12 April 2014

Newsweek Correspondent Jamie Reno: C-123 Exposures "Tip of the Iceberg"

 (from Newsweek correspondent Jamie Reno, 7 March 2014)

A VA spokesperson said that due to the consideration of possible long-term adverse health effects from potential exposure Agent Orange in C-123 aircraft crewmembers post-Vietnam, VA has formally asked the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine to study the issue and report back to the department.

Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, said that many veterans were exposed to Agent Orange after the Vietnam War – and not just on Johnston Island. “Everything Army veteran Steve House (who recently won his VA exposure claim appeal) has shared with us about his experience at Camp Carroll in Korea is credible and authentic,” Weidman said. “He is telling the truth. He has the documentation, a lot of it.”

But the paradigm for veterans exposed to Agent Orange after the Vietnam War may be about to change in their favor. A study published last week in Environmental Research found that airmen who flew and maintained the C-123 Provider aircraft long after the planes were used to spray Agent Orange over Vietnam were exposed to dangerous levels of the dioxin that remained in the aircraft.

The American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans organization, responded to this news last week with a new call for VA to extend disability compensation benefits to former C-123 aircrews. “I believe this new study will blow a big hole in the DOD and VA’s story,” Army veteran Steve House said.

 “Now there’s proof that vets were exposed well after the Vietnam War. But the C-123s are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Note: The C-123 exposure issue was well-covered in the recent Air Force Times article, about which the Times editors also delivered a hard-hitting editorial calling on the VA to act on the veterans' exposure claims. "Callous and tone deaf" were the editors' description of VA intransigence. 

"Unscientific" was the conclusion of the Committee of Concerned Scientists and Physicians in their letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki.

"That's no dioxin expert" observed the director of a major federal science agency, referring to the staffers who created the Veterans Health Administration's unique redefinition of exposure, developed to block all C-123 veterans' Agent Orange disability claims. 

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