provide, which is, of course, the purpose of their redefinition of exposure. (exposure = contamination field + bioavailability.)

Proceeding from that special, but unscientific redefinition of exposure, and strengthening the barrier against C-123 claims, Dr. Walters changed the qualification for requesting an Agent Orange Registry exam to restrict it to only those veterans who'd been in the presence of liquid Agent Orange, as below. Thus, handling or being in any way exposed to Agent Orange in a solid or dried or vaporous form does not qualify for "exposed" per Dr. Walter's new restrictions.

On May 13, 2013, Dr. Walters kindly clarified her change in her email to me, although Post Deployment Health hasn't yet spelled out on the VA page for some reason:
"Other potential Agent Orange exposures:
Veterans who may have been exposed to herbicides during a military operation or as a result of testing, transporting, or spraying herbicides for military purposes. Learn about herbicide tests and storage outside Vietnam. Agent Orange or Dioxin dried on surfaces does not present a significant threat to human health. Veterans are eligible if they were in the presence of liquid Agent Orange such as when Agent Orange was sprayed, tested or transported."

As we suggested last year, we again ask Dr. Walters to more clearly implement her changes on the VA web site to prevent confusion. Too many of us go by VA regulations or statute, and obviously these conflict with internal VA staff personal preferences for management and prevention of exposure claims. The VA page was updated in December 2013 but lacks the changes implemented by Dr. Walters.

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