The first panel consisted of Wes Carter, representing the C-123 veterans, and Dr. Al Young, discussing the Department of Veterans Affairs. We each had a five minute intro followed by questions from the committee for about an hour. Two other panels followed, with representatives from Sandia Labs, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Rutgers University and others.
After lunch the committee arranged five-minute open mike sessions. The most interesting and passionate was from Dr. Peter Kahn of Rutgers University, who not only has spent his life as a scientist but was also leader of New Jersey's Agent Orange Commission for years.
To put it mildly, Dr. Kahn took on the VA (not the IOM) for its intransigence. In the recording, his presentation begins at 3:17:00 and runs about four minutes. Also heard is the C-123 representative, Dr. Loren Erickson who is the new director of Pre 9/11 Post-Deployment Health in the VA's Public Health Section, and finally Mr. Rick Weidman, Legislative Director of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
A couple points. As expert listeners will note, VA makes Agent Orange sound innocent...as innocent as kool-aid in the jungles of Guyana as Rev. Jim Jones hands you a cup and says, "Drink this..good for you!" VA has been a defender for VA/Dow/Monsanto for decades and nothing changes. VA has paid $600,000 for a series of reports, some of which were shared with the IOM.
VA materials also wrongly emphasized the refurbishment of the C-123s before use by the Reserve. VA was wrong in submitting photos of C-123 #664 (Ponderous Polly) of the flight deck and the cargo deck, saying and writing that they were taken as the aircraft came out of Dothan AL on return from Vietnam in 1972. Actually, the photos seemed clipped from the Air Heritage Museum's web page and were taken in recent years, not back in 1972.
At least one committee member challenged VA emphasis on the refurbishment of the C-123s, asking if they'd been so thoroughly redone, why did Patches still test so toxic in 1994. I hope the committee understands that the dioxin was more intense in 1972 when we got the first C-123s than when tested decades later. In one of the VA reports the Department stressed the deterioration of dioxin on the Boneyard aircraft by 2010 but in the committee switched and said there would be very little, if any, deterioration and that the 2009 test results should be interpreted to equal what would have been the case in 1972.
Clearly, all the VA cares about is blocking claims. Any way they can!
All the VA's documents are available to review here.
Our responses to VA documents thru June 16 to the IOM are available to review here.
All the materials submitted at the last minute or after the 16th are available here.
We did a super-rush job clipping a video together, seen here.
The first voice at 00:00;00 is the committee chair, Professor Henrick of Harvard. The second is Wes Carter, then Dr. Al Young, followed by questions from the committee, then another panel, etc.
We tried hard, just as we've done for three hard years (so far.) Now the committee meets over the next couple months to complete their report and submit it for review of the National Academies of Science. Expect it to be several hundred pages. It then should be on the Secretary's desk by the end of September and we'll keep pushing for a prompt decision. Any of our pilots or flight engineers would have done better, but I feel I did okay (for an AME.)
Other efforts continue. We're now going to have time to help individual members get their claims and appeals in with supporting information. We have friends in Congress who are pushing VA and its staffers HARD on their illogical position. We have friends in science, and in government, doing the same on our behalf.
What should you be doing?
1. Get your request in to VA for an Agent Orange Registry exam
2. Watch your PSAs
3. Get your claims in for Agent Orange-associated illnesses...benefits date from the application, not when VA approves!
3. Find other C-123 veterans. We have done a miserable job connecting with folks from Pittsburgh and Richenbacker...they are in the same situation as us but need to get in touch with us – I can't believe they simply aren't interested. Their illnesses must be similar to ours, and they even had one or two maintenance folks win their Agent Orange claims on appeal.
4. Have a great summer and take care of yourselves!