09 December 2014

VA Officials Asked to Designate C-123s as "Agent Orange Manufacture, Use, Storage, Transport" Sites

NOTE: 21 Feb 2015: Freedom of Information Act requests last week revealed DOD and VA agreed between themselves not to act on these requests.
(Letter sent to dozens of VA & DOD officials, seeking proper OPR action for such designations)

Dear Sir or Madam,

This Friday, the Department of the Air Force General Counsel informed us that it is the responsibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify and list Agent Orange (military herbicide) sites associated with manufacture, transport, testing and use. Three times in two years we have sought just such a designation from LtGen Judith Fedder, DOD's OPR for installations, and each time have been told it is a VA responsibility. VA has repeatedly assured us, to the contrary, it is a DOD or AF function.

What is clear, from the DOD 2006 list, is that VA requested DOD to provide a list which was then prepared by a consultant (who has labeled Agent Orange veterans as "freeloaders, trash-haulers looking for a tax-free dollar from a sympathetic congressman. I have no respect.") through Battelle. He also sought and received an unbudgeted $600,000 contract through Veterans Benefits Administration on a no-bid, sole source two year deal for opposing post-Vietnam exposure situations on behalf of VBA and VHA.

In somewhat of a curious historical background, the consultant, in his capacity of Senior Agent Orange Consultant to the Office of Secretary of Defense, is credited by the USAF as being "the strongest proponent all along for immediate destruction without further testing" of the toxic C-123s in 2009, decades after they'd been designated by AF toxicologists as "heavily contaminated on all test surfaces" and "a danger to public health."

The VA consultant, towards the end of his two year contract, also assured the Institute of Medicine in June 2014 that the C-123s had been "decontaminated" after Vietnam although there is no documentation to that, and the suggestion runs contrary to Air Force tests over decades showing them still contaminated.

In reviewing the Air Force test results, the CDC informed the Institute of Medicine in June 2014 that aircrews should have been wearing full HAZMAT, or the airplanes grounded as unsafe in American airspace. The totality of this evidence of C-123 contamination exceeds that of nearly every site presently on VA and DOD lists.
• For instance, none of the vessels on VA's lists ever tested as positive for Agent Orange contamination, yet more than two dozen of our aircraft did.
• None of the Navy's ships were destroyed due to their contamination, yet all of our aircraft were.
• No Navy toxicologists testified in federal court that vessels were "a danger to public health," yet Air Force toxicologist Dr. Ron Porter did so regarding C-123s.
• No other federal agencies informed VA or DOD that Navy ships were contaminated and their crews exposed, yet CDC, NIH, USPHS, NIEHS and the National Toxicology Center have each so described our former Agent Orange spray aircraft.
• No naval ships were ever quarantined due to their herbicide contamination, yet all surplus C-123s were placed into HAZMAT quarantine at Davis-Monthan AFB.
• No US Navy ship were ever described by the Department of the Navy as "the Agent Orange ships" the Department of the Air Force referred to the C-123s as for decades.
• The EPA never proposed an illegal HAZMAT storage fine for naval vessels, yet EPA and AF JAG determined the Air Force was liable for a potential $3.4 billion fine for C-123s stored at Davis-Monthan, cited as partial authority for the unique destruction scheme in April-June 2010.

Accordingly, I request information as to the proper contact in your office of primary responsibility this function, as well as the criteria established for addition to the list, and your forwarding to them this request.

Please help us locate the authority by which Compensation and Pension rejects input from reputable toxicologists and epidemiologists, as well as physicians, who advised VA as to the contamination and exposure to military herbicides by C-123 veterans seeking who were seeking service connection for Agent Orange-presumptive illnesses. C&P stated these professionals lacked credentials to address medical nexus, but it is clear in VA 21-1MR as well as the numerous Federal Register postings that medical nexus is not a requirement for claims for VA-recognized Agent Orange illnesses. Was C&P unclear as to this requirement or did it seek to introduce conflict?

In a related matter, I'd appreciate any basis for which Compensation and Pension Service denies Agent Orange exposure claims with their statement, "In summary, there is no conclusive evidence that TCDD exposure causes any adverse health effects." This statement seems to run contrary to VA's long-established position, as well as contrary to contemporary medical and scientific understanding. It also seems contrary to the requirements of VA M21-1MR, Title 38, the Federal Register VA postings, and the 1991 Agent Orange Law: how can Agent Orange claims still be denied on the basis of VA suggestions that Agent Orange causes no adverse health effects?

We understand that addressing these questions might cause some difficulty, but please accept that our veterans being refused VA medical care also causes difficulty, as well as suffering and deaths. At least, the VA officials receiving this email and its associated documents will have the relevant materials in their files for which future examination might prove useful in understanding years of delays, circumventions and obstruction of benefits sought by eligible veterans – or our survivors.


/s/  Wesley T. Carter, Major, USAF Retired
Medical Service Corps
(former Stan/Eval Flight Instructor & Flight Examiner, C-123K aircraft)

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